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Crypto Criminals Part 1: A LinkedIn Connection Gone Wrong

An investor invests and gains, but loses much more

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Full Transcript


[00:00:01] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam.

[00:00:02] Mei Mei Soe: He starts like, you know, I should start a little bit side business, maybe make my life a little easier.

[00:00:09] Bob: Had you heard of cryptocurrency before that?  

[00:00:11] Mei Mei Soe: Before that I did not.

[00:00:13] Lee Reiners: Once that cryptocurrency is sent, you know, there's no way to get it back, it's just a perfect payment mechanism for, you know, people who want to do you know bad things. It's just very hard, I think, for a lot of consumers to kind of differentiate between legitimate cryptocurrency companies and exchanges and illegitimate ones. 


[00:00:35] Bob: Cryptocurrency scams are skyrocketing so fast that consumer reported losses in 2021 were 60 times what they were in 2018. Sixty times! The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that crypto is now tops among payment methods used by victims who report a scam, more than gift cards, cash, credit cards, or any other payment tool. And the FTC says social media and crypto are a combustible combination. So we're interrupting our normal set of episodes here at The Perfect Scam to bring you a special report on this very new, very 21st century crime. Most of you have probably never heard of bitcoin or other cryptocurrency just a couple of years ago. Now, crypto seems to be everywhere. You probably remember those Superbowl crypto ads.

[00:01:31] Ad: These mere mortals, just like you and me, as they peer over the edge, they calm their minds and steel their nerves with four simple words that have been whispered by the intrepid since the time of the Romans: Fortune Favors the Brave.

[00:01:53] Bob: Or you've seen a crypto ATM at a gas station or convenience store. We shouldn't be surprised that criminals have followed the digital money, but the ferocity of the scams and the speed at which they have whipped around the planet is deeply concerning. So today, you're going to meet a crypto scam victim whose story starts on social media. In this case, the criminal uses the professional networking site LinkedIn to ensnare the victim and that's another new trend we're seeing too, more scams that begin on LinkedIn. Then next week, we're going to do a bit more of a deep dive into what crypto really is, why criminals like it so much, what you can do to protect yourself, and what society needs to do about this burning 5-alarm fire.


[00:02:43] Mei Mei Soe: My name is Mei Mei Soe, and I live in Tampa, Florida. And thank you for having me today.

[00:02:51] Bob: Mei Mei Soe is a brave young woman. She's 42. She grew up in Burma and came to the US when she was 18 years old.

[00:03:00] Bob: How long have you lived in Tampa?

[00:03:02] Mei Mei Soe: I will say it's about 12 years.

[00:03:07] Bob: And, and did you, did you move to, from another part of Florida or how did you get to Tampa?

[00:03:11] Mei Mei Soe: I moved from New York.

[00:03:12] Bob: How old were you when you landed in New York?

[00:03:14] Mei Mei Soe: Actually, before New York, I used to live in California, and when I first get here, I would say I was about 18. Yeah.

[00:03:21] Bob: Wow. That's quite a journey.

[00:03:23] Mei Mei Soe: Quite a journey, yep, from the other side of the world.

[00:03:27] Bob: Yeah.

[00:03:28] Bob: Things haven't been easy for Mei Mei. She spent a lot of her young adult life looking for a job that would support her simple dreams. But a long term illness has left her with chronic nerve pain that flares up from time to time. Late last fall, she's enduring a particularly bad bout of pain, then one day while using LinkedIn to network and hunt for a better job, something special happens, and Mei Mei allows herself to think maybe her ship has finally come in.

[00:04:00] Bob: You were on LinkedIn, uh basically trying to use it for professional purposes, right?

[00:04:05] Mei Mei Soe: That is correct. I think like as a working professional, these days everyone just has LinkedIn. It just become like that's the way it is, so yep. Um-hm.

[00:04:13] Bob: Yeah, and you meet someone at a, at a business gathering or whatnot, that's how you connect. You connect on Linked In.

[00:04:18] Mei Mei Soe: That is correct. It's not a business gathering, because like sometime people will reach out to you on LinkedIn just to connect, you know, so it's just like to broaden your professional network kind of thing. So this one reach out to me as one of them, yeah.

