Freelance artist and designer Petrina Fuda said she got involved with what she thought was a bitcoin investment company.
The 53-year-old said she had heard of people making money through bitcoin, so when a company contacted her, she signed up.
Fuda was told that he could double his investments, and a representative later even claimed that he could earn him up to $8,000 in a month.
But Fuda says the company took his life savings, around $27,000, and received no cryptocurrency in return.
Fuda now wants to warn others, saying that the scammers “groomed” her before breaking in to steal her money.
“Before I knew it, they were in my bank accounts, they took every penny.
“When they started to corner me and took the large sums out of my bank, I was in shock.
“They literally set me up and pounced.
“It escalated before I even realized what was happening.”
The North Shore mum said in 2020 that she initially agreed to invest $1,000 in a company, which lists addresses in London’s financial hub, Canary Wharf and Cyprus.
“I thought I’d give it a little chance with a little investment,” Fuda said.
“There were a lot of people at the time investing in Bitcoin, they said it was the way of the future.”
Fuda gave his driver’s license details to the company, with whom he said he spoke a lot on the phone, which meant there were few paper trails.
But after transferring an initial $1,000, they quickly convinced her to add more and more cash to her account with the company by paying it into several different banks.
“They were linked to several Australian banks, and it changed every time. My red flags should have gone off immediately,” he said.
She said she was drawn in because the scammers told her she had to put up more money if she wanted any of her “profits.”
“Every time I asked to take the money out there was another excuse,” he said.
“As soon as I started saying ‘before I put any more money in, can I start withdrawing some of that?’ They said, ‘No, no, no, you haven’t met our requirements yet,’ she said.
When he told them he had no more money, they told him they would lend him the cash and then demanded that he start paying it off.
She said that the company put more and more of ‘her’ money into the investments and then said that she was responsible for it. She had given them her bank details and later they even transferred money from her bank, she claims.
When she asked for something in writing, they sent her a contract with a $25,000 demand, stating that if she didn’t pay she could go to court, have her assets frozen, or be sued for money laundering.
It was then that Fuda finally realized that something was wrong.
She said she asked for her money back, but says they refused to give it to her.
She contacted her bank, Commonwealth, but after four months of investigation they told her they couldn’t get her money back and told her in a letter that they believed she had been scammed.
“I just went into absolute shock and shut down,” he said.
“Every day I wake up and thank God for being alive, that’s what got me through the darkest hours.
“These guys are professionals, they know the psyche of human beings and play with it.
“It’s the biggest mistake of my life.”
Fuda said he has reported what happened to the NSW police, ID Care, Scamwatch and the FBI in the US, and wants to warn others not to fall for similar schemes.
“It’s not a ‘woe is me’ story. I’ve been victimized but I’m not a victim. It’s to warn other people,” Fuda said.
The ordeal unfolded in 2020, but Fuda said that only now can she talk about what happened to warn others.
The UK Financial Conduct Authority previously issued a warning about the company.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said it could not disclose whether it had any reports of misconduct about the company Fuda had dealt with.
But a spokeswoman cautioned that because many crypto and other digital assets are not commonly considered financial products, the platforms are not ASIC-regulated.
“You may not be protected if the platform crashes or gets hacked,” he said.
“Scammers trying to trick people into investing in fake opportunities to buy cryptocurrency is one of the most common types of cryptocurrency scams.
“Beware of promises of very high returns, endorsements from celebrities or government agencies, people who contact you through social media, text or dating platforms, and multiple or changing bank accounts constantly being used for transfers”.
Commonwealth Bank said it reviews fraud and scam cases on a “case by case” basis.
“However, it is widely recognized that they are becoming increasingly sophisticated, which has prompted increased investment across the industry in resources, systems, data and intelligence to combat fraud and alert the Australian public to the risks facing the community,” a spokesman said.
“We encourage people to stay vigilant and use these tips to avoid this particular type of scam: Stop – trust your gut before authorizing a payment to invest – if the return/investment scheme sounds too good to be true, you probably will. Verify: Do your due diligence before investing in any entity, and especially lesser-known companies Reject: Consult a trusted family member or friend as a sounding board before authorizing an “investment” of higher value.
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