Time for Scams, Reflection, and for Tor's AHHT Sales!
Updated: Jul 22
Hello, readers! Let me tell you of my past few weeks. I found myself in the middle of an episode of the world's longest episode of 24, starring Tor, not Kiefer Sutherland. I definitely was having out of body experiences, my stress was so completely through the roof. By the end of the story, I lost 12k, all of my savings towards a car, and my emergency fund. It's very scary living in this world without that. I will be ok physically, but emotionally, I am very scarred from the whole experience. And I highly doubt I will get much, or any of it back.
It all started on Hinge, one of the latest dating apps of our time. I was nudged to try it out, and I thought, why not? Well, now I know why not, but I wasn't made aware of the crypto scams going on in the dating apps. I just coincidentally was starting to want to learn about crypto, so I could try my hand at NFTs. This is the only way you can play in that world, basically. This guy was definitely pushing finance on me, and I am not into that at all really. But he made himself sound good, and his profile passed my "seems ok and not crazy, possibly", so I liked his profile, and then he started messaging me. We talked for weeks, but I don't have a record of any of it, because he convinced me I didn't need the app active, while we got to know each other off of the app. I fell for this, because I figured one less distraction. Now all of it is lost, including his profile. "Johnny," is his American name, "Li Zhuo" is his name from Singapore. He taught me how to put $1500 of my money into his wallet, and I thought it went into my own at the time, I didn't even realize I had been scammed. I went off to Vermont, right after I blocked his ass. He wanted me to put ALL of my savings into crypto, or his wallet, without my knowledge. He also got very verbally abusive to me when I said no. I know for sure that is a red flag, I am not messing around with. My sister called him "crypto guy", which was very accurate. Later, my friend told me online dating is full of these people to watch out for. I had no idea, so it wouldn't have even mattered.
So off I went to Vermont, completely blocking this idiot out of my brain. I had a lovely vacation in upstate Vermont, hiking and enjoying nature as much as possible. I had no service on my cell phone, so I wouldn't have figured out I was scammed, even if I wanted to. A week later, I went back to work, in the midst of my busiest time of the year. I did this on purpose, so I would feel refreshed and ready for the work when I got back. I didn't yet have the energy to check my crypto, since it was all plummeting, and I couldn't deal with that just yet.
Thursday night rolls around, and I get a call in my voicemail from Amazon, saying there is a fraud charge on my new credit card I just started using a few weeks before. I have been getting many of these on my debit cards the last few months, one charge was on my actual bank account, from a guy gambling in Texas, so I had to cancel my account and start up another one. This was a HUGE pain, and my automatic response was just to call the number back on my phone and cancel this card ASAP.
Of course, this was my other huge mistake. Not checking the number I called back. I didn't even know google would tell me this information, when my cousin told me to do this, after I had lost my 12k in savings. I just started sobbing and couldn't stop, once I understood what happened, and searched the number. Scam and fraud were all of the internet results. FML.
I really believe I royally pissed off Crypto Guy, and he got his forces together to take the rest of my money from me, since he knew I didn't understand crypto. He had so much information on me after talking to me for weeks, and knew all of my weaknesses. He knew I was going on vacation, and would forget about him. Any mentioning of cryptocurrency didn't even happen, until Friday afternoon. He knew this would make me remember our interaction, and ruin the whole scam.
So I call the number on my phone, and a woman answers, saying I had some charges for an iPhone, and something else apple related. I immediately said no, that wasn't me. She's like ok, we can cancel the card, but there is a much bigger issue at hand that needs to be addressed. It looks like someone in Texas is trying to steal your identity, with lots of money laundering. If I didn't just have my bank account hacked by someone in Texas, who was gambling, I most likely wouldn't have fallen for this story. But the coincidence felt too real to me. So off she went, transferring me to who I only assume was Crypto Guy, but she said it was the Social Security Administration. He was definitely Asian, and I spoke to Crypto Guy for a few minutes on the phone a few weeks ago, and they did sound similar. There's really no way to know.
This man told me that someone found a rental car, in my name, in Texas, on the side of the road, full of illegal drugs. He also said that they used my name to money launder 3 million dollars, across international borders. That the state of Texas has a case against me. Then he transferred me to the "U.S. Marshalls Office."
The last person I spoke with before hanging up was "Samuel Brown," of the U.S. Marshal's office, and directed me to the website, showing me the number to call in the morning. He even gave me a badge number, which I am sure was made up. He wanted me to take my savings out of the bank, ASAP, but I said they were closed, no way that was happening until tomorrow. I always was supposed to be at work the next day, and he scolded me to take this seriously. That just pissed me off and I told him not to tell me how to feel, when I just found all this information out. Basically telling me that the only way to protect my savings, was to take it out. I sent him my driver's license, and two photos, which I now know is used to validate the bitcoin exchange. But this wasn't mentioned yet. It made sense to me that a U.S. Marshal's office would want to validate my own identity, to make sure I am not a criminal. I was told not to tell this information to anyone. Well, I called my sister up and told her everything, and she believed it could be true. Somehow I slept that night, but fitfully.
