Samena* is an Auckland mother-of-two, of Tongan descent. She works fulltime in the agricultural sector and her main investment is KiwiSaver.
She’s been saving for a house for years, so when in 2018 a co-worker told her she could make big money by investing in cryptocurrency she was open to the opportunity.
“She told me it was already making a difference to her life and people she knew: buying houses, cars, even quitting their jobs. She said it was guaranteed money, couldn’t go wrong,” says Samena.
The fact Samena had known her co-worker for 12 years meant she trusted what she was saying.
“She was like an older sister to me. She knew my kids, I knew her husband, we worked closely and I looked up to her. She’s smart too, so I thought she wouldn’t do anything too risky with her own money.”
The co-worker showed Samena her own account with the scheme, called OneLife, including how much she’d put into it herself. She said its cryptocurrency, OneCoin, would soon “take off”.Samena was keen, agreeing to buy an “educational package” that included tokens to buy OneCoin.
She paid $5300 into her co-worker’s personal bank account, part-paying with money she’d been saving for her sons, registering them as OneLife members too.
A week later she attended a OneLife seminar, but it was there she decided it wasn’t for her. She told her co-worker this and said she wanted her money back, but was told it was “too late”.Her co-worker said she’d already verbally agreed to OneLife’s terms and conditions, despite having never seen them.
Upon gaining access to her new online account, Samena was able to read the terms and conditions. Only then did she see her sons couldn’t join because they were both aged under 18.Still, her co-worker refused to pay anything back.
“By then she’d stopped communicating, didn’t return my texts and calls, and avoided me at work.”
It was only when their employer got involved that the co-worker agreed to refund the $3000 put in on behalf of Samena’s sons – but not the $2300 she’d put in herself.
“I still had to work with her which wasn’t very nice, and I still had an account but couldn’t change the password because I needed her permission and she wouldn’t reply to me.”
Samena then contacted the FMA to report her case.
She has never got her $2300 back. She accepts it’s gone but says at least she got her sons’ money back, which she puts down to being persistent, “not taking no for an answer”, and involving her employer.
She has this warning for anyone who encounters a similar situation in future.
“Scammers play on people’s dreams of financial freedom: houses, cars, etc. But if it sounds too good to be true – like being able to quit your job and retire early – it probably isn’t true."
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* Samena is not her real name and the image is of a model and for illustrative purposes only. She first contacted us in November 2018. Soon after we issued a warning about OneLife and OneCoin. OneLife is understood to be no longer operating in NZ, and is the subject of legal action by overseas authorities who allege it is a pyramid scheme.