[00:04:32] Bob: Mei Mei gets a connection invitation from someone she doesn't know.

[00:04:37] Mei Mei Soe: He's just saying that he just want to say hi, and you know, he started that way, and then he added me, he tried to connect with me. So like for LinkedIn, uh, usually for me it's just a professional networking site, so I don't put any personal information, so usually when I get a connect, and uh I take a look at it, and I just approve it to be as a connect. And then for him, the same thing. Yeah, I, I did that. I allow him to connect. Yep.

[00:05:04] Bob: Do you remember any, you know, first impressions you had? Is, was he good looking? Was he funny? Just any, you know, like a first feeling you had about him.

[00:05:12] Mei Mei Soe: He was like he, the picture was like dress up, very formal. It's like more in suit. Because I, you know, when we judge people, it's just saying, oh, he's a professional person. That's how, that's the impression that he give me.

[00:05:28] Bob: The man says he's an executive at a fitness company.

[00:05:31] Mei Mei Soe: Actually, his, the name that he give, his Chinese name is Y-a-n-j-u-n. Last name, L-i. He called, it is pronounced, Li Yanjun. Yeah, Yanjun Li, basically.

[00:05:46] Bob: There is a connection right away because Yanjun is able to talk to Mei Mei in her native language.

[00:05:53] Mei Mei Soe: He messaged me in English. Yes, and then only after I was would say the, the conversation go on a little bit, a few days later, then he said, oh, not a few days, I want to say a couple day, and then he said, "Oh, you speak Chinese as well?" And then that's how, yeah, I said, "Yes, I do." So that's how we started talking in Chinese.

[00:06:09] Bob: Oh.

[00:06:10] Mei Mei Soe: Yeah.

[00:06:11] Bob: Yeah. I know it's probably, that was probably nice right that you were able to talk to someone in Chinese.

[00:06:15] Mei Mei Soe: Oh, yes.

[00:06:16] Bob: At first the connection isn't really typical of LinkedIn.

[00:06:21] Mei Mei Soe: Actually that after we talk for a, a couple days, then he start a little bit, talk a little bit like kind of like in romance way. But I let him know that I am not interested. I told him that I am here on uh, LinkedIn as for professional networking. It's not for, I'm not interested in that. And that at that time I was in a committed relationship, so I let him know. And then he disappear for like a few days, maybe like a, a week or so, and then he come back, and then he just talked to me like just like, kind of like friends, you know, no more talk like that.

[00:06:58] Bob: After Mei Mei swats away the romantic advances, Yanjun says he wants a more friendly relationship and Mei Mei is okay with that. Right away, he seems very kind.

[00:07:10] Mei Mei Soe: So usually he, you know, in the morning he, he check, you know, how I'm doing and things like that, like the first thing of course he asked, "Do you have pain today?" You know, so you know, it's like when you're living in pain and somebody, you know, like a close friend think about it, and you feel different, you know. So one thing though, he always do is like in the morning if I'm um, you know, like, of course, like oh you make sure you eat breakfast kind of thing, you know, just like shows like someone who cares, you know, that kind of thing.

[00:07:38] Bob: Soon, Yanjun invites Mei Mei to take their friendly chat to a different tool.

[00:07:43] Mei Mei Soe: After we talked on LinkedIn for a little bit, and then he's saying, oh, he doesn't use LinkedIn that much, and then he said, "Oh, let's start talking in another like chat, chat app. So we started talking on Whatsapp.

[00:07:56] Bob: Hmm, okay.

[00:07:57] Mei Mei Soe: And then yes, and then after that, then he started staying that he started having some challenge and then like. Let's move to Line. L-i-n-e. That app, that chat app as well, so I was like, oh, okay, 'cause I use, I use that to connect with my friends oversea in Asia, so I said, "Okay, I have that as well." So that's how we talked.

[00:08:15] Bob: And not long after they start talking online as the holiday season is fast approaching, Yanjun has a friendly suggestion for Mei Mei.

