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SALLY SORTS IT: I lost £103,000 to Tinder crook's Bitcoin scam

Crypto scam: A dating app scammer tricked a victim into sending him Bitcoin claiming he would be invested in a legitimate company developing a Covid vaccine

My life was turned upside down because Barclays failed to protect transactions made from my checking account.

In July 2020, I was persuaded to buy Bitcoin and invest it in a company developing a Covid vaccine. Over a period of about three months, I withdrew sums ranging from £475 to £25,000. I later found out it was a scam.

Barclays did not query any transactions, although these are completely irrelevant to me. I complained, but the bank passed me around and was slow to act, then they dismissed my complaint.

Crypto scam: A dating app scammer tricked a victim into sending him Bitcoin claiming he would be invested in a legitimate company developing a Covid vaccine

Crypto scam: A dating app scammer tricked a victim into sending him Bitcoin claiming he would be invested in a legitimate company developing a Covid vaccine

I took my case to the Financial Ombudsman Service, but I missed their six-month deadline to file a complaint, so it was dismissed.

I got extremely sick and depressed from it all, and had to call the mental health team twice to help me avoid killing myself. Please help.

Anon.

Sally Hamilton responds: When I contacted you I was devastated to learn how you got hooked on this terrible scam.

You had just been through a messy divorce and when you finally felt strong enough to try and meet someone new, you joined the dating app Tinder.

Enjoyed chatting online with a friendly woman in her 40s who said she lived in Norfolk – too far away for you to easily meet, and it was lockdown. How convenient for the scammer.

Eventually, the conversation turned to investing in Bitcoin. She claimed to know all about it and said she could help you earn money, adding authenticity by saying she was the daughter of a Barclays bank manager.

With your finances in a precarious state following the separation of your marriage, this seemed like a possible avenue to recoup some losses.

Over the course of a few weeks, the woman tricked you into spending £103,000, mostly on your debit card, with a legit cryptocurrency company.

She then persuaded you to use the cryptocurrency to purchase “virus vaccine tokens” from another operation. When you made those payments, however, the bitcoin went to a fake account belonging to the scammer.

When you bought the Bitcoin, you had no warning from Barclays about your many unusual transactions. And when you realized you had been duped and reported the fraud, the bank said they had done nothing wrong.

You eventually reported the case to the Ombudsman but, as you explain, he was unable to investigate. You were wronged because you were still in talks with Barclays over a second complaint, regarding its slowness in seeking chargebacks on your disputed transactions.

The Mediator was able to rule on this, since you had acted within six months of the failure of your request. However, he only granted you a few hundred pounds.

Your sanity suffered as a result of the scam and the attempt to recoup the losses. Letters from your doctor describing your poor mental and physical health apparently did not cut the ice with Barclays and the ombudsman, as the dates of the correspondence were also outside the allowed time frame.

The scammer’s actions are hard enough to bear, but when you hit a brick wall with Barclays, the desperation mounts.

Some people may think that what happened was your fault and that it was not the bank’s responsibility to intervene. But I find it baffling that so many bitcoin transactions haven’t raised a huge red flag at the bank. After all, cryptocurrencies are a scammer’s paradise.

Given this failure and the fact that you were clearly very emotionally vulnerable after your divorce, I thought there was good reason for Barclays to reopen your case.

He agreed to investigate and after several weeks admitted he could have provided more protection. He decided to reimburse you for half of your losses on the basis of “shared responsibility”.

This amounted to £51,454 plus interest.

Barclays limited the refund because they believed you had failed to do your due diligence and failed to provide proof of the scammer’s coercive texts because you had deleted them. It wouldn’t move. Although happy to receive an offer of half your losses, you still felt cheated.

I suggested that you ask the bank to authorize you to seize the mediator, by waiving the six-month deadline clause, so that its investigators can render an independent judgment. But you said that the ombudsman had already made this request to Barclays and that she had refused.

The Québec Ombudsman can force delivery, but only if it considers the circumstances surrounding the delays in filing a complaint to be exceptional. He did not consider them as such in your case.

I’m sorry to say, but it feels like the end of the road.

If you had made your payments by bank transfer, this story could have ended differently.

An industry code to protect people from authorized push payment fraud means that victims are likely to have their money automatically refunded if there is no warning issued by their bank.

Card payments are not part of this code. Instead, they operate under a voluntary chargeback system where a customer can dispute payments that were not authorized (like you did).

Unfortunately, technically, you authorized the payments, which went to a real company, and you received their goods. In my opinion, this is a huge gap in the protection of victims of fraud.

After weeks of deliberation, you told me that you planned to accept Barclays’ offer. It pains me to say that it’s probably time to move on and focus on rebuilding your life.

Compared to zero, £51,454 isn’t a bad place to start fixing your finances from.

A Barclays spokesperson said: “This is another tragic case of cryptocurrency investment scam and we urge everyone to remain alert to the threat of investment opportunities. fraudulent”.

“We encourage everyone to take steps to ensure that the person or company they are investing through is legitimate and who they think they are.

“Remember, if an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email sally@dailymail.co.uk – include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organization giving him permission to speak to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for the answers given.

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