A woman lost almost her entire savings after getting scammed by a man she met on dating platform Hinge.
Tho Vu, 33, thought she found romance on the platform when she was matched with a man who claimed to be a Chinese architect living in Maryland, reported the New York Times.
For months, Vu regularly communicated with the man who went by Ze Zhao, a name that has not been verified.
He gained her trust by being flirtatious, calling her his “little sweetheart” and promising to bring her to China to meet his family someday. Vu had reportedly already developed a crush on Ze when he pitched her an opportunity to make money by investing in cryptocurrency.
Ze’s suggestion sounded appealing to Vu, who said she had been hearing about Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry around the time.
The man convinced her that they could use the investment earnings for their honeymoon and to help them start a new life together.
In a few weeks, she sent bitcoin worth $300,000 to a wallet address that the man told her was connected to the Hong Kong crypto exchange (OSL).
Vu said she did not find anything suspicious, as she was able to check the balance of her bitcoin savings. The wallet turned out to be owned by Ze, who disappeared soon after.
“I thought I knew him,” Vu was quoted as saying. “Everything was a lie.”
Rates of romance scams, which involve faking romantic interest to siphon money from a victim, have grown significantly during the pandemic, based on reports received by the Federal Trade Commission. Around 56,000 cases of romance scams were reported to the agency last year, resulting in a staggering $139 million in victims’ losses.
The FBI urged the public to avoid sharing personal and financial information with anyone online and to use sound judgment when offered investment opportunities.