A bitcoin investment scheme which falsely claimed that was endorsed by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was caught scamming UAE residents.
The scam allegedly operated from Argentina and Ukraine, and it had a Facebook page which was later removed from the social media platform. The scam had a minimum investment of AED 1000, which the scheme promising to make them rich in seven days.
A warning has been issued by the Aby Dhabi government to UAE residents regarding the fake investment scheme which tricked investors by using fabricated information and quotes from Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince.
The scam asked users for their money, and then to sign up on an external website called Bitcoin Loophole, which posed as a Bitcoin trading platform that claimed returns of “a minimum of $13,000 every single day”. Through the sign-up process, the scammers also got access to personal information such as identity and address, which puts users in much more danger than just monetary loss. More than a thousand UAE residents were swindled in the scheme.
The fake article used the picture of Timothy Seppala, a US-based freelance journalist, without his permission, trying to pass him off as ‘Michael Alvarado’, the writer of the article. The fake news report also contained fictitious ‘reviews’ from UAE citizens.
The scam was spread through a “sponsored” Facebook post, which redirected users to the fake story of the Crown Prince endorsing the investment. The post garnered 5,000 shares and over 8,000 comments, with many users being interested in ‘investing’.
The post also had a made-up quote from the tweet of Prince, which claimed that this was his way of giving back to the people. Fabricated quotes from Bill Gates were also included in the fake article.
It is strongly advised that people check the authenticity of campaigns asking for pledges or donations in case of fraud, particularly online and on social media- warned the Abu Dhabi Media Office.
Users blame Facebook for not being more vigilant in the content it promotes.
“My opinion is Facebook ads are being pushed without scrutiny. They should audit all accounts and verify the details. I’m sure they have the technology. Not everyone is digitally literate,” said an Indian national residing in Abu Dhabi which fell victim to the scam.
Facebook has had some inconsistencies when it comes to regulating crypto advertising on its platform. At first the completely banned such ads, afterward loosening up their policies due to the launch of their Libra crypto. On the other hand, it is speculated that the post which featured Crown Prince’s endorsement did not exactly say it was a crypto-related investment scheme.
The Abu Dhabi Media Office released a public statement which urged caution to cases when online payments are required from an unknown party. The excerpts from the statement read:
“It is strongly advised that people check the authenticity of campaigns asking for pledges or donations in case of fraud, particularly online and on social media.”
“Authorised communications for Abu Dhabi, its leaders and its government are shared through ADMO channels @admediaoffice and mediaoffice.abudhabi.”
This is only the latest of crypto schemes that have falsely used the name and image of public figures.
Featured Image; MarketWatch