‘Go with your gut:’ Florida woman warns dating app users about cryptocurrency scam

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Romance with a cryptocurrency investment is hardly the thing Lauren Duncan thought a potential romantic interest would be texting her.

About a week ago, Duncan joined Hinge, the self-proclaimed “dating app designed to be deleted,” after a friend told her to “get out there.”

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The 60-year-old former airline employee told News 6 she separated from her husband 10 years ago and hadn’t dated anyone in that time. So when she created her profile on Hinge last week, messages started pouring in from suitors almost immediately.

Matteo Thomas, an architect from Jacksonville, Florida, really stood out, and he wanted to see if he was “legit.”

“He sent me a rose (emoji) that caught my attention,” Duncan told News 6. “You can send a rose and it’s like they’re really interested in you.”

News 6 asked Duncan to send the messages and photos Matteo sent her.

One text read “I’m lovely, caring and romantic.” As for the photographs, News 6 found pages of photos, all of the same man, on a website that tracks fraudsters.

Fakescam.info highlights more than 40 photographs of the same man used with different profiles, names and social media posts.

It appears that he is indeed a doctor or medical technician who lives near Hamburg, Germany, not Jacksonville, Florida. He has no connection to the romance in Duncan’s case.

Duncan said she knew something was wrong and told “Matteo” she was not interested in investing.

She told News 6 the man, who calls himself Matteo, was persistent, assured her “this was not a scam” and sent a photo of a certificate that read “Trading Crypto Experts” that appeared to be registered in New York City.

Duncan alerted the Hinge site and staff responded immediately, writing in part: “One of your matches, Matteo Thomas, was recently removed from Hinge based on information regarding potentially fraudulent* behavior.”

Brian Watson, a veteran analyst with the US Secret Service in Orlando, told News 6 that the trap begins with a friendly chat that quickly moves into “a big opportunity.”

“You’re not going to get those returns anywhere,” Watson said, “Some people remortgage their homes because they think the money is real and they can make a killing on it.”

Watson said the romance cryptocurrency scam has cost Americans millions of dollars. When asked what actually happens to the money, Watson replied: “The bad guys take it to the bank and cash out.”

Duncan said Matteo wanted her to invest $3,000, but she refused.

“I hope this helps people,” she said. “You have to go with your gut.”

If you have been approached on a dating site to invest in crypto or bitcoin, email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or text the words “make ends meet” along with the question to 407-676-7428. You can also call your local intelligence office.

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