The next day, I used a vacation day at work, just to address what was happening. I also had a Gala at the Whistler Museum, that I was still planning on attending. My artwork was showing at the Lowell Conference Center, so it still seemed important to try and enjoy myself, even with what was going on. Samuel took a few hours to call me back, so I actually was getting a very aggravated, when I was using vacation time. I know this is typical of the government, but I am sure they were prepping in how to close this scam off. Meanwhile, I called the local police, and they came over. Samuel called me back, right as the local police officer was buzzing my apartment. Talk about stress. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin.
The police officer came in, after the station called my number, since I didn't answer right away. I told him what was going on, and that I wanted at minimum to make a report, but I also was hoping for some advice/help. So much for that, he basically just told me that it very well could be real, and that he would make a report.
After that, Samuel went through a lot of questions with me, basically information to prove I was who I was. Nothing too personal, no numbers or anything. He also wanted to walk me through what had to happen, to get a new social security number. That I had to put my savings into Bitcoin, and use a barcode to transfer the money to. That agents were going to come to my house, and give me my new information. This all did sound insane, but I was feeling completely insane at the time. Eventually I told him I had to leave, to go to the party, that started at 4pm.
I went to the Gala, and made it soon after it started, beat the crowd to check out the art display, it came out lovely. I drank a little too much wine, and told everyone what was happening to me. I made friends with a lovely Scottish older gentlemen. I danced, made some new friends from NY, and tried my best to get the stress out of my body. Most people couldn't believe my story. And not ONE person, told me that it was probably a scam. So, I went to bed, and the story continued.
The next morning, Samuel wasn't supposed to call me until 10am. Well, he called at 8:30am, and I told him I was not prepared to speak with him until at least 930. The banks close at noon, he said. It was Saturday, and realized he was right. So off I went to the bank, to take out all of my savings. This was probably the most terrifying step of all. Mostly because I was told I couldn't say anything to the bank about what was going on, that it was an investigation. So I had to lie and say it was for personal reasons, and I said eventually it was for my house, which seemed practical in my head. The manager could tell I was very distressed. But they counted out my 12k in savings, and I was shaking when I was writing out how much money I wanted to take out. This is when I was definitely feeling completely outside of myself. The manager walked me to my car, and I drove straight home, just to breath.
Samuel was live on my cell during the entire transaction. I actually yelled at him that I had to drive home, I was so out of my mind. I cannot tell you how long I was on the phone for with him. I was asked by all three people in this process, if I lived alone. I did think that was weird, and I honestly felt like someone was going to break into my condo and kill me the entire weekend. If someone actually had my social security number, wouldn't that be the next step? Nothing made sense anymore.
Then he talked me into depositing all of the cash, into Bitcoin. He sent me the wallet and code, which was all directly to him, but I did not understand that. He knew this, goddamn Crypto Guy. So I spent an hour, depositing way too many 20's into the machine, to be lost forever.
And get this, that wasn't enough for him. He wanted me to take out a personal loan for 15k, to give to the U.S. Marshals office, just to pay for all the law fees. He said it would be given back to me on Monday. This part really made NO sense to me, and I honestly started getting red hot angry. I tried twice to apply online, and I was rejected, because I am a naughty citizen, THANK GOD!! This was my silver lining. Samuel got mad, and wanted me to ask all of my friends for money. I immediately said I could never do that to my friends.
I called up my cousin Sarah, who works for a bank. She told me this definitely sounds like a scam, and to check the number that I originally called. I put it into google, and I started sobbing. It was soul crushing. And I didn't even realize I lost all of the money yet. I thought it was in my own crypto wallet.
I spoke with the police again, and added to the report. It was the same guy, and he told me Crypto is "like the wild west." So helpful.
The next day, I reported what happened at work, and was told to try to get my money back. When I was at a bitcoin machine, confused, I called the number on the machine, and they broke the bad news to me. That I sent it directly to him, and you can only get it back if they choose to send it back. This is when I called my Dad, and started sobbing again. I did A LOT of sobbing this entire week, including at my job, which it greatly affected. It affects every part of my life now. Money isn't even the worst of it, the emotional abuse was way worst. I understand now why they prey on older people who are clueless about these things. I thought I was smarter, but it can really happen to anyone. We live in a batshit crazy world, where so many people take advantage.
The last few weeks, I have just been trying to keep my nervous system calm, protect my other assets, and 4th of July weekend, my sister had me floating on a lake for a few days, which was just what I needed. This past weekend, I just felt kind of numb. I know I am going through all the stages of grief, because I had been through this process for other reasons recently, and now I know what it feels like. I pray that no one I know has to go through this, so please share my story! The more we all are aware, the more we can fight greedy humans like this. It is NOT OK!
Oh yeah, also, buy my ahht ;) I could use the help building my savings back up! I will take any pity sale I can get..I know I have many regular fans out there, and I am VERY willing to bargain my prices down at the moment. I would love to hear from you all, for encouragement. Here are some of my paintings still for sale, I would love to go to a new home!