By Helena Kelly Consumer Reporter For Dailymail.Com
17:55 11 May 2023, updated 20:51 11 May 2023
- Shreya Datta, 37, lost $450,000 to a scammer posing as a French wine trader
- Datta met the man on Hinge and thought she was investing in cryptocurrency
- Have you been scammed? Please email: email@example.com
A tech executive has revealed she fell victim to a cruel new ‘pig butchering’ scam – which sees romance fraudsters charm single individuals into investing in fake cryptocurrencies.
Shreya Datta, 37, lost $450,000 to a scammer posing as a handsome French wine trader called ‘Ancel Mali’ after she met him on Hinge and the two began exchanging WhatsApp messages.
The crime is known as ‘pig butchering’ because victims are effectively ‘fattened up’ with a fake romantic relationship before being butchered by fraudulent investment advice.
Datta, who describes herself as a ‘romantic’ with bad luck and recently divorced, told the Philadelphia Inquirer she was lured in by Ancel’s devotion to her after months of trawling dating apps.
Ancel used an image of a German fitness influencer on his profile and spoke to Datta for months, eventually convincing her to put money into a fake investment app.
The two never met in person but they spoke via video chat twice – though Ancel only showed her his dog on the call.
Datta – who earns a six-figure salary in a global tech firm – told the Inquirer she had felt as though she had ‘a hole in my soul for not having a man in my life’ – hence why she was tricked.
‘I was in a trance,’ she said adding ‘it’s like my psychology was hacked.’
Data from the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3) shows cryptocurrency scams are the fastest growing type of investment fraud.
Last year victims reported losses of $2.57 billion – almost three times the amount in 2021. And last month the Department of Justice recovered $112 million worth of virtual currency linked to pig-butchering scams.
The ‘pig butchering’ con is long-winded and sees the scammer engage in a months-long relationship to build up trust.
Crooks often allow victims to withdraw money easily from the investment app in the beginning – but once they have invested heavily they will lose this option.
Datta talked harmlessly on Hinge with Ancel until they moved to WhatsApp where he began discussing his dream of achieving ‘wealth freedom,’ adding he was interested in cryptocurrencies.
In a message seen by the Inquirer, he explained: ‘So that I don’t have to work all my life, and I can have more time to accompany my lover to travel around the world, leaving footprints of our love in every corner of the world.’
Upon his advice, she then downloaded a crypto trading app through a link he sent her and converted $1,000 of her savings into the digital currency through the exchange platform Coinbase.
From there she sent the money to a trading app and watched it swell into $1,250 – which she was able to withdraw right away.
In the meantime Ancel continued to give excuses as to why they couldn’t meet in person, claiming in January that he had a business trip to San Francisco.
By then she had invested $6,000 which had grown to $9,000.
He then told her to make more money she would need to up her investment and urged her to sell her stocks and take out personal loans to do so.
He also loaned her $150,000.
When she struggled to tap into her 401K as it sparked questions at work, he snapped: ‘Why can’t you control your own money?’
After successfully liquidating her retirement fund, she had invested $450,000 investment into the fake app by the end of March. The app claimed her money had more than doubled.
But when she attempted to withdraw it she received a message saying she had to pay 10 percent personal income tax.
From there Datta suspected she had been scammed and called her brother, a lawyer in London, who hired a private investigator and discovered the account was fraudulent.
Though she has filed reports to the FBI, she has yet to receive the money back – though her family have bailed her out of the debt.
Coinbase also froze her account after the scam, writing in an email it was ‘concerned’ she had sent money to a ‘fraudulent investment platform.’
Datta said: ‘Sometimes I’m like, ‘It’s just money. Some days I’m like, ‘I should just cry.’’
Many pig butchering operations are reportedly run by criminal syndicates in Cambodia which employ thousands of people.
A report by Vice News and the South China Morning Post found last year that workers themselves are enslaved and abused, having been lured there with the promise of a legitimate job.
They are given scripts tailored to individual victims.