According to The Guardian, thousands of Australians have become victims of cryptocurrency schemes using images of celebrities. The organizers of such schemes may be located in Moscow and Ukraine.
Fake advertising using photos of celebrities began to appear on various sites since 2018, but during the pandemic, cryptocurrency scammers decided to use this method. They buy hundreds of thousands of ads on Google and on social media.
By clicking on an ad, the user gets to a website with a news item or article containing a link to a scheme for investing in cryptocurrencies. After the user enters their registration details, they get a phone call, urging them to invest about $250 in bitcoin. Often it comes to larger amounts.
David Lacey, managing director of IDCare, a charity set up to support victims of online fraud, said he receives numerous complaints about such cryptocurrency schemes every day. He said scammers had recently stepped up in Australia, spreading bitcoin investment schemes allegedly approved by local celebrities. Lacy added that by attracting people who are willing to invest in such cryptocurrency schemes, scammers also try to find out the contacts of their friends who are interested in investing in cryptocurrencies.
So, an Australian pensioner reported that after seeing an ad on a social network on behalf of a well-known entrepreneur Andrew Forrest, she invested about $5,000 in a cryptocurrency pyramid. Later, she transferred another $80,000 to fraudsters providing “intermediary services” to buy bitcoin, as a result of which she lost all her savings. Unfortunately, companies involved in advertising campaigns often can’t control which banners appear on their site. Even the media giants themselves have difficulty tracking and blocking malicious ads due to the huge scale of such fraudulent schemes.
Analysts of The Guardian managed to find five people in whose names hundreds of fake websites were registered. It turned out that these people live in Moscow. It is also assumed that the attackers may be connected to Ukraine, since fraudulent sites do not allow you to enter Ukrainian phone numbers when registering. In addition, during the previous investigation, a Kiev call center was discovered advertising similar cryptocurrency schemes using photos of celebrities.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said that law enforcement agencies can trace the sources of such ads. In most cases, they are located abroad. At the same time, it seems that the organizers of cryptocurrency schemes work from Australia, since they use local addresses and phone numbers on their sites.
Recall that in August, an Australian citizen was arrested on suspicion of fraud with bitcoins in the amount of $1.24 million. He acted under an assumed name and tricked the victim into transferring cryptocurrency to him. According to Scamwatch research, in 2019, the damage from cryptocurrency fraud in Australia amounted to $14.9 million.