In early May, James Evans * met a man on the Grindr dating app. The man, who said his name was David, was friendly and chatty. “It started out as a normal conversation,” explains Evans. “We switched to WhatsApp and exchanged messages. After a few days he started telling me about crypto trading and how he could show me how it worked and how I could make money from it. It seemed like a real connection.
Unfortunately for Evans, this was not the case. He had bonded with a crook who, within a week, had convinced him to hand him £ 20,000.
Dating scams have increased during confinement, with Which? reporting a 40% increase in cases involving people having to transfer money to people they have met online. In Evans’ case, instead of asking for financial help, the man he met persuaded him to take out a bogus investment.
He was first persuaded to create an account with Binance and pay £ 500. Binance is a cryptocurrency exchange – a website where investors can buy digital currencies, including bitcoin and ethereum. The city’s regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, warned the website last week and banned part of the group, Binance Markets Ltd, from operating in the UK.
Recently, it emerged that the TSB was planning to ban clients from buying cryptocurrencies, fearing “excessively high” fraud rates on the platforms where they are sold. Barclays, Monzo, and Starling Bank have done the same before, blocking transfers to Binance and other websites.
Evans used his First Direct account to pay on the site, and from there the scammer showed him how to transfer his money to a trading platform where he could supposedly invest it.
His first payment on a Wednesday night was followed by others on Sunday and Monday, totaling £ 12,000. Each time, the scammer would teach him how to move the money and “invest” it, and the screen seemed to show him that he was making money and was free to transfer it to Binance.
On Sunday, First Direct demanded a payment from Binance for £ 3,000, which Evans confirmed. “At this point, I still wanted to participate and didn’t think I was part of a scam,” he says. “Again, I bought the currency on Binance, transferred it to the trading app, it showed me how to trade using WhatsApp and screenshots, and then transferred the funds to Binance and to my checking account. “
But after Monday’s transfer, things started to take a turn for the worse. Her “account” on the merchant site stopped working and “David” told her to contact customer service. When he did, he was told his account had been blocked and he had to pay a deposit of 50% of his account balance to release the funds.
He suspected that something was wrong, but “after 24 anxious hours” decided to pay the fine. Then he tried to withdraw his money, as he had been shown, but to no avail. A call to “customer service” resulted in a new request for cash. “At this point I was absolutely clueless and knew I had been scammed. “
Evans says he never intended to invest so much money, but the scammer spent a week “abusing and manipulating him emotionally and mentally”, and by the time he handed over the last payment, he was convinced that was the way to get his money back. .
He reported the case to Action Fraud and contacted First Direct to tell him he had been scammed and ask if he would refund his money. He refused and told him that the scam happened after he transferred the money from Binance, so he had to file his complaint there.
First Direct said: “We are very sorry that Mr Evans was the victim of an elaborate scam and fully appreciate the impact of the situation on him. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals who engage in criminal activity regardless of the effect it will have on their victims.
“Upon investigation, we concluded that our fraud detection systems were working as intended, but because Mr. Evans sent the money to an account in his name before transferring it back, we cannot take any further action. . “
A Binance spokesperson said, “Binance takes our responsibility to protect users against attempted scams and fraud very seriously. When we are made aware of these types of claims, we take immediate action and have an excellent track record of working with law enforcement agencies around the world to assist them in their investigations.
The spokesperson did not explain what, if anything, had happened to Evans’ complaint. He said anyone who suspects they have been the victim of a scam should notify their customer services, local police and Action Fraud.
Regarding the FCA opinion, the company said it had “no direct impact on the services provided on Binance.com. Our relationship with our users has not changed.
“We take a collaborative approach in working with regulators and take our compliance obligations very seriously. We actively keep abreast of evolving policies, rules and laws in this new space. “
Grindr says he can’t comment on Evans’ case, but that he’s “taking a number of steps to help protect our users from bad actors,” including using machine learning to detect the accounts involved in the scam.
“Unfortunately, scamming is an entire industry, with extensive resources dedicated to circumventing a company’s security and authenticity measures,” he says.
“Social media and dating apps are a prime target for these bad actors, as crooks seek to exploit people looking to make meaningful connections. That is why we are also working to educate our users about potential scams. You can check out our scam awareness guide here, which outlines some common themes we’ve observed. We also publish our General Safety Tips page online as well as a Holistic Safety Guide, available in multiple languages.
Evans said: “I really thought my interactions with David were genuine, we texted late at night, shared voice notes and even made plans to meet… At no point did I think he wanted to. manipulate me that way and no longer. I think I could be manipulated in such a way that someone could take my savings and whatever else I’ve spent years working hard for. I was left with nothing.
“Police said they did not have enough evidence to investigate and Grindr, Binance and my bank all refused to investigate further. I have a tremendous sense of injustice and this person is free to rip others off – that’s what really hurts about this situation.
* Not his real name