New Report Traces Origin of Extensive Celebrity Bitcoin Scams to Eastern Europe

Bitcoin scam ads appear to be growing as hackers are looking to capitalize on the asset’s rally.

In a recent investigation, authorities appear to have traced a Bitcoin ad-based scam operation to addresses in Russia.

Russia or Ukraine

Last weekend, The Guardian Australia reported on a significant Bitcoin ad scheme operating for about two years. The scammers use images of several famous people without their consent in articles promoting fraudulent crypto investment schemes. Many of these schemes promise vast returns on activities ranging from crypto investment to mining, hoping to catch unsuspecting victims.

The Guardian had traced five people who reportedly registered hundreds of fake websites related to the scam. All five have addresses in central Moscow, and the news source added that it had submitted the Email addresses for two of the suspects to Google.

The Guardian also reported that the scam could have also originated from Ukraine. It referenced a March 2020 report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which discovered a call center in Kyiv that ran ads for similar Bitcoins scams.

Keeping the Lawyers Happy

The investigation into the case appears to have been self-preservatory. The company fell into troubled waters with Australian millionaire Dick Smith after his identity was used in an ad campaign to promote fraudulent crypto schemes on The Guardian.

As The Australian reported in October, Smith, who runs an electronics retail store named after himself, threatened to sue The Guardian Australia for defamation. While the ads themselves didn’t feature cryptocurrencies, they linked to fake interviews featuring successful individuals like Smith.

In these interviews, Smith reportedly boasts about making significant gains in his crypto investments. Many of the interviews also reportedly featured attractive headlines like “Get rich in a few days” and “How to make money easy.”

Smith’s lawyer, Mark O’Brien, said at the time that the business mogul was focused on ensuring that the scams come to a permanent end.

“While we acknowledge that The Guardian Australia does take the fraudulent advertisements down once notified, that does not prevent [its] Australian readers from falling victim to this prolific cryptocurrency scam.”

Hoping to avoid any legal case, the news medium appeared to have gone on an investigation spree of its own. Investigations from Google should help bring more clarity to the issue, and the news source will hope to bring the scammers to justice sooner rather than later.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Bitcoin Era Scam: Colombian Police Issue Warning After President Appears to Endorse Bitcoin

Police in Colombia has issued a warning about a fraudulent bitcoin investment opportunity. The scam targets social media users, convincing them that Colombian President Ivan Duque endorsed a bitcoin-related money making system.

The Spanish-language scam website “announces” the news, claiming that Duque approves the investment system and officially endorses bitcoin. It’s designed to look like a genuine news announcement.

According to the page, Duque not only endorses the scam: he claims the investment deal will relieve the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a photo at the top of the scam page, Duque is handing a package to a guard. The image seems to suggest Duque is handing a package of coronavirus relief money to the guard.

The sales page adds that the investment opportunity signed by Duque is “the largest deal of the century for Colombia”:

“Colombian business magnate, philanthropist, investor, and president of Colombia, has signed the largest deal of the century for Colombia. Taking a big step towards technology, the government of Colombia approved this agreement, and that is what it has been working to change the economy and the monetary system of Colombia while the alert state for the virus lasts.”

The Bitcoin Era platform purportedly allows citizens of Colombia to start generating income via cryptocurrency. Using an “algorithm,” the website will “take money” from the world’s billionaires and distribute it among the rest:

“Based on these trade exchanges, the system operates automatically on its own to produce an 80% profit rate…Bitcoin Era is an algorithm designed to take money from the richest people in the world and redistribute it among the common people of Colombia. This algorithm literally outperforms the stock market with an accuracy of 80%, which means that you will win 8 out of 10 transactions.”

Because the scam has spread across Colombian social media, police were forced to issue a warning on September 2.

The Bitcoin Era Scam Investment Opportunity

Colombia Check quotes a statement from the Cybernetic Police Center describing how the scam works. The post explains a bitcoin investment opportunity related to a platform called Bitcoin Era. The company is preparing to launch the platform, and investors who send money to the company today can “generate incomes via cryptocurrencies” as the platform launches.

The Bitcoin Era sales page contains other apparent signs of a scam, including an interview with Bitcoin Era’s CEO “Diego Garcia,” who explains how the bitcoin investment system works. The interview was copied and pasted from a similar scam from 2019 called Crypto Genius.

