Investors beware: Scammers exploit app

An Iola woman fell victim to an investment scam via WhatsApp. After an initial investment, her bank alerted her to suspicious activity and she realized she'd been scammed.



November 17, 2023 - 3:16 PM

“When I realized it, my brain said, ‘you knew it all along,’” Allen County resident Alzina Kress remorsefully explained. “I fell for it and didn’t even think about it.” 

Kress is a recent victim of an investment scam and wants to warn other community members to take heed of potential scams that may be circulating throughout the area. 

Kress fell prey to an investment scam via WhatsApp after she had been doing searches on the stock market, which led her to a supposed online trading broker website called GMI. She invested $10,000 on this website and then was immediately flooded with messages from WhatsApp, an end-to-end encrypted messaging service. The sender of the messages claimed to be a woman named Helen from San Francisco.

“Helen” came across as very nice and eventually became someone who Kress felt she could trust. “That was my first mistake,” stated Kress. After attempting to access the GMI website to see her account one day, panic began to set in. The website no longer existed. Helen reassured her that they had simply moved her money to another website — something called LPG Coin LTD. Kress viewed the new website and saw her money in the account, providing some momentary relief. 

The scammer continued to message Kress twice a day telling her that they would be putting the money in the stock market, but would have to wait until Helen’s analyst — whose identity was never revealed —told her to do it. After Helen told Kress that these services she provided weren’t free, she asked Kress to transfer her $10,000 as a fee. Thankfully, Kress’ bank wouldn’t let Kress withdraw any additional money because her account was under review for suspicious activity. Helen did not like this response, telling Kress that the bank could not keep her money from her and asking if they had released it yet. 

“The way she was becoming more aggressive about it… something was not right,” stated Kress. At this point, there was no possible way for Kress to access the $10,000 she had already deposited on the website. Cutting her losses and realizing she had been scammed, Kress changed her passwords and login information in the hopes that this would prevent any further theft. She hasn’t heard from Helen since.

KRESS’ STORY is one of approximately 2.2 million that happen yearly. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), of the $8.8 billion that consumers lost to fraud in 2022, more than $3.8 billion was reportedly due to investment scams. Roughly half the states have more than 1,000 fraud reports for every 100,000 residents. Kansas has the highest per capita figure with 2,212.

Situations like the one Kress experienced are becoming more common in today’s digital age. By knowing the following common signs of an investment scam, residents of Allen County can help better protect themselves from being scammed:


High pressure tactics

Scammers will use high pressure tactics to convince a victim that an opportunity will vanish if they don’t act immediately:

• Promises of high returns with little or no risk

• Unsolicited investment offers

• Guaranteed high investment returns

• Persistent messages or phone calls pressuring you to make a quick decision

• Using diversionary tactics to avoid your questions