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Romantic scam involving $450,000 crypto emerges from dating app meeting

Shreya Datta, a tech professional from Philadelphia, fell victim to a sophisticated cryptocurrency romance scam, losing nearly $450,000 in the process.

With the rise of digital connectivity and online dating platforms, scammers have found new ways to exploit individuals emotionally and financially. The “pig butchering” scam, named after a similar scheme in which victims were lured into investing in pig farms, is just one of many tactics used by fraudsters to manipulate their victims.

In Datta’s case, she connected with a man named “Ancel” on the dating app Hinge. Claiming to be a French wine trader, Ancel quickly gained her trust and persuaded her to invest in a fraudulent cryptocurrency trading app. This led Datta to deplete her savings, take out loans, and even liquidate her retirement fund under the false promise of high returns.

However, as Datta tried to withdraw her supposed profits, she was asked to make a personal tax payment, which raised red flags. Upon closer investigation by her brother, it was discovered that Ancel’s photos were stolen from a German fitness influencer, exposing the scam and leaving Datta devastated both financially and emotionally.

This incident is just one example of the growing trend of cryptocurrency romance scams, with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reporting a significant increase in cases and losses exceeding $3.5 billion in 2023 alone. These scams often involve elaborate tactics, such as the use of deepfake videos and AI-generated profiles, making them difficult to detect and combat.

Authorities and dating platforms are struggling to keep up with the evolving strategies of scammers, with many victims reluctant to report their experiences due to feelings of shame and embarrassment. These scams are often linked to transnational criminal organizations that exploit vulnerable individuals to carry out their fraudulent activities, siphoning stolen funds overseas.

Another notable case involved a man from Minnesota who was ensnared in a similar scam initiated on LinkedIn. Under the guise of a romantic interest, he was persuaded to invest in a phony cryptocurrency scheme, resulting in substantial financial losses.

The prevalence of romance scams is a cause for concern, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlighting tens of thousands of reported cases annually, amounting to billions of dollars in losses. Of particular worry is the impact on senior citizens, who are often targeted and tend to suffer higher financial losses compared to other age groups.

It is crucial for individuals to remain vigilant and skeptical of online interactions that seem too good to be true. Educating oneself about common scam tactics, verifying the identities of potential partners, and seeking advice from trusted sources can help prevent falling victim to these deceptive schemes.

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