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Philadelphia Tech Professional Falls Victim to $450,000 Cryptocurrency Romance Scam

Shreya Datta, a 37-year-old tech professional from Philadelphia, has fallen victim to a cryptocurrency romance scam that left her financially ruined. 

The scam, commonly known as “pig butchering,” involves fraudsters using deceitful tactics to gain victims’ trust and trick them into investing in fake cryptocurrencies. 

The scam targeting Datta began on the dating app Hinge, where she encountered “Ancel,” a charming French wine trader supposedly based in Philadelphia, she told France24

The conversation quickly moved to WhatsApp, where the pair exchanged selfies, flirtatious messages sprinkled with emojis, and even engaged in brief video calls. 

Datta felt captivated by Ancel’s charisma and believed she had found a genuine connection in the vast sea of online relationships.

Dreams of Early Retirement and Financial Success


As their virtual relationship grew deeper, Ancel started sharing his dreams of early retirement and financial success through cryptocurrency investments. 

He introduced Datta to a seemingly legitimate crypto trading app and showed her annotated screenshots of profitable trades, which fueled her confidence and desire to invest. 

Ancel’s smooth-talking and persuasive tactics convinced Datta to convert her savings into cryptocurrency, take out loans, and even liquidate her retirement fund.

By March, Datta had invested nearly $450,000, and on paper, her investment appeared to have more than doubled. 

However, when she attempted to withdraw her funds, the app demanded a personal “tax” payment, raising suspicions. 

Datta’s brother decided to investigate and discovered that the pictures Ancel had sent were actually of a German fitness influencer. 

The devastating truth hit Datta like a tidal wave — she had been manipulated and deceived.

The aftermath of the scam left Datta emotionally shattered. She experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), struggling to sleep, eat, and function normally. 

The realization that she had lost all her money and fallen victim to a heartless fraudster was incredibly traumatizing. 

Crypto Romance Scams Have Become Prevalent


Cryptocurrency romance scams, like the one Datta experienced, have become alarmingly prevalent, with billions of dollars lost in the United States alone. 

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported over 40,000 cases of cryptocurrency fraud, including pig butchering, resulting in losses exceeding $3.5 billion in 2023. 

These figures likely underestimate the true scale of the problem as many victims choose not to report the crimes due to shame and embarrassment.

The scammers behind these sophisticated operations exploit the vulnerabilities and desires of their victims. 

They manipulate emotions, create false personas, and employ advanced techniques such as deepfake videos to enhance the illusion of authenticity. 

Victims often find themselves entrapped, unable to recover their losses and left feeling devastated and humiliated.

Efforts to combat these scams remain challenging. 

Dating platforms are grappling with disinformation and the proliferation of AI-generated profile pictures. 

Law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, are inundated with reports, but the recovery of funds is often difficult, if not impossible. 

Victims may also encounter further scams when seeking assistance from fake recovery agents.

As reported, Erin West, Deputy District Attorney in Santa Clara, California, has revealed that receives an average of 5-6 emails daily from individuals who have fallen prey to pig butchering.

“We are receiving 5-6 emails a day from people who are victims of pig butchering. The most recent victim lost $5 million dollars and that’s not even the biggest amount one victim has lost to this scam.”

Compounding the issue, the stolen funds are funneled overseas to transnational criminal organizations in Myanmar and Cambodia, using trafficked individuals as virtual slaves to carry out the pig butchering scams.

 

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