Skip to main content

Sudbury senior loses life savings after clicking on social media ad

Share

A 76-year-old widower who lost his life savings to an online cryptocurrency investment scam is warning others as the internet rallies around him to restore his faith in humanity.

Richard Knapp is a 76-year-old widower who lives in Sudbury, Ont.

Richard Knapp sits in a Edinburgh pub in 2018 with his son's dog Momo (Andrew Knapp)

Over the course of five months, he lost about $130,000 total after clicking on a social media ad that said a $250 investment could return thousands.

THE SCAM

"I only had to submit my name, phone number and email," Knapp told his son Andrew about the original Twitter post he found in May.

"I bit the bait."

Richard immediately received a phone call from someone rushing him into investing through Quantum AI trading and promising guaranteed returns.

After several months, he was sending the scammers $20,000 at a time, even cashing in a life insurance policy and taking out a loan.

"Because it was, 'If you send $20,000, your return is going to be $500,000. So, do you want to or not? You have to right now, the investment window is short and you know think of the car that you can buy, think of how much you can do for your kids and grandkids. And the pressure was there and he went for it, unfortunately," Andrew told CTVNewsNorthernOntario.ca in an online video interview.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre said it is seeing an increase in these types of scams.

"Fraudsters use fake online trading platforms and convince victims to transfer funds or cryptocurrency into their trading account," the agency said.

"Victims are instructed to purchase cryptocurrency from a legitimate exchange and transfer it to a crypto address controlled by the fraudster. Occasionally, the victim will be able to withdraw a small amount of their 'investment' in the hopes they'll be persuaded to invest even more of their money."

When Richard started to ask for some of his money back, the fake financial advisors advised against it.

Richard Knapp with Andrew Knapp's dog Momo. (Supplied)

IF IT LOOKS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS

Scams are getting more and more elaborate and sophisticated but ultimately play on people's trust.

Andrew said the first phone call his father received revealed two red flags: guaranteed returns and time pressure claiming a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"The woman preyed on his lack of tech-savviness, got to know him and emotionally manipulated him," the man's son said.

"She hastily learned that he wanted to help his kids and grandkids financially. Learned that he was saving up for a new car -- he drives a well-loved Hyundai that he’s always fixing. Learned that he’s widowed and that he's a trusting person. All of this info was weaponized and used to manipulate him, and it worked."

As the fraudster gained his trust, he was approached numerous times to "invest" more and more money promising huge returns.

Richard told his son the fraudsters he spoke to sounded like they had London accents.

"The address on their website was London, but we don't know they were indeed there," Andrew said.

"That makes it even harder for police, or RCMP, to track when it's out of country."

REPORTED TO POLICE

Sudbury police spokesperson Kaitlyn Dunn confirmed Greater Sudbury Police Service received a complaint July 19 about a potential fraud related to "stock trading" on a social media platform.

"The individual had transferred an estimated $70,000 in cryptocurrency to what they believed to be a financial advisor," Dunn said.

"The individual eventually lost all of their money through the 'investments.'"

She said the incident was reported to the financial crimes unit and an investigation is ongoing.

"The amount that was reported to police is $70,000, however, it may have increased since the time it was reported," Dunn said.

Because the case involves digital currency, it is very hard to trace.

"The communication with the scammers went all the way through to October and then at that point, the bank became well aware of what was happening," Andrew said.

"They had been trying to warn him, but their arguments didn't work as well as the … emotionally charged arguments of the professional scammers. And I guess at that point, if you're that far in, you really want to believe that you are going to get it back."

Andrew said his dad was told investigators probably wouldn't be able to start investigating the case until April because they are so overwhelmed and only have so many resources.

FAITH IN HUMANITY RESTORED

When Andrew learned the extent of his father's circumstances and saw his spirit was broken because of it, he wanted to do what he could to help.

With Richard's permission, Andrew shared his father's story on social media in an effort to prevent others from falling for the same thing.

"I am so proud of my dad for wanting to open up about it," he said.

"People carry so much shame with this stuff and most of the time don't talk about it."

At a friend's suggestion, Andrew started an online fundraiser for his dad Dec. 10.

After two days, the campaign had raised more than $16,000.

"You made me lightheaded here. That's phenomenal," Richard said about the news on a video call with his son.

"I got wet eyes right now. I've got to sit down. Gee whiz that's … I've got to send out thank yous to all those people. How do I send out thank yous?"

And now, after less than two weeks, the campaign has raised more than $77,000.

"I mean the full circle journey is a story of distrust and a story of trust," he said.

"It rebuilt his trust in people and humanity and that's such a powerful gift I think in the wake of something awful like that happening. It's a powerful gift to see a story of redemption like that."

Richard Knapp of Sudbury, Ont. (Andrew Knapp)

More than 2,600 people donated to the GoFundMe campaign, most of them strangers.

"It has only taken a few days for me to realize that there are many, many good, great, fantastic folks out there. My faith in people has been restored," Richard said in a message to the donors.

"Really, I am very overwhelmed and humbled by the tremendous generosity and by the many, many kind words. The words and the donations will take some time to absorb. The funds will be used to do what, until a few short days ago I thought I would not be able to do. That is, to help my children and grandchildren and maybe look for a used vehicle."

TALK TO YOUR LOVED ONES

"Please reach out to your loved ones. I wouldn't have thought my dad would fall victim to something like this, and yet here we are," Andrew said.

"Call your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, and tell them how good scams have gotten, let them know to call you if they feel unsure about something."

He said one person told him how they had set up their parent's phone so that only known numbers could reach them and everyone else would have to leave a message, which they'd be able to scan.

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Trudeau's speech to union delegates took aim at Conservatives

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to the United States targeted U.S. lawmakers, but also his political opponents in Canada, as his speech to one of the largest unions in North America attempted to make the case that his party cares more about workers’ rights than Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives.

Stay Connected