- A long-running cryptocurrency investment scam utilizing celebrities has been linked to Russia
- A Guardian Australia investigation found five addresses in Moscow linked to hundreds of websites used to host fake adverts
- The cryptocurrency investment scam has focused heavily on the UK and Australia since 2018
A long-running worldwide cryptocurrency investment scam that uses fake news stories involving celebrities has been traced to Moscow. The scam, which has heavily targeted the UK and Australia, uses wealthy or famous individuals to market a non-existent cryptocurrency trading scheme. A report in The Guardian this week revealed that the Bitcoin scam has been traced back to five addresses in Moscow, but it’s magnitude and level of organisation is making it hard to stop.
Cryptocurrency Investment Scam Takes Root in Facebook
The scam ads have been doing the round since 2018, taking root primarily in Facebook. The ads are targeted at particular countries, with celebrities chosen for their appeal in that country. For example, the UK has seen millionaire entrepreneurs like Alan Sugar and Michael O’Leary, consumer financial expert Martin Lewis, and actress Kate Winslet used to try and lure in victims, while in the Netherlands the scammers have used people like Endemol co-founder John de Mol.
The Guardian reports that the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the situation, with more people than ever talked into handing over their money through phone calls following a registration through a link in a fake news story. The investigation, which focused on the Australian wing of the scam, revealed that some have been talked into handing over their life savings.
“Hundreds of Websites” Registered to Five Moscow Addresses
The websites hosting the adverts are, unsurprisingly, constantly changing, although Guardian Australia “found five names of people who had registered hundreds of the sites, all with addresses in the centre of Moscow.” There could also be a link to Ukraine, which was revealed in March to be hosting a call centre running similar celebrity-based investment scams.
The report also reveals just how hard it is to stop the cryptocurrency investment scam as “when one [website] gets blocked, many more are waiting to be used”, making it “difficult for Google to block them” and equally hard for regulators to take any action.