[00:08:23] Mei Mei Soe: You know, I let him know I am a benefit manager and things like that, and then he say, so we start talking more like friends, and then he noticed that I also have, I mean I let him know that I have some, like physical challenge, because I, because of my previous injury I have nerve damage. So every day basically I am suffering from pain. The nerve pain. So he, he is aware of that, and then he starts like kind of saying like, you know, I should start a little bit side business, maybe make my life a little easier, so on the day I am in pain I don't need to go to work kind of thing.

[00:08:57] Bob: A little side business, well that would bring in some extra cash. And maybe someday mean she doesn't have to move around so much on painful days. Mei Mei's curious, but skeptical. And then Yangun suggests investing in crypto.

[00:09:13] Bob: Had you heard of cryptocurrency before that?

[00:09:16] Mei Mei Soe: Before that I did not. So that's why like he tried so hard to ask me to try to, he's saying that, "Oh, you can just start with, you know, a couple hundred," saying things like that. I would just say, "I don't, 'cause I usually don't trust anyone unless I see the result." So he was telling me that you can try to invest, buy the cryptocurrency through Which I did the research and I know that it is legit. So yeah, that's how he asked me to start.

[00:09:46] Bob: So and you started with how much money?

[00:09:48] Mei Mei Soe: It was about $400, I believe.

[00:09:51] Bob: Mei Mei doesn't know the first thing about buying crypto, let alone investing in it. But Yanjun promises to be her guide. So, Mei Mei takes the leap. Remember that ad where Matt Damon says, "Fortune Favors the Brave," and she deposits $400 into a new account. Now she holds cryptocurrency. But there's another step she must take to start making money, Yanjun says. She must move that digital money into another platform to invest it. Again, Mei Mei is skeptical, but she takes the only step she can think of to verify this second site is legit. She calls her cellphone company.

[00:10:39] Mei Mei Soe: What I did was before I even download that app from their website, iPhone support, support and make sure that the website is okay. And then, they would say that, oh, they told me that yes, it is okay.

[00:10:51] Bob: iPhone support confirms that this sight doesn't have harmful code, computer viruses on it. So with Yanjun virtually holding her hand, Mei Mei takes that leap too, and right away, bingo! Her little investment in digital currency seems to pay off big time.

[00:11:09] Mei Mei Soe: So like I remember right before Christmas that I see that I was making like my money over there is like, it's like double basically. So he asked me to withdraw that to, then to my bank. He said, just like his uh Christmas present to me. So yeah, I did that, and then I did get the money back in my bank account.

[00:11:30] Bob: And, and how much was that at that point?

[00:11:32] Mei Mei Soe: It was a thousand. It was a thousand, yep.

[00:11:35] Bob: So you moved from 400 to 1,000 dollars in a week or so.

[00:11:38] Mei Mei Soe: I would say like, yeah, two or three days, yep.

[00:11:43] Bob: Wow.

[00:11:45] Mei Mei Soe: So like, yeah, it, it's just like, I see the result. I see it that way, you know, at that time.

[00:11:50] Bob: And, and you actually had the thousand dollars in your own bank account.

[00:11:53] Mei Mei Soe: Yes, I get it back. Yep.

[00:11:55] Bob: She's seen her cash grow from $400 to a $1,000, and she has the money in her own account thanks to crypto. All those TV ads must be real.

[00:12:06] Mei Mei Soe: Yep, and because like for me it's like ... I hate to say that, but my life is pretty tough. I work hard, and it's just like, you know like when I am in pain, I stay and work hard, 'cause I am kind of workaholic, and then because of that, and I be--, I was like, oh, maybe finally God send someone my way to make life a little easier.

[00:12:33] Bob: So her skepticism overcome, Mei Mei jumps into crypto with both feet.

[00:12:39] Mei Mei Soe: I saw that the first time I did was on, actually it was December 18, was 400. And then December 25 was 3,000.

[00:12:53] Bob: Okay. Wow.

[00:12:55] Mei Mei Soe: Yeah.

[00:12:56] Bob: Um, and what happened to the $3,000? Did that grow quickly too?

[00:12:59] Mei Mei Soe: Yes, it grow quickly too.

[00:13:01] Bob: Wow, okay. So, so when was your next deposit?