Others have noticed that another photo on the page is a shot of YouTuber and voice actor Pete Acceturo. Another image labeled as “Jose Ruiz,” who is a Mexican student named Adan Cortes, who rose to fame after breaking into Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

To be clear, the president of Colombia has not endorsed Bitcoin Era or any other bitcoin investment opportunity.

We’ve seen scams like this across the crypto space. Scams take a famous person, claim that person has endorsed the scam, and promote the page across social media. We saw it earlier this year with British TV presenter and former X-Factor star Rylan Clark-Neal. They appeared to claim he made “millions from bitcoin” with a unique investment opportunity. The star was later forced to tweet a warning about the scam.

Other notable names used in bitcoin scams include Hugh Jackman, Gordon Ramsay, and Martin Lewis, all of which sued Facebook after scammers used their likenesses in a bitcoin hoax and spread the campaign across Facebook.

Bitcoin has become increasingly popular in Colombia over the past few years. Although it’s not as popular as in neighboring Venezuela, Colombia has dozens of crypto ATMs and several popular online crypto exchanges. Colombia has also built a legal framework for crypto businesses, including crypto exchanges seeking to operate legally in the country.

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Author: Andrew Tuts

Government Agencies Are Now on the Bitcoin Trail to Identify Twitter Hackers

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is now leading a federal inquiry into the Twitter scam after hackers seized control of “approximately 130 accounts” including those belonging to Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Warren Buffett, Joe Biden, Kim Kardashian, and others in a bitcoin-related scam, reported Reuters citing unnamed two sources familiar with the matter.

“We are aware of today’s security incident involving several Twitter accounts belonging to high profile individuals. The accounts appear to have been compromised in order to perpetuate cryptocurrency fraud,” said the FBI.

Before some of the most high-profile users were compromised, the emails linked to Twitter accounts went for sale on gray market sites. While an email was up for $250 in digital currency, for $2,500, the buyer would get the account itself.

In theory, social media companies ban the sale of accounts, but an administrator at OGUsers, the account trading forum, told Reuters that the internet firms “pick and choose when to enforce that rule.”

Political Effect

Amidst this, Twitter has also stepped up the search for a chief information security officer.

The company meanwhile continues to lock accounts that had changed passwords in the past month but believes “only a small subset of these locked accounts were compromised.”

In a rare bipartisan agreement, both Democrats and Republicans say Twitter must explain how the security breach happened and what it is going to do to prevent future attacks.

“This hack bodes ill for November balloting,” U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said in a statement while scolding Twitter for “its repeated security lapses and failure to safeguard accounts.”  Senate Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker requested more information on the hack.

Joe Biden Bitcoin
Source: @JoeBiden Twitter

President Donald Trump’s account was not jeopardized during the attack, said spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany. The White House has been in “constant contact with Twitter over the last 18 hours” to keep Trump’s Twitter feed secure,” she said.

Tracking the Money

Meanwhile, investigators are scouring for clues with those behind the security incident that scammed $120,000 worth of BTC out of people, shifting the funds around online accounts creating a digital paper trail.

The attackers received a total of $121,000 from over 400 payments, the largest one of $42,000 came from a Japan-based exchange, according to Elliptic which helps law-enforcement agencies track crypto-related crime.

About $65,000 were quickly moved to other bitcoin addresses, $60,000 of this were directed to an address that has been active since May and interacted with Coinbase and payment processors Bitpay and CoinPayments, said Whitestream, a blockchain intelligence company.

BitPay confirmed this, and a spokesperson said, “Available details are being shared with appropriate parties including law enforcement.”

The funds initially collected in three bitcoin addresses have been moved to 12 new addresses, as per Elliptic.

The US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has asked crypto exchanges and other financial institutions to report any suspicious activities related to the hack, in an advisory issued on Thursday. The New York Department of Financial Services will also investigate the incident, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

According to cyber researchers investigating the issue, the motive behind the attack was bragging rights more than financial gains.

“This doesn’t look like a particularly sophisticated hacking group,” said Roi Carthy, the chief executive of Hudson Rock.

“Why go through all of the effort of stealing these credentials, just to make a few bucks.”

The Twitter accounts of crypto exchanges could have been used to torpedo the price of bitcoin or make millions of dollars by shorting Tesla and sinking its price by using Musk’s account. Carthy said,

“There are so many better ways to scam crypto than what they did.”

