Beloved grandfather falls victim to ‘devastating’ scam, losing over $1 million

Feb 15, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

In a cruel and tragic twist, Adrian Heartsch, a diligent 77-year-old grandfather, found himself ensnared by heartless scammers who, over time, managed to manipulate him into surrendering more than $1 million.

The scammers preyed on his vulnerability, promising him a bountiful return in gold, and their deceitful tactics eventually led to a devastating financial downfall.

Adrian, a dedicated truck driver who spent his life supporting his family and planning for a fulfilling retirement, had carefully managed his finances.

“Unless he knew exactly what he was paying for – he wouldn’t pay for it,” his son, Simon Heartsch told A Current Affair

It was this very discerning approach that made it all the more shocking when Adrian fell victim to the cunning schemes of heartless scammers.

“I said to him if somebody can scam you, they can scam anybody,” Simon said.

Loneliness became a catalyst when Adrian engaged in conversations with an online acquaintance named Vida.

Despite having been careful with his money, Adrian, in a vulnerable state, was gradually manipulated by Vida’s affectionate terms such as “handsome” and “my love”. As the months went on she convinced him to send substantial amounts in Apple gift cards, promising returns of over $20 million in gold bars or bullion.

“He wasn’t alone, but he was lonely. He had no company, he didn’t even have his dog anymore to talk to,” Simon said.

“So I guess he’s vulnerable in that way.”

Simon stumbled upon the evidence after his father became sick and was admitted to hospital.

“We brought up these emails that were just gobsmacking,” Simon said.

Confronting the reality, Simon took the matter to the police, unraveling a heartbreaking financial spiral that had grown from $300,000 to over a million dollars.

During the investigation, Adrian admitted that the scam had been ongoing for three years, leading to his financial ruin. His assets dwindled to the point that all he had left was his home as he suffered the devastating consequences of the deceit.

“He was sunk in his chair, embarrassed – mortified,” Simon recalled.

“He got me to go into his office and bring out some of the evidence which was only some of it, it was a Woolworths paper carry bag, chock to the brim of Apple cards.

“He told the police that he could shop all the shops locally here and get up to $10,000 a day.”

Adrian’s tragic passing occurred just a month after learning the extent of his losses.

“It was like all this was the nail in the coffin, it was devastating for him, his whole life savings he’s lost,” Simon said.

In the wake of this heart-wrenching incident, Simon emphasised the destructive impact of such scams on individuals’ lives.

“They’re [the scammers] ruining peoples’ lives. They’re speeding up peoples’ deaths. They’re preying on the vulnerable. They’re horrible people,” he said.

The National Anti-Scam Centre recently warned those looking for love online to beware of financial criminals luring them into investment scams.

The warning is of particular importance for Australians aged over 55 years old who suffered the highest individual losses to romance baiting scams in 2023.

The National Anti-Scam Centre suggests the following precautionary measures to avoid falling victim to such malicious activity.

STOP – Don’t give personal information or act on investment advice from someone you have only met online. Don’t feel pressured to invest. If you have any doubts, stop communicating with them.

THINK – Ask yourself if you really know who you are communicating with? Scammers can use different profile pictures and lie about who they really are, especially online. Do an internet search of the person’s name or photo to see if it’s a scam.

PROTECT – Act quickly if something feels wrong. Contact your bank immediately if you have invested money. Help others by reporting scams to Scamwatch.


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