Crown Prince’s Image Used as Thousands Lose Money in UAE’s Largest Facebook Bitcoin Scam
While we’ve all gotten used to crypto fraudsters hacking into exchanges to steal cryptocurrencies worth millions in dollars, their antics seemingly doesn’t stop there. The number of scammers targeting non-crypto savvy individuals seems to be on the rise, all thanks to social media.
It’s just the other day that Facebook finally took down a sponsored ad created by crypto scammers to dupe thousands of UAE citizens. By the time of pulling it down, the well-worded post had reached thousands of unsuspecting crypto enthusiasts and potentially taken millions of Emirati dirhams off their accounts.
Using the image of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, who also is the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the fraudsters run a largely successful raid. They created and sponsored the ad marketing a fake Bitcoin trading platform, knowing too well that many would trust it from the Crown Prince’s image.
Anyone with just AED 918, according to the post, was eligible to be part of it and help “giving back to the people.” And for weeks, the ‘thewhitefluffy.com’ ad run on Facebook, attracting thousands of reactions.
They were operating from outside UAE
According to The National, a local media outlet, fraudsters behind the scam were from Argentina as well as the Eastern European country of Ukraine. They had used a story about the Crown Prince and purported that he was using the initiative to help Emirati people get rich using Bitcoin.
What many of those who lost their funds didn’t know is that even the quote allegedly said by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed was false. Some people were smart enough to tell that Bitcoin Loophole, the supposed Bitcoin trading platform was phony, even though their warnings were largely ignored.
The post had promised that users could make as little as $13,000 in 24-hours, an amount so huge for the unsuspecting to ignore. To make the advert even more enticing, the website stated that anyone, both the newbies and the seasoned, could make money. They, however, couldn’t explain how one could earn such a ridiculous figure, only saying that they were using automated Bitcoin trading bots to trade.
Interestingly, the name of the Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince didn’t appear anywhere on the Bitcoin Loophole’s website, despite the ad featuring him. The only person mentioned was Steve McKay, the alleged creator of the scam automated trading platform. Of course, Steve McKay is a nonexistent figure, although the image purported to be his was lifted off Shutterstock.
In the end, thousands, perhaps more, had been ripped off!
The exact number of people scammed hasn’t been known yet, although the local media estimate the number to be “thousands.” In fact, considering that the Facebook ad attracted over 37k likes, more than 8k comments and a whopping 5,000+ shares, the number of victims could be higher.
The scammers had apparently published a fake story to further support their agenda and dupe even more individuals. Using an article written by “Michael Alvarado” who supposedly made AED 26,000 equivalent to $7,080 after two weeks, they made the fake platform look legit.
The article quoting Crown Prince and Bill Gates, billionaire Microsoft founder, urged the readers to invest AED 918 or $250 in Bitcoin Loophole. It had a link which when clicked led, to the fake platform.
It was The National that reached out to Facebook and effectively had the post pulled down. Unfortunately, it was only later after the scam has gone viral that the image used by the fake “Michael Alvarado” was discovered to be Timothy Seppala, a US-based freelance journalist. He confirmed that the picture had been used without his permission.
Facebook’ spokesman, speaking in the wake of the scam, talked about the platform’s commitment to ensuring that users trust the connections they make. Any case of identity theft, according to the representative, amounts to a violation of the site’s community standards.
The government also urged the public to remain aware of internet scammers. Promising to act, the Abu Dhabi Media Office asked the public to be wary of any campaign run online, especially those that ask for pledges and donations.
The case isn’t the first
Online scammers are fond of creating fake Bitcoin schemes and campaigns to steal from the gullible. CNN, early this year, reported about an elderly British woman who unknowingly lost a fortune to Facebook fraudsters. Peter Jones, a serial entrepreneur, even had to tweet about it and clear his name from the scam.