However, it also makes sense they went with bitcoin because the digital asset was the best performing asset of the last decade and has been up over 135% since the March crash. It can also be used worldwide.

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Author: AnTy

Over $67 Million EOS Tokens Transferred From The PlusToken Scam Wallet; Dump Incoming?

  • A new anonymous wallet receives $67 million in EOS tokens from the widely-known PlusToken scam wallet.
  • Could this cause a flip in the bullish markets across the crypto field, especially EOS, in the near term?

In the latter months of 2019, one of the biggest cryptocurrency heists/scams was revealed, whereby approximately $3 billion in investors’ Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and EOS (EOS) was lost in a Ponzi-like scheme.

Over the past eight months or so, movement of the tokens stolen is on Whale Alert’s radar – an application that tracks significant transactions and scam wallets.

According to a tweet on Whale Alert’s page, a transaction recorded on Tuesday saw over $67 million in EOS tokens (26,316,339 EOS) transferred to an unknown wallet. This leaves the market in limbo over the next few days as a selloff may ensue as the scammers try to sell off these tokens.

The PlusToken Ponzi Ring

PlusToken was founded back in mid-2018 and registered in South Korea as a blockchain firm. Within a year, the firm collected a reported $2.9 billion in BTC, ETH, and EOS tokens from over 3 million customers across the globe.

The deal was to stake your coins in the crypto wallet with a promise to double up your investments in 8 months.

However, on June 27, 2019, users complained about the difficulty of withdrawing their funds, starting the long trace of nearly $3 billion in lost users’ funds.

In July, the government of Pacific island of Vanuatu deported 6 Chinese nationals alleged to be the co-founders of the PlusToken back to China mainland after a tipoff from investigators based in Yangcheng.

At the Expense of Whom?

Since the PlusToken scammers are regularly emptying their wallets and selling off the coins at the expense of the market. In August, BTC dropped from highs of $10,500 back to $9,500 as PlusToken set 5,575 BTC on the move as analysts and tracking organizations such as Chainalysis warned of a more substantial selloff in the coming months.

In December, $105 million worth of Ethereum was moved to an unknown wallet raising questions of a potential selloff. While ETH price only slightly faltered, it cannot be attributed wholly to PlusToken’s wallet movements.

Currently, EOS and the crypto markets remain in the green, with the token trading at $2.56, representing a slight 1.26% growth over the past 24 hours.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Websites Running Google Adsense Are Targeted In Email Extortion, Demanding Bitcoin

There’s a new extortion scam that targets Google AdSense serving websites and demands Bitcoin (BTC) in exchange for the prevention of an attack. This attack, according to the extortionist, would lead to the AdSense account of targeted users to be suspended or banned.

The security investigation and news blog KrebsOnSecurity has firstly reported the email-based malicious scheme on February 17, after a few website owners have received this message:

“Very soon the warning notice from above will appear at the dashboard of your AdSense account undoubtedly! This will happen due to the fact that we’re about to flood your site with huge amount of direct bot generated web traffic with 100% bounce ratio and thousands of IP’s in rotation — a nightmare for every AdSense publisher.

More also we’ll adjust our sophisticated bots to open, in endless cycle with different time duration, every AdSense banner which runs on your site.”

$5,000 in BTC for the Attack to Be Deterred

The cyber attackers are asking for $5,000 in BTC for their attack to be halted. The website owner who shared with KrebsOnSecurity the message said the invalid traffic in their AdSense statistics has considerably increased. Google referred to the scam as a classic threat of sabotage in which fraudsters are trying to trigger enforcement actions against publishers by sending invalid traffic to their ads.

Google Has a Very Strict Policy Regarding Its Ads…

The news about the malicious attack comes soon after Google has made its policy towards ads stricter. The AdSense team said ads will no longer be shown before invalid clicks get to happen. Here’s exactly how Google explained this:

“This year, we’re enhancing our defenses even more by improving the systems that identify potentially invalid traffic or high risk activities before ads are served. These defenses allow us to limit ad serving as needed to further protect our advertisers and users.”

… and Has a Hard Stance on Cryptocurrency

Not too long ago, Google has expressed its hostility when it comes to cryptocurrency and decentralization. In June 2018, it announced that it’s going to ban ads related to crypto and that it has made an update to its Financial Services policy. Recently, it has put keywords containing Ethereum (ETH) on a blacklist for its advertising platform.

