According to an investigation report by The Guardian, scam Bitcoin ads featuring unauthorized pictures of personalities like Dick Smith, Andrew Forrest, Chris Hemsworth and Waleed Aly to deceive crypto investors are part of a large organized scam that is allegedly being handled from Moscow.
The report states that the coronavirus pandemic escalated the scam activities across the world as people were more exposed to fake ads. Due to the massive scale of the fraud, Google failed to block ads.
The scammers targeted Australian citizens by running ads using pictures of famous celebrities on fake news websites and then offering cryptocurrency investments with as little as $250. The fraudsters bought millions of ads using unauthorized pictures without the knowledge of the mentioned personalities.
According to The Guardian Australia, the investigation team discovered five names of people handling hundreds of websites with addresses in the centre of Moscow. Two out of five of the email addresses found by the investigation team were Gmail accounts.
Russia is not the only country to have links with the mentioned fraud, the report shows that a call center from Ukraine is handling some of the operations.
Kyiv Bitcoin Scam
A similar fraud was reported by the Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter earlier this year when a whistleblower revealed the existence of a $70 million Bitcoin trading scam targeting investors from Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in a similar manner using ads on fake news websites. The scam existed in Kyiv with approximately 200 employees.
The recent boom in crypto prices caused an increase in fraudulent activities related to digital assets. Finance Magnates earlier reported a significant rise in the use of privacy wallets by crypto scammers to hide stolen Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency criminals laundered hundreds of millions of dollars this year through privacy wallets like Wasabi Wallet. Approximately 13% of overall criminal proceeds in Bitcoin were sent to privacy wallets this year.