Supercharged by Google and Facebook, a flood of fake news stories touting get-rich-quick schemes are funneling hopeful Bitcoin investors toward dubious brokers and organized criminals.
- Fake cryptocurrency trading software is being used to harvest the contact details of potential customers for unscrupulous investment brokers.
- A London-based company used fake celebrity endorsements from famous faces like singer Adele and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to direct investors to brokers, some of which are offshore and subject to official U.K. warnings.
- Ads Inc, a San Diego-based tech firm that urged its staff to “do good things,” made huge profits pushing thousands of ads promoting fake cryptocurrency investment platforms.
- While Facebook says it is cracking down on these ads, reporters have discovered that the social media giant remains awash with them.
- Google, which has so far endured less criticism than Facebook for its role in pushing these ads, has taken tens of millions of dollars this year from questionable brokers and investment review websites.
Ingrid Hernvall was scrolling through Facebook when she saw exciting news.
It was a story — laid out just like an article in a proper newspaper — featuring two of Sweden’s biggest television personalities. The two men spoke of a fantastic new Bitcoin investment opportunity that was almost certain to make you rich.
Her daughter had seen the same “article.” Both women trusted the TV stars, Fredrik Skavlan and Filip Hammar, and were intrigued by the prospect of making so much money. Hernvall, 57, is a ceramic artist in Stockholm, while her daughter had spent long stretches out of work due to illness.
When her daughter clicked through and quickly started to make money — at least virtually — Hernvall was convinced. She took the plunge and invested the proceeds of the sale of her house, which represented her life’s savings.
It took her four months to realize she’d been duped. By then, she had lost over US$300,000.
The “news story” she’d seen was one among hundreds of thousands of fabricated advertorials claiming celebrity endorsements of get-rich-quick schemes that do not exist.
Those drawn in by the familiar faces and promises of wealth are redirected to brokers. Some of these are licensed, but many are questionable, and in some cases they are downright criminal, harassing their victims until they agree to pay up.
This is what happened to Hernvall. Entering her contact information on a website earned her a call from a smooth-talking salesman, who kept insisting the story about Bitcoin was true and she’d…