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Author: Oana Ularu

Top Onecoin Ponzi Scheme Recruiters Launch A Clone Called Circle Of Finance (Invicta)

  • OneCoin token Ponzi scam affiliates are in the pipeline to form a new tokenized project, Circle of Finance (Invicta).
  • Two of the top ranking officials in the Onecoin scam, Veselina Valkova and Habib Zahid, are associated with the scam.

In late November, details emerged of the OneCoin Ponzi scheme spinoff, Circle of Finance (Invicta) which sounded a whole lot more like the its predecessor. According to BehindMLM, the company is incorporated under the name TradeInvicta, an Estonian based shell company set up by Heaven Invest and exists in name only, no transactions made through it.

According to general company information from the Estonian authorities, TradeInvicta is registered under Veselina Valkova and Habib Zahid, two of the many Onecoin scammers, who ran away with over $1 billion USD in users funds. Habib is believed to have been a top recruiter in Onecoin scam with Veselina playing a more key role as one of the inner circle members of the founder of Onecoin, Dr. Ruja Ignatova, who has since vanished.

At the launch of the Circle of Finance (Invicta), many of those who followed were convinced the project was a resurrection of the Onecoin scam. However, through their marketing and advertisements, the new entity is branding itself as a completely different platform despite offering the same corny promises Onecoin offered investors.

The new platform promises to offer users a network including forex, network marketing, e-commerce, payment processing and exchange & remittances. Only exchanges were missing from Onecoin’s initial plan.

This is a pretty basic MLM scam that is mainly targeting the Onecoin customers who were scammed earlier and the newbies in the field with an option to cash out on an exchange sound interesting. While the site is yet to be up and running, it is important for cryptocurrency investors to be on the lookout. We will follow up any details arising from the Ponzi as it arises.

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Author: Lujan Odera

OneCoin Head Paid Son of Former President George Bush $300,000 for Attending Crypto Meeting

  • OneCoin scam was headed up by Ruja Ignatova and brother Konstantin Ignatov.
  • Neil Bush was involved in a deal that would’ve potentially made him 10% of the profits from OneCoin sales.

OneCoin has been in the middle of a lot of legal trouble recently, considering the massive scam that the cryptocurrency has proven to be. Mark Scott, who formerly worked at the Locke Lord international firm as an attorney, is being tied into this trouble for allegedly conspiring with the creators of the Ponzi scheme to launder money. Ruja Ignatova, also known as Cryptoqueen, was already indicted on the money laundering charges, and has since gone into hiding, though brother Konstantin Ignatov was already apprehended.

Presently, Scott is unwilling to accept the charges that the courts are placing on them, stating that he believed the entire process was legal went he got involved. In fact, Arlo Devlin-Brown, the attorney for Scott, stated to the judge overseeing this case that Ignatova’s meeting with Neil Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, was involved in discussions with Ignatova, leading Scott to believe that the scam wasn’t one. Devlin-Brown explained,

“This isn’t just: ‘We saw the name Bush on a transaction and cut a subpoena.’”

FBI agents involved with the investigation have previously contacting Neil Bush, considering that he is a board member of Hoifu Energy. Hoifu Energy is owned by Dr. Hui Chi Ming, and it was involved with a massive $60 million loan deal that was financed with OneCoin and cash. If Bush were to testify about the role he played, it would show that the deal isn’t actually a scam, as Devlin-Brown states.

US Judge Edgardo Ramos questioned David Garvin, Scott’s counsel, on whether there was a meeting that involved Hui, Bush, and Ignatova, to which Garvin answered that there was. Garvin confirmed that Bush received a payment of $300,000 for his attendance.

Supporting his statement, Garvin took his time in court to read information about an FBI interview with Neil Bush, during which time the investor was set to profit from the deal. The report states,

“Bush recalled that the head of Hoifu Energy, Dr. Hui Chi Ming, received a bunch of cryptocurrency for an oil deal in Madagascar. Bush had a residual interest in the cryptocurrency from the oil deal. Bush met the woman from the cryptocurrency company, Ruja Ignatova, in Hong Kong with Dr. Hui.”

