I am 82 years old and I live with my wife who is 79 years old. We only have pensions to live on.

In March 2021, I saw an ad online about investing in cryptocurrency from just £250. A man who identified himself as Lucas Hoffman called me on behalf of WiseCoin.

He said he was Swiss and opened an account in my name and started trading for me. He then arranged for me to open an account with a money transfer firm through which I could make payments from my Halifax account to WiseCoin.

Scammed: Elderly reader tricked into handing over his savings to online scammer who claimed to work for major cryptocurrency investment company

He said I could withdraw my money at any time and as an act of faith transferred £250 back to my account in Halifax.

In total I transferred around £52,000. When the cryptocurrency value was shown as £119,000, I asked Hoffman to withdraw all my money.

He said that a colleague should arrange it, but I heard nothing. A week later I contacted Halifax who informed me that I had been scammed.

He said he would not refund the money and I had to pursue other organizations. I have no savings left. Please can you help.


Sally Hamilton answers: I know many readers will think how could you be so naive? But I’m here to help everyone in a difficult moment. In my experience of dealing with similar cases, I can see how difficult it is for victims to resist the persistent sales pitch of a consummate con artist.

Predators like the one posing as “Hoffman” use classic appeasement tactics, such as transferring a small amount as an “act of good faith.”

They later trick the victims into parting with the extra money, citing tax reasons or some other nonsense, only for the culprits to vanish into thin air along with the victims’ savings.

This made my heart sink. You were looking for a way to make your little savings bank stretch further into your twilight years, making you juicy prey for these vultures.

No matter how gullible you are, I felt that Halifax could do more than knock you out when you finally realized the fraud. The customer’s bank and its security measures must be at the forefront of these attackers.

I have asked Lloyds Banking, which owns Halifax, if they will reopen your case and if they can trace and recover any of your £52,000 losses.

Its anti-fraud team scrutinized all the details to see if you’re eligible for compensation under the industry’s Model Contingent Compensation Code, a voluntary set of rules used by many banks to compensate customers who have been hit by a so-called “sanctioned push – payment”. ‘fraud.

His fraud team concluded that the entire scam must have started with you entering your phone number into an online form after searching online for cryptocurrency investments.

That was all the scammer needed to hook you up. He called you pretending to be a seller from “WiseCoin”.

It appears that he convinced you to use your personal details and ID to open an account with the real Wise (formerly TransferWise) firm on your behalf, deliberately confusing you with the similarity of the company names.

Two major transfers were made: one in December 2021 and the other in January of this year. It looks like the money was quickly withdrawn from that account and then your savings are gone forever.

Halifax says it blocked another suspicious-looking £12,000 transfer in March. But even after a call to the fraud team, you seem to have decided to go ahead with the payment. When you lost contact with Hoffman, you visited their branch in Halifax, who confirmed that you had been duped.

As the transfers were made to an account opened in your name, this meant that Halifax would not return the money to you under a fraudulent code. But a few days later, for some reason, you reconnected with the fraudster and made two more payments of around £16,000.

This time you transferred money to accounts belonging to scammers. Despite the warning from Halifax on the “Make sure this investment is real” screen, you went ahead and transferred another £10,000.

Because these payments went to the fraudster’s account, they fell under the scope of the scam code. Halifax says it could have intervened more forcefully at this point.

In general, although it seems that you did not do enough to protect yourself, for example, did not check the company, ignored warnings and were seduced by impractically attractive promises, the bank decided to share the responsibility and refund half of your losses.

A spokesman for Lloyds Bank said: “Helping to keep our customers’ money safe is our priority and we sympathize with customers as victims of crime.” We have now been able to refund 50pc of the money he paid directly to the fraudsters and apologize for the service he received when the scam was first reported.”

You have now paid back around £19,600 plus £200 for poor service and loss of interest.

I also asked Wise to investigate. A few weeks later he confirmed that he couldn’t find any of your money in his piggy bank.

He concluded that he couldn’t stop the scam because you opened an account with the scammer and allowed remote access to your devices, which is against his terms. I argued that you believed you were being helped by an employee of the firm, but she refused to refund the money.

I cannot stress enough the wisdom of thoroughly checking a firm’s credentials before transferring funds, especially when savings are at stake.

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email sally@dailymail.co.uk – include a telephone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organization with permission to speak Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we are not responsible for them. The Daily Mail is not legally responsible for the answers given.

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