A Cork woman has started a Gofundme to support her 81-year-old relative, who lost her life savings in an elaborate scam that began with a Bitcoin investment.
Fiona Chappell lives in West Cork, and first shared the devastating story of what happened to her relative on The Cork’s 96FM Opinion Line with PJ Coogan.
Having clicked an online advertisement and invested a couple of hundred euro in Bitcoin years ago, the woman had forgotten about her investment until she received a call from scammers a few months ago.
They told her she had made a significant return, and they needed her personal details in order to transfer the earnings to her bank account.
The fraudsters also convinced her to download software which allowed them to access her laptop remotely. They used this to show her that thousands of euro had been transferred into her credit union account.
Speaking to The Echo, Ms Chappell said that this earned the trust of her relative, who was “delighted with herself” to have made a profit on her small investment.
“They actually did transfer a very large amount of cash into her credit union… but she didn’t realise that the balance went out minutes after it had come in, and all of her savings went with it,” said Ms Chappell.
The woman lost all of her savings, just under €3,000, which was everything she had. The scammers set up a new bank account using her identity with an online banking provider. Two credit cards were issued for the account, one which arrived to the elderly woman’s address, and another which is presumably still in the possession of the perpetrators.
“She sees the money in her local credit union, she gets this official legitimate credit card through the post, then they really have her trust. The scammer used all the financial institutions to fool her,” said Ms Chappell. “We were all really angry and upset.
“She’s lucky in that she has some family members [to support her] but would hate to think what would happen to an elderly person who didn’t,” she added.
The scammers also attempted to take out a credit union loan using the woman’s identity, and used her identity when attempting to con money from other people.
Ms Chappell said that the experience has left her relative “ungrounded and very upset”, and afraid to use her own laptop.
“Then you have all this mess of sorting all these services, getting her pension moved, opening another bank account, with everything needed to be done online a lot of the time, and now she’s scared to go online,” she said.
Ms Chappell has set up a GoFundMe in aid of “The Happy Granny” who has fallen victim to the fraud, to help her regain what she has lost.
“Instead of her getting ripped off by random strangers, I want her to experience people being generous and being kind,” she said. You can donate to the Happy Granny Fund hgofundme.com.
Gardaí confirmed that investigations into the incident of fraud are ongoing.
Last year saw a 111% increase in overall fraud offences, and a 370% increase in fraud crimes relating to vishing (fraud phone calls), smishing (fraud texts) and phishing (fraud emails).
Garda advice is for the public to be wary of any unsolicited phone calls, emails and texts and not to click on any links – and to never give away personal data such as bank account details, PIN numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, one time codes, PPS numbers and Eircodes.
Victims of fraud are advised to change passwords immediately, and report the matter to your bank and the Gardaí.