Credit union reimburses widow for crypto fraud after newspaper intervenes

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After grieving the loss of her husband and brother to brain cancer, a widow was seduced online and scammed out of £53,000 ($60,400) through false crypto investments. Her building society (similar to a credit union) refused to pay her back but was forced to concede after she wrote a letter to a newspaper.

The unnamed 50-year-old single mother and widow shared her story with the Telegraph, detailing her entanglement with a crypto scammer. She confessed how she lost the large sum to a man who claimed to be falling for her.

“Losing my husband to brain cancer was devastating, but the effect that this fraud is having on me has been so much harder to cope with,” she wrote.

The Telegraph presented her story of a “wicked scam” exploiting “tragic circumstances” to a financial ombudsman after Nationwide, a building society, refused to get involved. It ruled in her favor, demanding Nationwide reimburse the widow.

Widow invested in crypto project

In Autumn last year, the UK widow was ready to find happiness once more. Her brother had died of brain cancer in 2019; her husband passed away from the same illness in 2020. 

She joined an online dating site and matched with a man she described as “caring.” After some video calls, she began to develop feelings towards him.

Then in November, the man claimed to be involved with a company’s crypto expansion. He also mentioned how he had just been promoted to marketing director and needed to seek out potential investors as part of his job. 

Crypto scams are common in the UK, with many fraudsters forming a romantic relationship with their targets.

He claimed it was challenging to find financial suitors. In December, he asked if she would be open to investing. She described herself as financially cautious and needed time to think it through.

He started to convince her, sending emails with forged signatures tied to real employees and investment companies in order to look legitimate. It worked — she invested £2,000 ($2,300) into the crypto project before investing another £51,000 ($58,300) weeks later.

He then began ignoring her calls and texts, pulling out of plans to meet her and removing his WhatsApp profile picture. She contacted her friends for help. They instantly realized she had been scammed. 

Building society refused to help

She turned to a newspaper columnist after Nationwide refused to help get her money back. “We intervened when the customer first started to make payments that were out of character and she was shown a tailored warning for this type of scam before each transaction,” it stated.

However, the Telegraph columnist believed that several factors made this refusal unfair:

  • The building society knew of her husband’s death and her resulting vulnerability.
  • Nationwide made only one “glossed over” phone call to check her transactions.
  • Funds were sent to her own crypto account, which led the society to claim no evidence of a scam existed.

Combined with the sophistication of the scam and the writer’s unfortunate circumstances, the Telegraph asked nationwide to reimburse her. They refused, claiming the widow should have done more to prevent the fraud.

Read more: Crypto muggers target smartphones in London’s financial district

The newspaper then pitched the same case to the Financial Ombudsman Service, a UK regulator with the legal power to settle disputes. It ruled in the widow’s favor, forcing Nationwide to pay.

Nationwide said: “Based on our pre-­emptive actions we do not believe we should be held liable. However, the Financial Ombudsman has ruled in her favor and we accept this decision.”

Nationwide has been asked to pay her £53,500 with 8% interest. 

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