Facebook has taken down a sponsored post scammers shared with hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting users. The fraudsters used the post to attract victims to a fake bitcoin trading platform they marketed with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
'My way of giving back to the people'
According to the UAE-based media outlet The National, the fraudsters – who have operated the scam from Ukraine and Argentina for weeks – directed victims to a fake story about the Crown Prince, claiming that he wants to help people by making them rich with a Bitcoin trading platform.
The fraudsters even included a fake quote from the Crown Prince, saying that the phony trading platform is "my way of giving back to the people."
The fake Bitcoin trading platform, Bitcoin Loophole, claims that its users can make at least $13,000 in 24-hours. According to the website of the scammy service, people can earn such outrageously high profits with the use of automated Bitcoin trading bots.
"The best part is that anyone can use it and make money – even if you have never traded before or if you are a seasoned professional," Bitcoin Loophole's website reads.
Despite marketing the scam with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince, he is not even mentioned on Bitcoin Loophole's website. Only Steve McKay, the creator' of the fake automated trading platform sees a mention.
A quick Google search revealed that McKay is not even a real person, the scammers have used a stock photo from Shutterstock to trick victims into believing he is the creator of Bitcoin Loophole and other fake crypto trading platforms like Bitcoin Code.
Thousands of victims in Bitcoin scam
While the precise number of victims remains unknown, The National stated that the scammers have successfully duped "thousands" who have shared their personal details with the perpetrators.
The sponsored post on Facebook had over 37,000 social reactions, 8,100 comments, and nearly 5,000 shares.
The fake story where the users were directed by the sponsored post included an article written by "Michael Alvarado" who claimed that he had made 26,000 AED ($7,080) with Bitcoin Loophole in two weeks.
The scammers used the image of US-based freelance journalist Timothy Seppala who has already confirmed that the fraudsters used his picture without his permission.
In the story – where readers could find fake quotes from the Crown Prince and Microsoft Founder Bill Gates –, the fraudsters posted a link to Bitcoin Loophole and urged users to spend 918 AED ($250).
After The National contacted Facebook about the scam, the social media platform had removed the sponsored post.
“We want people to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook. Claiming to be another person on Facebook violates our community standards, and we have a dedicated team that’s tasked with helping to detect and block these kinds of scams," a spokesman for Facebook said.
The Abu Dhabi government has also taken steps in the case, reminding its citizens to be aware of internet fraud.
"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," the Abu Dhabi Media Office stated.
Celebrities on target
This was not the first time when fraudsters have used fake endorsements from famous persons and celebrities to promote fake Bitcoin schemes.
Earlier this year, CCN reported that an 82-year-old British woman had lost all of her money to scammers who used a Facebook ad featuring investor and Dragon's Den star Deborah Meaden.
It’s a complete SCAM & my legal team are on it now. Thanks for letting me know RT @RegalRacing: @dragonjones Peter you are quoted as buying 20% [email protected] trader in an advert [email protected] investors on the company- did you ? As other sites suggest it’s a scam, can you confirm ? Cheers
— Peter Jones (@dragonjones) March 31, 2018