Woman loses $670K in Aussie billionaire ‘endorsed’ crypto scam


An Australian billionaire has taken aim at Facebook over ads falsely claiming he endorsed a scam that fleeced a Bunbury woman of $670,000.

The West Australian woman lost $670,000 to a sophisticated investment scam that was promoted on LinkedIn and Facebook using Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s image.

The “online trading platform” reportedly offered trading in “crypto stocks, foreign exchange and contracts for difference, on Facebook and LinkedIn”

The scammers claimed to invest on the woman’s behalf and got her trust by allowing her to “withdraw” $58,500 across six payments to her bank account, from her “trading account”.

They even sent her a $2700 Louis Vitton bag as a birthday present.

“When I knew that I had been scammed, I felt terrible. I felt I may not be the person I think I am,” she told the ABC.

“You blame yourself.”

Money transferred to eastern states of Australia

The woman reported the incident to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and the Australian Federal Police.

They tracked the money and found it had been transferred to an account registered in the eastern states.

Micky has warned readers about similar crypto investment scams (which may all originate from the same criminal syndicate) a number of times over the past year.

The scam uses fake news stories from credible sources such as the ABC that feature celebrities including Hollywood star Hugh Jackman, TV personality Karl Stefanovic, property billionaire Harry Triguboff and even former Singapore PM Goh Chok Tong detailing their successful “investments”.

Nicole Kidman, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson have been roped in for fake endorsements – but the scammers even target minor celebrities including Maltese actor and TV star Davide Tucci, Big Brother creator John de Mol, and NZ TV host Daniel Faitaua.

Our June story is still on the first page of Google results when you search for “Andrew Forrest + Bitcoin” and the ABC and TheWest.com.au today republished Micky’s screengrabs of the fake ABC Twiggy Forrest news stories.

However, it came too late to help the woman, who first discovered the “investment opportunity” in March.

Forrest warns of scam back in April

Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation has had a warning on its website since April informing would-be investors that: “Mr Forrest has not endorsed or invested in Bitcoin”.

They repeated the warning in a statement yesterday pointing out he never detailed his investments, however had definitely never invested in “any cryptocurrency”.

The company said they had been engaging with the “social media entities at an executive level, in an effort to stop the publication of these scam advertisements and to improve the identification and speed of the reaction to any that are published.

“We have asked the social media platforms to take more pro-active steps to eliminate the scam advertisements utilising the technology available to them.”

The ABC also said it reported any fake ABC news stories it became aware of to Facebook so they could pull them down.

Scammers stay one step ahead

Micky believes the scammers stay one step ahead of Facebook by constantly changing domains and the accounts they use to advertise.

The sponsored posts often contain an image of the celebrity with an ambiguous headline that does not mention cryptocurrencies or investments directly.

Bloomberg reports that questionable ads from dodgy sources were worth A$1.92 billion last year which means the social media and internet giants have something of a conflict of interest when it comes to cracking down.

Facebook said it does not allow ads that are misleading or false and reviews any content that violates its advertising policies.

It claims to have disabled 2.19 billion fake accounts from January to March this year.

Andrew Fenton

Contact: andrew@micky.com.au Andrew Fenton is an Australian freelance journalist and editor. He’s been a national entertainment writer for News Corp, film journalist for The Advertiser and a staff writer on SA Weekend and The Melbourne Weekly. Andrew's work has appeared pretty much everywhere including CNN International, news.com.au, Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph & Courier Mail, Triple J, 3AW, Rendezview, Adventure.com and Intrepid's The Journal. DISCLOSURE: Andrew's cryptocurrency holdings include BTC, VET, ETH, SNX TRAC, ZEN, XRP, WTC, and TRX.

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