A major Bitcoin (BTC) ad scam involving unauthorised images of Australian celebrities who seemingly promoted fake investment schemes is allegedly coming from Russia, according to a new report.
Fraudulent Bitcoin ads capitalizing on Australian celebrities like Dick Smith and Andrew Forrest are part of an organized global business that uses at least five addresses in Moscow, an investigation by The Guardian asserts.
On Dec. 13, The Guardian published a report providing more details about a major Bitcoin ad scam that has run on news websites since at least 2018. As previously reported, the scam involved fake articles using unauthorised images of celebrities to advertise fraudulent crypto investment schemes and steal money. The Guardian itself became a victim of the scheme as the news agency accidentally ran some of these scam ads.
According to the latest report, The Guardian Australia found five names of people who had registered hundreds of fake websites related to the scam, “all with addresses in the centre of Moscow.” The news agency said that Google has launched an investigation as two of the email addresses were linked to Gmail accounts.
The Guardian noted that there is other information suggesting that the scam scheme may also have links to Ukraine, referring to a March 2020 report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, or OCCRP. The OCCRP investigation found a call centre running similar Bitcoin scams operating from Kiev.
In March 2020, a whistleblower revealed the existence of a crypto scam operating from Ukraine. The 200-employee scam scheme was mainly targeting investors from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, promoting fake news articles using celebrities like Gordon Ramsay, Hugh Jackman and Martin Lewis. The scheme reportedly netted $70 million in 2019.