A 37-year-old American woman lost $450,000 in an extremely sophisticated cryptocurrency scam.

The lover appeared like a French wine negotiator, smiling and a skillful investor. But when Shreya Datta wanted to recover her stake, the American could only see that she was ruined: $450,000 stolen in an extremely sophisticated cryptocurrency scam.

At 37, she told AFP the feeling that her “brain had been hacked” by the fable that was presented to her and by the use of video tricks visibly assisted by artificial intelligence (AI). It is far from being an isolated case: tens of thousands of victims of similar scams were reported last year in the United States alone.

A dating application, a long-distance relationship, investment proposals and then nothing: the scheme, nicknamed in English “pig butchering”, is reputed to come from organized crime in South East Asia .

But it was in Philadelphia that the gears began for Shreya Datta. After meeting via an application by a certain “Ancel”, their discussion moves to WhatsApp. There, they exchange selfies, saucy emoticons and even quick video calls. These were in reality “deepfakes”, these artificial videos that scream realism.

“Even more”

If he only rejects a meeting in the flesh, the one who says he is French cajoles her, sends her flowers for Valentine’s Day, she who has just divorced.

And then, during the conversation, seen by AFP, “Ancel” told him that having made investments allowed him to retire well in advance. “He told me: ‘I accumulated all this money by investing, do you really want to work until you’re 65?’,” says this immigrant from India who works in tech.

After sending him a link to download an application – in reality corrupted – for investing in cryptocurrencies, he shows him tips and tricks for making profits easily. Shreya Datta then pays part of her savings, transferred to the cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase. At first, the profits pour in. “When you make astronomical gains on these trades, it disrupts your perception of risk,” she says now, “You think, ‘Wow, I can make even more!’”

450.000 dollars

She then pours all her savings into it, borrows money and even liquidates her retirement. For a time, this total investment – 450,000 dollars – theoretically seemed to him to have doubled online, just three months after starting the discussion with “Ancel”.

When he wanted to withdraw this amount, something caught his attention: the system asked for a “tax”. Her brother, from London, searches the internet for a photo of his lover: he is actually a German fitness influencer.

“When I realized it was all a scam, that all the money was gone, I experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress. I couldn’t sleep or eat… I wasn’t really there anymore “, she says.

“Brainwashing”

This type of scam seems to be on the rise. In 2023, more than 40,000 people reported such cryptocurrency fraud to the FBI, for total losses of more than $3.5 billion, according to figures sent to AFP by the federal police. Amounts undoubtedly underestimated, as the victims, overwhelmed by shame, rarely report their stories.

Their ordeal continues when some of them come across fake agents claiming to assist the victims. Faced with a process that is destructive to the mental health of the victims, Shreya Datta is followed by a psychologist. Without much hope regarding the procedures launched with the authorities, she also moved to less expensive accommodation to cope with her new debts. The worst thing for her is the judgment of others, who consider her very naive.

“There should be no shame in being the victim of such a psychologically sophisticated fraud,” replies Erin West, a prosecutor in California who says she receives “an avalanche of victims every day.” They “suffered real brainwashing,” summarizes the magistrate.

Source: https://www.bfmtv.com/crypto/je-ne-pouvais-plus-dormir-ni-manger-comment-une-americaine-s-est-faite-depouiller-en-cryptomonnaies_AD-202402260321.html



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