A father-of-three has revealed how he lost his life savings, home and wife after being tricked into investing in fake cryptocurrency schemes by two women he met on social media.
Michael Holloway, a 62-year-old real estate agent from New Jersey, was scammed out of $500,000 by online fraudsters, who lured him with fake connections before persuading him to empty his entire retirement pot.
Michael was so distraught at being the victim of the cruel scam that he hit ‘rock bottom’, was ‘ready to end his life’ – and was eventually rushed to hospital by his daughter worry.
He’s fallen for a heartless scam known as ‘pig butchering’ – in which victims are effectively ‘fattened’ by a fake relationship – whether romantic or friendly – before being slaughtered” by fraudulent investment advice.
And Michael is by no means alone. Experts warn that crime is exploding across the country and investment fraud is now the fastest growing scam in the United States.
Michael Holloway, a 62-year-old New Jersey real estate agent, was scammed out of $500,000 by fraudsters
Americans lost a record $2.57 billion to cryptocurrency investment fraud last year alone, according to the FBI, nearly three times the amount stolen in 2021.
Earlier this year, recently divorced mother of three Rebecca Holloway revealed how she lost over $100,000 to a scammer she met on the dating app Tinder who scammed her for that she makes fake investments in cryptocurrency.
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com, Michael explained how he was targeted on social media – and initially wary of potential scammers contacting him.
“If I made a successful deal, I would post it on social media, and I started getting contacted by random people – and they were always mentioning the cryptocurrency investment. I would tell them to forget it – I knew what they wanted and I was on top of them,” he said.
But in early December 2022, a woman called “Hui Hui”, who said she was from China, contacted him.
“I was complaining to her that so many people were trying to get me to invest. It continued as a friendly conversation at first,” he said.
Michael admitted he was having issues with his marriage at the time and was in a vulnerable state of mind. The online conversation turned romantic – with plans for the pair to potentially meet.
That’s when “Hui Hui” started investing in a cryptocurrency platform and persuaded Michael to invest $18,000.
On December 21, another woman called “Lydia” reached out to Michael on social media.
Rebecca Holloway, pictured, has revealed how she lost her entire 401(K) to a scammer she met on Tinder after he convinced her to invest in fake cryptocurrency schemes
She, too, said she was Chinese and claimed to be a successful businesswoman – even sending Michael pictures of a Bentley she claimed to own.
“Again, she was very laid back in her approach,” he said. “I felt comfortable talking to him and we moved on to talking on WhatsApp. It wasn’t a romantic relationship, but she described being my friend and she managed to gain my trust.
Michael was growing suspicious of the money he invested with ‘Hui Hui’, and even complained to ‘Lydia’ about the situation, explaining that he was eager to get the money back.
It was only three months after the start of the conversation that “Lydia” mentioned an investment opportunity.
“She said, ‘By the way, I can get you a lot more money. My aunt is a Wall Street trader and we’re doing a special project and you’re invited,” Michael said.
He read the white papers and performed a stress test with the first $20,000 he invested, which he was able to withdraw from the platform.
“I was brainwashed,” he continued. “She didn’t let me think for myself or let me go for a second. Without a beat these texts were coming and I believed it.
“She promised me a rich life and I was attracted by the idea of making a quick profit. I should have been better informed.’
Michael started investing in the platform, even taking money from his 401(K) plan and waiving the 20% penalty each time.
Michael explained how he was targeted on social media – and initially wary of potential scammers reaching out to him
When, in April this year, Michael attempted to withdraw his money from the first platform he had invested in, he was hit with a $132,000 penalty.
Panicking, he attempted to withdraw money from the scheme he had invested in with ‘Lydia’ – and was fined $50,000.
It was there, he says, that he realized he had been the victim of sophisticated con artists.
“My face went bright red – I remembered when it happened,” he said.
“Between the two accounts, I lost $500,000. I lost my house, I lost my wife when she found out what I was doing, I lost my money. I was ready to end my life. I was really down.
“I ended up having a nervous breakdown and my daughter rushed me to hospital and I was placed in a mental health ward. »
As Michael now rebuilds his life, lives in an apartment and is on good terms with his ex-wife and children, he said, he is keen to warn others of the heartbreaking repercussions of such scams.
Looking back, he recognizes the red flags that are typical of “pig slaughter” cases.
The con tends to be long and sees the scammer engage in a months-long courtship to establish trust. Scammers will often allow victims to easily withdraw money from the investment app at first – but once they have invested heavily, they will lose this option.
“Ironically, I knew about this type of scam and even mentioned the term to the two women. They apparently brainwashed me so much or managed to convince me otherwise,” Michael added.
Rebecca Holloway, 42, also missed similar warning signs when she was cheated out of more than $100,000 by fraudsters posing as a French entrepreneur called “Fred”.
Rebecca told DailyMail.com: ‘Single women approaching their 50s are so vulnerable.
“We have money but maybe we haven’t met the right guy yet. And suddenly this handsome man starts talking to you and you get excited.
“Looking back, the signs are so obvious. But then you want to believe it’s real.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a record $3.82 billion was stolen from Americans through investment fraud in 2022 – more than any other type of scam. This is a 128% increase from the $1.67 billion lost the previous year.
Investment scams are wide-ranging and can include any hoax that tricks victims into putting money into a bogus scheme with the promise of lucrative returns. This can include Ponzi schemes and even people being persuaded to invest in ‘ghost properties’ that don’t exist.
A recent study by investment fraud attorneys Carlson Law found that the bulk of losses occurred in California, followed by Florida, Texas, New York and New Jersey respectively.
Technical manager Shreya Datta, 37, and single mother Kate, 41, both revealed that they lost $450,000 and $80,0000 respectively in counters eerily similar to what happened to Rebecca.
Kate, from Vancouver, Washington, also believed she had met a French entrepreneur online – although he said he lived in Seattle.
California residents lost the most money to investment fraud last year, with 4,982 victims scammed out of a whopping $870 million
Kate, 41, who used a pseudonym for the play, lost $80,000 to a ‘pig butcher’ scam
Tech executive Shreya Datta, 37, lost $450,000 to heartless ‘pig butcher’ scam
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He claimed to be called “Andy” and to work as a wine merchant. Over time, the duo struck up a relationship when he convinced her to invest $80,000.
“I was kind of the perfect sucker because I didn’t know anything about cryptocurrencies,” said Kate, who used a pseudonym for the article.
Tech manager Shreya Datta also believed she was talking to a French wine merchant – who ended up scamming her out of $450,000.
Shreya – who earns a six-figure salary at a global tech company – told the Philadelphia Inquirer she felt like she had ‘a hole in my soul for not having a man in my life’ – d ‘where the reason why she was deceived.
“I was in a trance,” she said, adding “it’s like my psychology has been hacked.”
Many pig slaughter operations are reportedly run by criminal syndicates in Cambodia which employ thousands of people.
A report by Vice News and the South China Morning Post revealed last year that the workers themselves are enslaved and abused, having been lured there with the promise of legitimate employment, and given tailored scripts to individual victims.