When Jonathan* stumbled across an Instagram account flaunting huge profits from cryptocurrency, he thought he’d struck a gold mine.
“I ended up messaging the person, and then she went on this long spiel about Bitcoin mining and how it’s really profitable,” the 23-year-old says.
The strategy, he was told, could produce eye-watering returns of 50 per cent per month.
He was initially sceptical so, in late 2017, he sent $50 in Bitcoin as a test. A month later, he was sent back his $50 along with another $30 of so-called profit.
So, he sent hundreds of dollars. Then thousands. Then he started telling friends and family, who sent even more money.
“One of my best mates sold his car for $10,000, and put all that money in, and it disappeared,” Jonathan says.
“I put a few thousand dollars in myself, and one of my other mates put in about $5,000. When [the scammer] had all our money at the same time, that’s when she disappeared.”
All up, Jonathan and his friends lost more than $20,000 to the scam. It’s caused immense stress and embarrassment, and some of his friends still don’t talk to him.
“It was like my integrity just vanished all of a sudden, because I’d convinced my friends. I’d shown them my profits, and I was actively promoting it, almost like a salesman for her,” he says.
“I went through a really rough emotional time after that.”