A fashion executive in Hong Kong was duped out of $764,000 in a kitten sale scam, authorities said.
The 58-year-old was told to transfer bitcoin for delivery and insurance fees, SCMP reported.
She sent the scammer money via 40 cryptocurrency transactions over five months, the outlet wrote.
A fashion executive in Hong Kong who thought she was adopting a kitten from Thailand was tricked into giving scammers more than $764,000 in Bitcoin, local authorities said on Wednesday.
The would-be cat adopter, a 58-year-old vice-president of a fashion company, believed she had contacted someone looking to give away a three-month-old kitten, The South China Morning Post reported.
She got in touch online with the unnamed person in April and continued communicating with them over WhatsApp, per the outlet.
The executive was told she could receive the kitten for free, but that she would have to pay transport and insurance fees via cryptocurrency, per a case briefing the Hong Kong Police Force sent to Insider.
She complied, opening a cryptocurrency account and sending the funds to the accused scammer's e-wallet, the authorities said.
Then, the woman was fed a tall tale that the cat had died during the shipping process. At the same time, another unnamed individual posing as a foreign bank employee contacted her, saying she would be compensated for the cat's death with an insurance payout of around $150,000, police said, per the briefing.
There was just one catch: The executive would have to make another payment, this time as a guarantee or administration fee, according to police.
She followed the instructions, and by the time she realized the entire interaction was a scam, she'd bought $764,574 worth of cryptocurrency and sent it all to the fraudster, the authorities said.
The total sum was transferred over 40 Bitcoin transactions between July and November. It was only in January that the executive thought something was amiss and reported her case to the police, the SCMP reported, citing an anonymous source familiar with the matter.
No one has been arrested in connection to the case yet, police said.
Crypto scams have surged worldwide in the last few years, with losses in 2021 totaling almost 60 times that of losses recorded in 2018, the Federal Trade Commission reported in June. Scammers made off with around $1 billion in crypto in 2021 alone, per the FTC.
Blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis reported a higher estimate for that year, saying $14 billion was taken by crypto scammers in 2021.
Pets are often in the mix, too. In April, New Zealand authorities warned of scammers selling puppies using photos they found online, asking potential buyers to transfer more than $1,200 in crypto for purchasing, transport, vaccination, or insurance fees.
In 2018, Bitcoin scammers targeted owners of lost dogs in North Carolina, demanding ransoms for the animals when they didn't have the pets in their possession.
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