A whistleblower has revealed details about an army of Bitcoin scammers from the Ukraine profiting off fake celebrity endorsements.
An investigations by The Guardian has revealed an army of 200 fake “traders” based in Ukraine who have been scamming victims worldwide out of their savings.
British and Australian victims of the scam were persuaded to hand over their cash by fraudulent ads on Facebook, and mobile phone games, featuring celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, Gordan Ramsay and savings expert Martin Lewis.
Micky has reported on similar scams many times in the past, and our articles on the topic are consistently among our most popular as potential victims research the scam.
Once bitten, bitten again
The Guardian reported that after responding to the ad, victims were contacted by a Kyiv call centre and promised lucrative investment opportunities in Bitcoin, commodities and foreign currencies.
The call centre was tasked with making 300 calls a day and workers were rewarded with commission based payments paid according to how much money they squeezed out of people.
“You get bombarded by all of these different companies. I don’t know if any of them are the same,” said one victim named Teresa.
“They were calling all day, every day, all through the weekends … Sometimes you’re on the phone to one company and the phone is buzzing with a call from another.”
The whistleblower identified a Ukrainian company called Milton Group as being behind the scam, which also operated front companies including CryptoMB, Cryptobase and Ventoro Banc.
In a further twist of the knife, once victims had lost money they were then contacted by scammers pretending to be from other companies that could help them recover their losses.
Thousands of victims have handed over large sums of cash and in some cases, their life savings.
The scam netted $70 million last year alone.
Victims installed software
Victims were persuaded by call centre workers to install software that gave the fraudsters access to their bank details.
“I gave him a code so he could control the desktop,” said one victim. “He took the money in front of me – he went into my bank and took the money.”
The scammers also faked large returns to persuade victims to hand over more money.
The sophisticated scam used numerous methods to extract more cash once victims had handed over a small initial investment.
Some were sent letters purporting to be from the tax department with fake tax bills.
The scammers even had country specific guidance. Investors in the UK, Australia and New Zealand were flattered: “they are intelligent and perhaps will learn to trade within months of which the company will even issue a certificate confirming the client as a master trader”.
Scandinavian customers meanwhile were believe to be older. The scammers cheat sheet suggested they were “old people and really need someone to talk to. It will be very wise for you to pitch very gentle and slow with emotions.”