[00:13:05] Mei Mei Soe: The next deposit was on December 27, was 10,000.

[00:13:09] Bob: Oh my gosh. So you went from 400 to 3,000 to 10,000.

[00:13:13] Mei Mei Soe: Yes. Because like he show me how this is what he see in the light, so you know...

[00:13:19] Bob: Yeah, sure.

[00:13:20] Mei Mei Soe: That's what I see, yep.

[00:13:21] Bob: So Mei Mei allows herself to dream a little bit more.

[00:13:25] Mei Mei Soe: My goal was to have like a small lifestyle cafe, you know, for myself, my small business so make my life a little easier, yep.

[00:13:34] Bob: How, how long have you been thinking about opening up a, a little cafe?

[00:13:38] Mei Mei Soe: Actually that I, I have that in my mind for quite some times, but I just, uh, I just never like think about it to make it into, you know, a real plan.

[00:13:47] Bob: But now she's starting to think about how much capital she'd need to open a place. And she ups the ante on her crypto investment.

[00:13:55] Mei Mei Soe: On, on January 3rd, is 35,000. And then January 11 was 45,000. Actually the biggest one was on January 20th. It was 70,000.

[00:14:13] Bob: I should explain, each time she puts money into and then moves it to that other site, which we're not mentioning, as Yanjun instructs her to do.

[00:14:22] Bob: And the, the money you were putting in, I'm just in my head now, you've already put in about $100,000. Um, where was that money coming from?

[00:14:30] Mei Mei Soe: Actually that I have my own money is uh, I would say about 110,000, yeah, that's my own savings.

[00:14:41] Bob: So, so it was in savings, and it was in savings not, not growing, right, it's just, no one's savings grows.

[00:14:46] Mei Mei Soe: Yes.

[00:14:47] Bob: Yeah, so you're trying to make it do something. Um, but, but uh at some point you started borrowing money from other people to, to invest, is that right?

[00:14:54] Mei Mei Soe: Actually, it's, at first, it's not from other people. It is from like loan, personal loan, because I, I, I used to have very good credit before that, it's my credit was more than 800, so I get those personal preapproved loan and things like that, so I get, yep, with his encouragement, and then he's saying that, oh, certain day it's going to have that, and then we can, you know, we can just do one or two shot and then you can get the money that you can do, you want to do business. So yep.

[00:15:23] Bob: So you started, how, how much did you borrow?

[00:15:26] Mei Mei Soe: I think the total is about 150,000.

[00:15:32] Bob: So there's 100,000 or so of your own savings, and then $150,000 in loans?

[00:15:36] Mei Mei Soe: Correct.

[00:15:38] Bob: As the calendar turns to February, Mei Mei has now put about a quarter of a million dollars into crypto, 150,000 of that from a personal loan. But that's okay because her crypto account shows she now has about $650,000 in it. Then one day, February 22nd, actually, Mei Mei decides it's time to move some of the money back into her personal account. And then things go south ... fast. First, she's told that there's a delay, and then she'll have to deposit more money in in order to get to the front of the line for people who want to make withdrawals. And then a couple of days later...

[00:16:23] Mei Mei Soe: When I go back to the website, and then I cannot log in. So I, I cannot contact their customer service, I cannot do anything, because I cannot log in, and the last time I seen my money, my cryptocurrency in there was about 650,000 something. I see it, I have the screenshot. And then I cannot log in, and then a, a few, a couple days later I go log in aga--, I go check again and it's saying that, oh, the website is temporarily out of service for maintenance or something like that.

[00:16:53] Bob: And then, just a few days later, the site is completely gone. She sends frantic emails to Yanjun, and well, he's gone too. Not too long after, an awful message appears on that crypto website.

[00:17:09] Mei Mei Soe: It just said, "This website may be impersonating you to steal your personal or financial information. You should close this page."

[00:17:18] Bob: Wow. The site is gone. Yanjun, whoever he or they is, seems to be gone too. And so is all of Mei Mei's money. All her life savings, and an even bigger bank loan. Also gone, her dream of opening a cafe, of finally making a life that's not quite so hard on her body.

