A cancer victim says he has been scammed out of his savings in an elaborate cryptocurrency scheme. Tom Roberts, 66, was gutted when he lost £10,000 of his retirement money and has now spoken out to warn others against investing in the “scam”.
He said: “It is embarrassing – you don’t want to tell anyone because they will think you are an idiot but this is all in hindsight. These people have to be stopped. I want to expose this company and make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Tom, from Kirkcaldy, is one in a group of about 30 people who claim to have been affected by the alleged scam run by Safe Holdings, a company registered in the Caribbean. It claims to use state-of-the-art trading software to analyse the cryptocurrency market and make profitable investments.
Former oil worker Tom claims to have lost his retirement savings after investing with the company and had to deal with the fallout while undergoing chemo for high-grade lymphoma.
He invested £16,000 over the course of four months in 2021 and 2022 after being referred by a pal who was seeing a profit of about £300 per week. He now claims to have lost £10,000.
Tom – and many others – have mainly dealt with a man named Chris O’Brien, who is understood to run the company and communicates with clients using the WhatsApp messaging service.
Tom told the Record: “I initially invested £1,000 but I was being asked to invest more and because it looked so good, I did. I invested a total of £16,000. In September, I asked for £10,000 and I have been asking for it since. It has been pending for eight months. I realised something was wrong when I couldn’t get the money out.
“I was diagnosed with cancer during all of this and I even told Chris I was dying but it didn’t make any difference. I was just ignored.
“It was really stressful going through cancer treatment and dealing with all this. It has been hard, it is all the money I had left and now it is gone. My wife has Huntington’s disease and we wanted to go on the holiday of a lifetime so that money would have done a great deal for us.”
Tom, who has a 16-month-old grandchild, managed to withdraw a total of £6000 from his account in between depositing the cash and asking for £10,000. His balance at the time said he had £99,000.
He now claims to have been fobbed off with excuses every time he asked for his money back and says he was simply ignored when he asked for updates.
Lorry driver Alan Gow, from Perth, was also convinced to join the scheme by a friend and he withdrew money from his pension to invest a total of £12,000 over six months in 2021 and 2022. The 57-year-old has managed to recoup £8500 after hounding Chris for monthly payments which he claims were always late and sometimes short.
He claims to have lost a total of £3500 despite his account saying he had a balance of £77,022. He told the Record: “No one is getting any money out of this guy (Chris). It is just numbers on a screen.
“The first £5,000 I invested was out of my pension after a work colleague showed me the profit he had been making and the money he had taken out. I realised something was wrong when I was met with constant excuses when I tried to withdraw £8,500.
“This went on for months with no solid excuse as to why I couldn’t withdraw my money. I spoke to Chris and said I wanted a monthly dividend payment if I couldn’t get the lump sum.
“It took about three weeks to get my first payment of £1,500 then every payment after was late. I managed to get £8,500 back and now I’m being ignored. I am absolutely fuming about it. I want to warn other people against investing as it is a scam. Everything they tell you is a lie.”
The scheme hinges on word of mouth, with investors who have received a profit referring friends and family to set up an account. Chris then gets in touch on WhatsApp to confirm an investment and asks users to set up an account with Starling Bank and transfer cash.
From there, the money is transferred into a cryptocurrency bank account, a authenticator app is downloaded and this allows Safe Holdings take the money out to “trade” with it. Users can watch the progress of their investment in an online account, with the numbers on the screen always showing a huge profit.
The Record spoke to other Scots who did not want to be named but all claimed to have been “scammed”. A social media group with about 30 investors has been set up, with all claiming to have trouble withdrawing cash.
One woman from Ayr said she lost £2,000 and told us she experienced the same issues as Alan and Tom when trying to withdraw money. Another man said he managed to make a £4,000 profit after referring six people to the scheme.
He referred friends and family as he was making a profit but when the referrals stopped coming, he started experiencing issues with withdrawals. He claims his account was suspended with £19,330 after submitting a bad review. His brother-in-law invested £10,000 and has had nothing back.
Safe Holdings is an Offshore Ltd company, likely based within the Virgin Isles, and registered at an address in the Grenadines – leaving Police Scotland with no relevant powers or authority to investigate the alleged fraud as it is out with their jurisdiction.
The same address has been linked to scam broker businesses in the past. The website used by the company was initially safe-holdings.com but on May 1, the website was closed.
It is alleged this was due to reports of fraud but O’Brien told investors the site being updated. The website has now been changed to safe-holdings.co.uk.
The business is not registered with the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. Any firm carrying out a regulated activity or cryptoasset services that come within the scope of laundering rules must be authorised by the FCA.
The company also operates in Canada, Australia and Germany. It does not appear to be regulated in any of these countries.
Trustpilot has been flooded with reviews from concerned investors all claiming to have been scammed. The Record attempted to contact Chris from Safe Holdings a number of times but did not receive any response.
A spokesman for Starling Bank said: “We consider crypto activity to be high risk and we constantly review our
position in relation to financial crime. In November, we made the decision to prevent all card and faster payments to crypto merchants, and implemented further restrictions on outgoing and incoming transfers.
“We can only restrict holding accounts used by crypto exchanges when we are made aware of them – there is no generic crypto exchange identifier.”
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