‘I lost £65k to crypto scammers and now my grandchildren can’t go to private school’

A 72-year-old woman who wanted to pay for her four grandchildren to go to private school lost almost £65,000 to a cryptocurrency scam and fraudsters who claimed to be from the City watchdog.

Amanda Briggs, whose name has been changed, became interested in cryptocurrency following an episode of the BBC show Dragons’ Den in which an entrepreneur was looking for investment in his cryptocurrency scheme. “Some of the panel invested as a trial and were impressed with the return received so I looked into [similar] investment opportunities in 2019,” she said.

After her research she invested some money from a property sale with a company called Extick. She withdrew a small portion early on to check that the investment was genuine and, satisfied that it was, topped it up to a total of almost £42,000 in the following weeks from her bank account and a Barclaycard credit card.

“The [Extick] people were very persuasive and I could see the upward movement of my investments,” Ms Briggs said.

Three months later she tried to withdraw some of her money to reinvest it elsewhere, but 24 hours afterwards her account showed she held just £91. She contacted her bank and credit card provider but both said they had warned her not to invest, as they had. A spokesman for Barclaycard said that after an investigation Ms Briggs’s refund claim was unsuccessful.

By October, around six months after her initial investment, Extick was dissolved. But her ordeal was not over. Ms Briggs was contacted this year by another fraudster who claimed to be an “investigating officer” from the Financial Conduct Authority.

Scammers acquire details of people who have previously been conned through what is known as a “suckers list” traded on the “dark web”.

“In spring this year I received a call from a man who said that following investigations through the FCA they were aware that I had lost money through Extick. He quoted a figure of £25,000,” she said.

In order to receive her money back she was told she would have to start a new cryptocurrency account as it could not be transferred to her bank. She opened an account with a legitimate trading site, Bitpanda, as requested. The scammers demanded a 15pc upfront fee, which was to be paid into her new account. Once this was done, Ms Briggs gave the fraudsters access to her computer through an app and they moved her money to their own accounts. The payments were made in stages over several months.

“During the conversation I had said that £25,000 was not all I was owed and they assured me that they could reimburse me the total amount. Of course more fees were due,” she said.

After months of regular payments, the scammers changed the trading site from Bitpanda to LiteBit, another legitimate exchange, and demanded more money from Ms Briggs. In total she paid a further £22,000, leaving her with an overall loss of £64,000 from the two scams. “The banks tried to persuade me not to send the money, so it is my own stupid fault,” said Ms Briggs.

A spokesman for LiteBit said “boiler room” fraud, as this type of scam is known, was something it monitored and warned customers about but it was a difficult problem to combat. A spokesman for Bitpanda said it had online educational articles about spotting scams.

The FCA said it was aware that scammers impersonated its email address to convince fraud victims to part with more money.

A spokesman for Action Fraud, the national centre for reporting scams, said investors should use a regulated company where possible to guard against scams.

You can report suspected scams to Action Fraud via actionfraud.police.uk or 0300 123 2040.

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