Bitcoin and cryptocurrency scams exploded onto the scene following bitcoin’s epic 2017 bull run, with millions of people hopeful they could cash in on the digital gold rush.
The bitcoin price slump over the last year, which saw the bitcoin price drop around 90%, meant the number of scams declined—but they didn’t disappear entirely.
Now, researchers from the widely-respected, U.K.-based Which magazine have warned criminals are still exploiting trusted global websites, including Facebook, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL, to post fake celebrity endorsements for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, in what they describe as “one of the most prolific” and “sophisticated” internet scams they’ve seen.
Those who have fallen victim of the bitcoin scam reported individual losses of up to $250,000 after following links from popular websites including AOL, MSN, Yahoo and Facebook.
The scam uses ads with false endorsements from celebrities who have backed a bitcoin investment scheme.
There were 1,560 cases of cryptocurrency investment frauds reported in the first six months of 2019 in the U.K. alone, according to Which magazine, known for its product reviews and styles itself as “a consumer champion”.
“In many cases, the fake advertorials are convincingly designed to look like pages from the BBC or Mirror [newspaper] websites,” Which reported.
The magazine found images of billionaire businessmen Lord Sugar, Sir Philip Green and Sir James Dyson, as well as the likes of music producer Simon Cowell, were used by the scammers to try to appear legitimate.
“To be clear, none of the celebrities are responsible for the fraud, but their images and reputations are being ruthlessly abused by organised scammers.”
The scam has been around for some time, with celebrities from Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, U.S. president Donald Trump, and singer Katy Perry all used by online fraudsters in the past.
“We’ve found countless variations of the scam still live at least three years after it first surfaced,” Which added.
The bitcoin scam promises victims huge returns and encourages people to pour cash into fake trading platforms.
Following bitcoin’s epic bull run, cryptocurrency scams popped up around the internet overnight.
The bitcoin price, one of the best performing assets over the last few years, has risen many thousands of percent in just a few years, making many early adopters millionaires.