Romance with a cryptocurrency investment pitch rolled in is hardly the stuff Lauren Duncan thought a potential romantic interest would be texting her.
About a week ago, Duncan joined Hinge, the self-proclaimed ”dating app designed to be deleted” after a friend told her she “should get out there.”
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The 60-year-old former airline employee told News 6 she divorced from her husband 10 years ago and had not dated anyone during that time. So, when she created her profile on Hinge last week, messages started pouring in from suitors almost immediately.
Matteo Thomas, an architect from Jacksonville, Florida, really stood out and she wanted to see if he was “legit.”
“He sent me a rose (emoji) which caught my attention,” Duncan told News 6. “You can send a rose and that’s like they are really interested in you.”
News 6 asked Duncan to send the messages and photographs Matteo had sent to her.
One text read “I am lovely, caring and romantic.” As for the photographs, News 6 found pages of pictures, all of the same man, on a website that tracks imposters.
Fakescam.info highlights more than 40 photographs of the same man used with various profiles, names and social media posts.
It appears he is really a physician or medical technician who resides near Hamburg, Germany, not Jacksonville, Florida. He has no connection to the romance scheme in Duncan’s case.
Duncan said she knew something was not right and told “Matteo” she was not interested in investing.
She told News 6 the man calling himself Matteo was persistent, assured her “this was not a scam” and sent a photo of a certificate that read “Trading Crypto Experts” that appeared to be registered in New York City.
Duncan alerted the Hinge website and the staff reacted immediately writing in part, ”One of your matches, Matteo Thomas, was recently removed from Hinge based on information regarding potentially fraudulent* behavior.”
Brian Watson, a veteran analyst with the U.S. Secret Service in Orlando, told News 6 the trap begins with a friendly chat that quickly moves to “a great opportunity.”
“You’re not going to get these returns anywhere,” Watson said, " Some people are re-mortgaging their homes because they think the money is real and they can make a killing on it.”
Watson said the romance cryptocurrency scam has cost Americans millions of dollars. When asked what’s really happening to the money, Watson replied, ”The bad guys are taking it to the bank and cashing out.”
Duncan said Matteo wanted her to invest $3,000 but she refused.
“I hope this helps people,” she said. “You have to go with your gut.”
If you have been approached on a dating site to invest in crypto or bitcoin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text the words “make ends meet” along with the issue to 407-676-7428. You can also call your local secret service office.
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