Based on the FBI files, Garvin stated that Neil Bush would be privy to 10% of the entire deal, in the event that Hui was able to sell the cryptocurrency. Ultimately, the deal failed, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse Bush. The judge stated that Bush’s testimony won’t be relevant for Scott’s own defense.

Presently, Konstantin Ignatov could be sentenced to prison for 90 years, based on his involvement. He plead guilty to both money laundering and fraud, signing a plea deal last month that was made public two days ago.

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Author: Krystle M

Crypto Community Warns Of A Fake Charlie Lee YouTube Interview Scam, Promising To 10x Your Litecoin

A new crypto scam has appeared and this time it does not involve Elon Musk nor any Nigerian Prince. Jon Moore, known as the CEO of Tech Support, and the Litecoin Foundation’s John Kim have recently found a scam in which the criminals try to impersonate the founder of Litecoin, Charlie Lee.

According to them, the scammers are asking people to deposit LTC in his account as an “entry ticket” which costs 300 USD. The idea is that there is a giveaway of 50,000 LTC happening. People can send 5 LTC and they will receive 50 LTC back. The more money you send, the more “bonuses” you’ll get.

Fortunately, there are several obvious signs that the scammers are not really to be trusted. They used bots to fake the number of subscribers and have terrible English spelling, but some people, especially from non-English speaking countries, can possibly be fooled by them. They also liked several cartoon videos in Portuguese and have a very low number of views in their videos.

Giveaways are generally ways to promote new coins, not something people do with old-school tokens such as Litecoin. Also, they generally never ask you to invest anything before you can get your money.

If a giveaway is asking you to donate money before you can get a prize, you should be aware chances are that a scam may be happening are high. Scammers are everywhere these days, so it is a good idea to avoid any kind of suspicious project.

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Author: Silvia A

Latest Bitcoin Investment Scam is Marketed as Elon Musk’s Creation with a 4,000% ROI Claim

A new crypto scam has appeared. According to Cointelegraph, this new scam uses fake articles to advertise a non-existent platform and uses the names of several famous people such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Richard Branson.

The new site, called Bitcoin Profit, uses fake celebrity testimonials and news to market its product. Known as Economicsworld.info, the site uses the image of Elon Musk and some famous Australian actors to draw people. Each of the celebrities who appear on the site has its own balance sheet of alleged investments.

This scam is so obviously fake that all the celebrities have the same balances and the scammers claim that people could get a return of over 4,000% in a single week. Anyone who understand a bit about investments would be skeptical, but unfortunately, there are some people who are lured by the faces of famous people and invest their money without understanding the market.

Kate Winslet, an Australian actress, was informed about the scam and told the media that she had no part in it and that they were using her image without her permission.

Bitcoin Profit is not unlike the several initiatives that show up on Twitter all the time. The scammers impersonate figures such as Elon Musk and offer free Bitcoin to people if they “show their interest” by sending a small amount of BTC. Obviously, people never receive the money later.

In most of these cases, the criminals exploit the fact that most people have heard about Bitcoin and possibly that it was profitable but don’t understand it very well.

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Author: Gabriel Machado

Saudi Arabia’s Finance Ministry Warns Investors Against Scammers Posing as Government

There is a new crypto-related scam in Saudi Arabia and the local authorities are already warning the investors against them. The Finance Ministry of the country has recently warned the local investors against a group of scammers that are using the official symbol of the government to promote their own tokens.

This group is affirming that they are related to government projects when the truth is that they are not linked to them at all. The two projects, named SmartRiyal and CryptoRiyal, are fraudulent cryptos, the ministry affirmed.

According to the government, the promoters of the scam are claiming that the goal of the project is to finance NEOM, known as a smart city that is being constructed. This is a lie and the government has affirmed that it will pursue legal action against the company for using its symbols and name.

Assad Rizq, a local crypto expert, has told the Arabian media that the assets do not really exist. They are fake and even their white papers are copied from other companies. The idea is to hype the projects to pump the prices and sell tokens. The uncautious investors are afraid to miss out on this opportunity and end up falling into the trap.

He affirmed that the scam is so successful because it targets people that do not understand the market very well and that don’t do enough research. Without understanding the rules of the country and its regulations, it is harder to spot the scams.

In related news, the local government is creating its crypto, which is a partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The asset will be used to diminish the costs of cross-border transactions.

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Author: Nirmala Velupillai