MARSHALL COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Tennessee woman and her father are out nearly $400,000 after a cryptocurrency scam that started on an encounter with a popular dating app.
After 24-year-old Niki Hutchinson's mom died in 2020, she inherited her mom's house, which she sold, splitting the money with her father, Melvin.
Then, Hutchinson says, she joined the dating app Hinge, where she met someone calling themselves "Hao."
During their conversations, Hutchinson asked about Hao's hobbies. He rattled off a long list, before ending with "Cryptocurrency."
"He was very casual about it too," Hutchinson said.
After more conversation, Hao told Hutchinson, "if you want to invest in cryptocurrency, I can teach you. This is my field. I can be your teacher."
Hutchinson then set up an account on a legitimate cryptocurrency site, but then Hao told her to transfer her money to what she was told was a "cryptocurrency exchange platform." Over time, Hutchinson invested her money from the sale of the house, eventually encouraging her dad to invest too, after the account started showing what Hutchinson thought were big profits.
"It actually got over a million dollars, and it was $1.2 million when we said its time to cash out," said Hutchinson's dad, Melvin.
But the two had actually been putting money in a digital wallet, controlled by the scammers.
They told Hutchinson they'd need to pay a nearly $400,000 "tax bill" to get their money out. They didn't pay it, but in the end, Hutchinson and her dad had paid the scammers nearly $400,000 already.
But instead of reacting in anger, Hutchinson's dad turned to love.
"She was just crying, 'Dad, I'm so sorry, this is a scam.' All I could do is hug her and tell her I love her and say it's going to be ok," Melvin said.
Now the family wants to warn others of this quickly growing cryptocurrency scam, while getting back on their own feet.
Hutchinson says part of the money from the sale of her mom's house was meant to go toward her grandmother's care at a Cool Springs assisted living center. Hutchinson has started a GoFundMe fundraiser for support.