[00:17:44] Mei Mei Soe: Yeah, I mean like, when I first found out, my world turned upside-down basically, yes. Because I, all my money is gone, completely my 110,000 is gone. Nothing I can do. But the loan that I get and, you know, no way there for me to pay back, and then the interest rate, you know ... so I have to file for bankruptcy.


[00:18:20] Bob: There’s a lot of pieces for Mei Mei to pick up, beginning with that bank loan. She has absolutely no way to pay it back. So she has to ruin her perfect credit rating and declare bankruptcy. Of course, it's much more than her credit that is ruined. Remember when all this started, she was looking for a new job.

[00:18:42] Mei Mei Soe: With the job offer that I, I was transparent, you know, when I get the job offer, I let the recruiter know right away that you'll receive bankruptcy record because of this, you know. 'Cause I have to tell, you know.

[00:18:56] Bob: That must have felt terrible.

[00:18:58] Mei Mei Soe: It is, because like, for me I'm always like, my credit is always like 800 something, and you know, I take pride of that, and I'm never late for any payment. But ... I think, yeah, this, this is the only way for me to start over.

[00:19:20] Bob: That's the only way Mei Mei can start over by declaring bankruptcy. So maybe fortune favors the brave isn't exactly the best advice when considering an investment. To get some better advice about what's going on with crypto, we enlisted the help of Lee Reiners, a professor of FinTech Law at Duke University Law School. Before that, Lee worked at the Federal Reserve in New York where he was among the first scholars to study cryptocurrency. I asked him about what happened to Mei Mei.

[00:19:56] Lee Reiners: Well it's, you know, it's heartbreaking when you see things like that, and unfortunately, they're happening quite, you know, frequently, you know in cryptocurrency. I remember in 2017, when bitcoin first started going up in value, you know quite rapidly you were seeing, you know these stories in, in the press about, you know, a college student, you know, drops out of college and travels the world on, you know, bitcoin profits or something like that, right. And of course that just draws more people uh, more people in.

[00:20:26] Bob: Cryptocurrency is tailormade for criminals, Lee said.

[00:20:30] Lee Reiners: And when it comes to actually using crypto, not just, you know, speculating or investing crypto, but using crypto, it's principally being used for illicit purposes, and it's not hard to understand why, because you know with cryptocurrency, large sums can be transferred instantaneously worldwide. It's just a lot easier to move $100 million in bitcoin than it is to move $100 million in, in cash, right, that's just a lot, you know, it's a lot of duffle bags if you're trying to move $100 million in, in cash.

[00:21:03] Bob: I asked him what, in particular, about crypto makes it a useful tool for criminals like those who stole from Mei Mei?

[00:21:11] Lee Reiners: One is that it's, you know, anonymous or, you know pseudo anonymous. So it's hard to, you know, identify who the scammer is, right, who the recipient of these bitcoin or cryptocurrency payments are. You know, furthermore, they're irreversible. You know, once that cryptocurrency is sent, you know, there's no way to get it back, you know, unless the, the scammer, you know, out of the goodness of their heart send it back, and obviously that's not going to happen. Of course, this is very different than um, you know if you use a, a credit card for instance, right. You can call, you know, your credit card issuer and, and complain and file a complaint and a lot of times get that transaction reversed. And because it's digital, you can, you know, you can send um, you know, very, you know, large amounts via um, cryptocurrency. So you know, those are, you know, all the reasons why it's just a perfect payment mechanism for, you know, people who want to do you know bad things.

[00:22:10] Bob: A perfect payment mechanism for people who want to do bad things? Wow. There are three kinds of crypto crime scams, Lee says.

