An Alberta woman who was looking for love online has told Global News not only did she end up heartbroken; she also ended up broke.
Sheryl, who we’re not identifying due to safety concerns, said it began last July when she started online dating.
“I wasn’t looking for short-term,” she said. “I was looking for someone who wanted to be in it for the long run.”
The 37 year old ended up connecting with a man who said his name was Yang and he was from Los Angeles. It was an immediate connection.
“I was already emotionally hooked, from day one.”
Sheryl said Yang told her everything she wanted to hear: that he wanted to build a family and build a home with her.
He built up so much trust, she said, she went along with his advice to invest in cryptocurrency.
“I was very hesitant at first, but then I thought this guy seems to know what he’s doing,” she added. “So I took $4,000 that I had.”
That $4,000 grew and so did her excitement.
Yang then encouraged her to invest more, so she sold one of her properties and borrowed some money.
“I took out a $95,000 loan. So now I have $110,000 to $120,000 that I put into that investment account and it looks like for me I’ve gained five times that.”
But Sheryl told Global News things changed a few months later when Yang claimed there was an issue with one of his investments and he needed her funds to fix it, so he showed her, step by step, how to get all of her funds out.
“At that point, I had like $625,000 with my income and all the profits that I thought I had made.”
Sheryl said with Yang’s help she followed all of the withdrawal processes, but was then told by the broker that in order for it to be approved, she had to deposit more money. She said she did — getting more loans, a number of times — until she finally had enough.
“I was like: that is another $130,000. I don’t have any more money or funds. I can’t get another loan. There’s just no other way I can come up with this money.”
She then started researching the company, which was based overseas, and reached out to others on social media forums. That’s when she said everyone told her she’d been scammed and that she wouldn’t be seeing any of her investment.
She filed reports with anti-fraud agencies in Canada and the United States, warning others about her experience.
Sheryl now believes Yang was working with the cryptocurrency broker in order to scam her out of all of her profits and investment. Minus any profits, she is out $280,000.
“I should have been more informed,” she said about investing without researching.
The Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay told Global News these types of scams are growing, costing Canadians millions of dollars every single year.
“Cryptocurrency and romance just don’t mix,” BBB CEO Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen said.
The BBB said it’s important to be vigilant and watch out for any red flags, including anyone you don’t know asking you for money, especially if it is on social media or on a dating site. Also, research the cryptocurrency sites well, understand their lack of regulations, and understand their complexity.
All that said, O’Sullivan-Andersen said it’s still easy to fall victim regardless of how careful you are.
“Hindsight is everything,” she added. “It’s very easy, after the fact, to say: ‘I should have seen the red flags,’ and that’s exactly why often times the victims are staying silent.
“The fact is we do miss the red flags because they are professionals. They do this to lure you in.”
She added romance scams are particularly heartbreaking.
“When the heart is involved, when we’re feeling vulnerable, it’s very easy to fall victim to these scams.”
Sheryl has now cut herself off from any contact with Yang. He was supposed to visit Calgary last month, even sending her his flight itinerary, but did not show up.
She’s now focused on rebuilding her finances and putting the ill-fated romance behind her.
“It was really, really hard. I mean I go through a few weeks of crying, emotionally stressed, financially stressed,” she said. “How am I going to continue to support myself when I’m paying $5,000 in loans a month?
“The past 10 years that I built for my future and my retirement is now just gone.”
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