I am trying to work out how this attempted scam on me could possibly work financially for the scammers as it just seems like the time and effort involved as well as the low potential for payoff isn't there. The best way I have to describe the actual scam is by outlining the sequence of events:
- A few days ago, I was contacted by a random female named "Lina" (no surname) on WhatsApp asking "Are you my former colleague Jerry?"
- She had a number from the Netherlands, a WhatsApp business account, and a profile picture (quite pretty).
- I was going to block her as I would any random stranger sending me a message, but I was curious and I am a single man, so I added her but replied "I'm not Jerry".
- A great conversation ensued over the next few days. She was very nice and friendly with good English and a nice attitude - she was actually a pleasure to converse with and I honestly felt the conversation was truly two-way. To the point where I was initially going to post the question here "Is this a scam?", but then decided it wasn't a scam since she was so nice and wasn't asking me for anything.
- She asked me for a selfie and I supplied it - she reciprocated. Her photo matched her profile pic, and so did mine. She said she was 30 years old and her profile pic looked like she was European and that age, in case it matters.
- I performed a reverse image search on her photos using yandex, google and tineye but nothing even remotely close came up, so I assumed that the photos of "Lina" are real.
- She never once asked me for money, sent me to any URLs or anything like that. We had very deep and honest, civil, interesting and personal conversations.
- The only thing that seemed slightly "off" was that she kept insinuating how well-off she was, with a house in Hong Kong (where she was currently living), a Porshce 911 and Audi R8 etc. She (occasionally) mentioned casually that she didn't "work" much and was making money from "financial products" like her "coinbase wallet". I honestly didn't know or care what that was - I have zero interest in the crypto fad.
- Last night, she asked me if we could use her Kong Kong number to continue chatting as the Dutch number was her "work" phone and she wanted to keep chatting to me on her "personal" phone. I said sure, why not and added her HK number.
- The conversation immediately changed - the person on the other end was rude and pushy, with poor English, incomplete sentences, and basically using every (bad) sales trick in the book to try to "help" me to set up a coinbase wallet.
- I kept going with the conversation knowing it was some form of bait and switch, but I was really curious to try to figure out how it works.
- The last message I sent last night was basically: "It's late here and I need to go to bed, but send me another pic while I sleep so I can check it out in the morning!". As expected, I've received no messages since then.
I cannot for the life of me work out how this scam is supposed to work, nor what I should do next!
Here are my questions:
- How did "Lina" find me? Was it simply a case of randomly sending messages to phone numbers until someone answers? How is it worth anyone's time to do that?
- Why spend so much time on me? Why not flick me to the HK grunts much sooner? Is it a case of building up "trust" or a relationship over time, until the mark is "ready" to be converted? I don't feel like I ever said anything that indicated I'd be stupid enough to fall for a scam...
- How many guys could she possibly be stringing along at the same time? I'd say that she spent many hours of every day chatting to me, and her WhatsApp status was almost always "online", so I never got the impression that she was switching between talking to me and many other people at the same time.
- Coinbase looks like a legitimate business from what i can see - how can she and her cronies be making money from getting people to set up a coinbase wallet?
- Can the scammers make any use of my "personal" information? She didn't actually ask for any (so I doubt it's an identity theft type of scam), but over the course of our conversation I did send her a couple of face selfies, my first name (not surname), the city where I live, and she obviously has my mobile phone number. There were other random details like the fact I have a sister and stuff like that, but nothing useable that I can tell...
- What kind of payoff could be possible to make all this time investment worth it, especially for "Lina"? I mean, I could see that if she's farming out suckers to grunts in HK then it's a cheap operating cost, but surely her time as an intelligent, well-spoken, good-looking young female (assuming the pics are real) is worth more than this?
- What should I do next? Should I simply block/report both numbers, or are there any other steps to take in a situation like this?