Florida man loses $42K to romance investment scheme

MIAMI – A Miami man lost $42,000 in an Ethereum investment scheme built on a relationship that started on Instagram in December 2023 and ended abruptly in January.

The scheme used the photograph of a beautiful Asian woman who introduced herself as Mandy Li, a chief executive officer with Estee Lauder.

The victim, who wants to remain anonymous, told News 6 the woman’s profile, complete with photo, was posted on LinkedIn.

“She surprised me because when I asked her to prove she was real, she agreed to a video call,” he said. “She looked pretty similar not exactly the same.”

News 6 matched that photograph to more than one dozen names and profiles across the globe from Kim Hamilton to Ming Jeong.

Federal agents tell News 6 it’s likely the real woman in the photos has no idea she is being used in romance schemes or what investigators call ”Pig Butchering.”

“I was suspicious because she wasn’t the exact girl, but I dismissed it to photo filters,” he told News 6.

He said he started with small investments of $500 and $1,000. In each instance, he saw gains and was able to retrieve his money.

The initial investments were made on and according to the victim, the gains were real. That is when he said things fell apart. Mandy Li had him move his money to a different site and account or wallet.

He said she promised him gains of 1% a day.

He described the website as a sort of video game. He told News 6 he saw his gains surge from $48,000 to $55,000.

When he asked to withdraw some of the funds, he was told he would have to pay to withdraw the funds.

“I saw my money going up and down, but it was a trap,” he said. “My money was already gone.”

He admits Bank of America cautioned him not to take his money from his savings into a risky investment,

But because it appeared as if he was making profits, he transferred the funds.

“I guess I lost big money, stupid me,” he said.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reported losses to romance scams total $1.14 billion, with median losses per person of $2,000, in 2023. The agency reports romance scams are “the highest reported losses for any form of imposter scam.”

The FTC offered tips on how to avoid the romance investment traps:

  • Never send money, crypto, gift cards, bank or wire transfers, or anything else to anyone you haven’t met in person.

  • Don’t believe promises that an online friend can increase your nest egg.

  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture or any photos they’ve sent you.

  • Be suspicious of excuses about why an in-person meeting is impossible.

If you have an investment or consumer issue, email or text the words “make ends meet” to 407-676-7428. Include your issue and contact information.

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