A 75-year old woman lost her life savings to a Bitcoin investment scam being advertised on Microsoft-owned MSN.com.
Frances Foster, a hospital ward clerk from Plymouth, UK lost £11,000 [US$14,300] to an investment scheme called LTC Markets that she saw advertised on the popular news portal last year.
The investment scheme promised high returns, which is what attracted Foster’s attention in the first place.
The company, which claimed to be based in Switzerland, worked hard to gain her trust, even going so far as to call her personally in December to wish her a happy Christmas.
Speaking to the BBC, Foster explained that, although her initial investment was small, she went on to invest – and lose – thousands of pounds in the course of a few months.
“It’s been awful. I sent my first amount of money to them in September and now £11,000 is all gone.”
Though she has contacted her bank and several fraud organizations, including ActionFraud, Foster is not optimistic about having her funds returned. Now, she just hopes that her story will serve as a warning to others.
But…hasn’t MSN banned crypto-related ads?
Yes…yes they have. According to Microsoft’s advertising guidelines for financial products and services, “cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency-related products including, but not limited to initial coin offerings, cryptocurrency exchanges, and cryptocurrency wallets” are not permitted on its ad network.
So how did LTC Markets manage to get its ads on MSN.com? That’s a good question, and one that Microsoft does not yet have an answer to.
Speaking about the incident, a spokesperson said that the company “was working internally and with our partners and agencies to address the techniques scammers use to deceive people so that we can detect, block and remove fraudulent advertisements more effectively.”
Microsoft cautioned its users that they should “remain vigilant and only engage with brands they trust and recognise.”
Crypto scams sneaking onto major outlets
This isn’t the first time a major website has unwittingly promoted a crypto scam. Bitcoin Revolution and similar investment schemes have managed to find a bountiful pool of potential victims on Facebook and other social media platforms.
In December of last year, UK-based Which magazine reported that ads for similar scams appearing on other trusted websites including Yahoo, MSN, and AOL.
Individual losses of up to £200,000 [US$261,000] have been reported by thousands of victims worldwide.
Another scam that made headlines around the same time involved a government-authorized cryptocurrency in Uganda called Dunamiscoins.
Its parent company, Dunamiscoins Resource Ltd, promised investors interest returns of 30% to 40% on their investments in as little as 21 days.
The scheme was launched in November 2019 and managed to bilk investors out of nearly $2.7 million before abruptly shutting down just a month later.
More than 5,000 victims petitioned the Ugandan government, calling the investigation into question and seeking a refund of their investments.
Lead petitioner Haruna Asiimwe told reporters, “We are not satisfied with what the Police report that they have failed to arrest the third director. We request that the Financial Intelligence Authority follows this up and trace where the money is and we are refunded”