A Nottingham man admitted he was close to ending his life after losing more than £52,000 after being convinced by a scam artist to use online trade markets.
The 47-year-old felt so distressed and drained following an 18-day nightmare that at one stage he considered committing suicide after being continually harassed by fraudsters online and on the phone.
The man, who does not wish to be named, still feels the ordeal is quite raw four months on, but is keen to share his experience so others don’t suffer like he has done.
He said: “When it finally dawned on me that I had lost thousands of pounds so quickly, I dropped to the floor. I was helpless. My whole world was falling apart.
“I couldn’t understand why anyone would do this to me, but these guys are professionals, all they care about is your money.
“It was like a nightmare, it affected me hugely. I couldn’t sleep, I was worrying all the time and I had to leave my shift because I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.”
The victim initially made a £300 deposit to purchase Bitcoin in October after he lost his job as a chef during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Having done some research online, he was confident enough he would be able to make some money through a European company online.
Within a day he received a phone call from a business, which he thought was that company, but it happened to be a third party who had got his details and started to educate him in the different markets.
This is when the fraud started and he agreed to transfer his money into shares on the stock market.
Initially, he was successful with a small profit, but that was just the start of the horrible ordeal, which left him close to ending his life.
He said: “They really lured me in. They looked very professional, but it started to change very quickly.
“I was being harassed on the phone, receiving close to 100 calls from the company stating that I needed to put money into other trade markets, otherwise I would lose all his money.
“They were so utterly convincing. They would tell me if I did this, great things would happen.
“Again and again they would say if I don’t invest now I would miss out on this great opportunity. They would promise things were happening and name drop some big clients. Of course, in reality, not of that was true.
“I would receive emails, again threatening me to keep ploughing my money into the investment scam from a man posing to be ‘Michael’.
“I begged them to stop and told them that I was getting stressed and that I was worried I would lose my house. They totally ignored my messages and instead used this against me. I guess I showed a weakness and they exploited it.”
A fortnight after the original investment of £300, he had lost thousands.
He admits that he was in a bad way and believed the calls were legitimate, coming from the original company he researched that looked so convincing and professional.
He said: “It escalated so quickly. They would use clever tactics to entice you back, saying ‘great things are coming my way and educating me where I could put my money in. They chip away at you, keep demanding your money and after days, I gave in.
“They guaranteed that I could get some of my money back. They just broke me.
“The last trade I did, I lost £25,000 in two-minutes. That’s how serious it got. That’s when I finally knew. Alarm bells were ringing beforehand, but I didn’t know how to stop it.
“It was totally out of control, but I was into something too deep in something I didn’t really understand. I was so panicked, I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to.”
After another sleepless night, he got up and drove into Nottingham city centre. He waited at Byron House Police Station until he could speak to an officer.
He was sat down by two officers who gave him the space and time to tell them the whole story, which was hugely comforting and reassuring for him.
He said: “I didn’t feel safe in this world anymore and I needed to tell someone and let it all out.
“It was two female officers that sat me down and basically reassured me. They made me feel safe again. They knew I was so low, I broke down in front of them, but they were brilliant. Perhaps without them I wouldn’t be here today. They, alongside my girlfriend, saved me and got me through it all.”
The victim also researched online how he could get his money back through the company and learnt that someone online had been successful.
Officers queried this as it sounded too good to be true. The victim stated that he expected to be able to get £52,000 back through the Italian government.
Fraud Protect officers strongly advised him not to send any more money over the internet. The victim agreed this would be the last time and if he wasn’t successful he would draw a line under it and start again financially.
Thankfully the victim did manage to get £20,000 back from the company, but he lost more than £30,000 in total.
He is now urging anyone to think twice before going down the same path as himself.
Four months on, he has turned his life around. He has found a new job working in a care home and is in a lot better mind-set.
He added: “Looking back on it, I’m still absolutely devastated to fall the scam and lose so much. I feel so foolish.
“But I am grateful as I know I could have lost a lot more.
“I’ve not gone back on a computer since and I’m not sure I ever will. I’ve got a new job now working in a care home and I feel I’m in a really good place again.
“I couldn’t have got it through without my girlfriend, my friends and family.
“I was totally manipulated. I hope by telling my story that people will be able to use it in a positive way.
“As the officers said, I’m not the first person to go through this and I certainly won’t be the last.
“The police have been great and really supportive throughout the investigation. This could happen to anyone.
“I just feel by sharing my story and being so open about it all, then it might help someone.
“No one should ever feel embarrassed or scared to turn to the police and report these kind of incidents.
“I’ve gone through it all and come out the other side. Sure, I still have down days. Some days I go past houses and cars and daydream and think how I could have used money I lost on them, but I’ve got close friends and family who have stuck by me.”
Fraud Protect Officer Laura Murdock advised and supported the victim. She admits incidents like these are becoming more regular and sadly reports like these are vastly underreported.
She said: “I think the reasons for that is the fact that people don’t initially realise that it’s a scam that they are involved in and then when they do know, they’re embarrassed about the fact they’ve been drawn into it, so they are failing to report it to us.
“There is nothing to be embarrassed about. These con artists are incredibly clever, manipulating and persistent.
“In this case the victim lost thousands of pounds. I’m delighted he’s come out and been so open about what happened to him. Hopefully by sharing his experience he’ll be able to help others not to fall for similar scams.
“Please continue to spread the word of these types of scams ensuring elderly or vulnerable loved ones and neighbours are aware of these types of scams.”
Anyone who believes they have been called by a fraudster is urged to report the incident to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, on 0300 123 2040.
People who have lost money through a scam should call Nottinghamshire Police on 101 so officers can preserve evidence as quickly as possible.