[00:22:20] Lee Reiners: So when we looked at um, crypto's illicit use, there are really, you know, three categories, and you know what you and I are talking about, you know, falls under financial transactions associated with the commission of crimes. So you know, cryptocurrency just makes committing established crimes just a lot easier, and ransomware is like the perfect example. You know, ransomware predates cryptocurrency. But, you know, if we weren't reading about it on the front page of the New York Times, you know, pre-cryptocurrency, you know, there were no Colonial pipeline style hacked cryptocurrency. So your traditional, you know, romance scams, again, cryptocurrency makes doing that, that you know a lot easier and, and a lot easier to get away with. You know then another category is, you know, money laundering and the shielding of legitimate activity from tax reporting or other legal requirements. So, because cryptocurrency, you know has that element of um, pseudonymity, in some cases, you know, fully anonymous, um, you know, it's easy to hide wealth, um, you know there are concerns that, you know, Russian oligarchs for instances are stashing some of their, who are sanctioned, are stashing some of their wealth in, in cryptocurrency. You know there are stories about couples, you know, in divorce proceedings hiding um, assets from one another in cryptocurrency. And so there's that category, and then the final category are crimes um, such as theft that are directly implicating the cryptocurrency marketplace itself. So these are new types of crimes that only cryptocurrency facilitates. And here I'm talking about um, you know hacks at cryptocurrency exchanges. So, you know, North Korea has, you know, state sponsored, uh hacking group, known as the Lazarus group, and, you know, they notoriously have gone after cryptocurrency exchanges and other cryptocurrency companies um, who have, you know, flaws in the code, lax security protocols, um, and have stolen crypto directly from these entities. So again, you know, it's just a perfect storm when it comes to um, you know crypto and, and criminal activity.

[00:24:19] Bob: What happened to Mei Mei is the kind of crime that could never happen before crypto existed. The criminals persuaded her to buy crypto at a legitimate exchange, but then told her to transfer the digital money to a different crypto account that they controlled so they could make off with the cash. Meanwhile, they created a fake website which made it look like her crypto was growing. But to make this scam that much more persuasive, they initially gave her real money. Her $400 did actually become $1000 in a few days. That risky cash advance, if you will, was worth it to the criminals. Plus, criminal schemes involving fake crypto can be very, very sophisticated, Lee says.

[00:25:06] Lee Reiners: There's this type of scam in crypto called a rug pull, which is uh, occurs when a, you know a team of developers pumps their projects' cryptocurrency or token before disappearing with the funds, either by leaving their investors with the, a valueless uh asset. So I think this is really where regulation needs to come into play, you know, because there are, you know, legitimate cryptocurrency exchanges that, you know you can go to if you want to invest in cryptocurrency, um, that aren't scams, but there are then a lot of other, you know online operations that look legitimate but are designed from the get go to effectively take your money. And so it's just very hard, I think, for a lot of consumers to kind of differentiate between legitimate cryptocurrency companies and exchanges and illegitimate ones.

[00:25:58] Bob: Really, really hard. At some point darn near impossible. So for starters, Lee warns, consumers should be very, very, very suspicious of crypto transactions.

[00:26:12] Lee Reiners: There's really no way for, you know, consumers to, to differentiate without doing you know some significant legwork. So, you know, there are, you know resources, you know on the Securities & Exchange Commission's website, on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's, you know, website, but of course, most people aren't going to, to, to look at those. So when it comes to investing, you know, there's never any substitute for doing your own research. I don't care what the asset class is, right. This applies universally, not just to cryptocurrency, but it especially applies to cryptocurrency.

[00:26:46] Bob: But know that in the end, your own research might still not be enough.

[00:26:52] Lee Reiners: Well I would, you know, enter the name of that, that exchange, you know, into, into Google. Chances are that if it's a, if it's a scam, you're not going to be the first victim. And so there'll be other uh, other people that will have some horror stories to tell. You know, I think you can uh go to the Federal Trade Commission's website, you can go to the Securities & Exchange Commission's website, you know you can um, you know enter the name of, uh, of the exchange that you've been given there and see what, what comes up. But there's no sort of foolproof way, Bob, to determine whether or not, you know, this exchange is, is legitimate or not.

[00:27:30] Bob: And there's no foolproof way. That's really critical to remember as we continue with our discussion of cryptocurrency. We'll have much more advice about crypto and even do a little history lesson on crypto in the next episode. Since we have your attention now, here's three quick pieces of scam busting advice from the Federal Trade Commission. One, only scammers will demand payment in cryptocurrency. Two, only scammers will guarantee profits or big returns. And three, never mix online dating and investment advice. There's much more at the FTC's website on a page called, "What To Know About Cryptocurrencies and Scams," but for now, I'm happy to report that as Mei Mei was telling us her devastating story, she did have some good news to share. She just landed a new job.

[00:28:27] Mei Mei Soe: That is correct. I just uh, I just accept the job offer, yeah, from my dream company. I tried to get into the company for years, and then yep, so hopefully I see this like, I tell myself, this is a good start. I can start over again. Yes, I can.

[00:28:45] Bob: Mei Mei can start over again. Still, stolen from her was a lifetime of earnings and savings, and a lot more.

[00:28:55] Bob: So this is 20, 25 years of earnings and savings, right?

[00:29:00] Mei Mei Soe: Yes. And like all those years of hurting, save the money, you know. To be honest like I just, I just feel like I am a brok--, with a broken wing now. I don't, you know, I feel like that, but when I get that job offer at my dream company, then I said, I told myself, yes. I will fly again. I will fly higher this time.

[00:29:37] Bob: A bird with a broken wing who will fly higher this time. But the pain she has endured; emotional, financial, physical, well that's why she's speaking out now. She wants to help others avoid what happened to her. We should credit CNBC television for airing Mei Mei's story first.

[00:29:56] Mei Mei Soe: Yes, that's why things like, I just want, I just want to tell my story because like this is very well organized crime. You know, the way they talk at you is like they play psychology very well.

[00:30:08] Bob: Part of those psychological ploys is the toxic combination of social media and cryptocurrency that the FTC warns about. And recently, we should tell you the FBI has issued a specific warning about LinkedIn. That's the more professional of the social media sites, and many folks might think it's safe because it's mainly used for career networking. But FBI agent, Sean Reagan told CNBC that crypto investment fraud is a "significant threat to LinkedIn users." For its part, LinkedIn says it is hard at work trying to protect users. When we asked for comment, the firm pointed us to a recent blog post signed by Oscar Rodriguez, LinkedIn's Senior Director of Trust, Privacy, and Equity. "We've seen a rise in fraudulent activity happening across the internet, including here on LinkedIn," the post says. "Our teams use technology like artificial intelligence paired with teams of experts to stop the vast majority of content that violates policies before it ever goes live." Still those systems are hardly foolproof. Mei Mei would tell you that. There are a few other things Mei Mei wants you to know.

[00:31:21] Mei Mei Soe: The thing that I think this is very well organized crime, because like they talk to you and then they start, they try to see, because we as human being, we have weakness in, you know, in things, and they try to at which area they can poke and then they do that. Like they start to talk to you first and see if they can get you like on romance site. If they cannot, they will try to target like a good friend site, that, that's what they do.

[00:31:49] Bob: And what does Mei Mei most want you listeners to remember?

[00:31:52] Mei Mei Soe: I hate to say this, but just don't trust anybody. I mean like for me, including I, I trusted myself and I thought that I get the money, but I tested it, and that still happened. Yep, so I, I seriously don't know what, don't know what to, what advice to give, you know, but I just want everyone to be very careful. I just want to tell people like, never give up. Never give up. Life is hard. And then we just have to keep fighting. Because for me, I tell myself, I will get better. Back up again, I will fight until I cannot. So, you know, like for me like I am no, in life I am no longer like for me I cannot, I am no longer have the mentality. I told myself, I will show you how hard it is to knock me down. Yeah, this is my mentality for life.


[00:33:12] Bob: That's my wish for all of you, that you become harder to knock down. Next week we'll give you more tools and resources to help you be very, very careful when it comes to cryptocurrency.


[00:33:31] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Thank you to our team of scambusters; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; Researcher, Haley Nelson; Associate Producer, Annalea Embree; and of course, our Audio Engineer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.



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The first part of our special report delves into one cryptocurrency scam. Mei Mei, who is looking for her dream job, starts building her professional network on LinkedIn. When one of her connections invites her to invest in cryptocurrency, she is cautious, doing her research on the company and making only a small initial investment. When it pays off, her confidence grows and she decides to invest a significant amount of money, with devastating results.

The Perfect ScamSM is a project of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which equips consumers like you with the knowledge to give you power over scams.


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