A UAE news sight The Nationals reported that Facebook has now removed bitcoin scam ads that were floating around with posts linked to the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince. The report explained how, the bitcoin scammers used the name of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the second most powerful man in UAE and convinced people that he backed a get rich quick scheme using bitcoin trading.
The report talked about such scam dubbed as “Bitcoin Loopholes” and how the posts affected thousands of people. The Abu Dhabi Media Office released a statement asking people to be vigilant:
It is strongly advised that people check the authenticity of campaigns asking for pledges or donations in case of fraud, particularly online and on social media
Thousands of people participated in the get rich quick scheme that required people to pay Dh1,000 to get great returns in seven days. People shared private information to the scammers like email addresses and phone numbers.
The accounts that were running these scams are reported to be from Ukraine and Argentina and Facebook has said that these accounts have been banned by Facebook. The post appeared on UAE residents’ newsfeeds and had the picture of the Crown Prince on it, and was also marked as sponsored. The post also included a fabricated quote by the crown prince saying this is “my way of giving back to the people”.
The post also had an article attached to it written by a supposed Author Michael Alvarado who narrates how he made Dh26,000 in a fortnight using the scheme. It was revealed that the picture of the author was actually Timothy Seppala an American author and a freelance journalist whose picture was being used without his permission and he had no connection with the scam.
The scam gained credibility because it narrated factual details about Sheikh’s stimulus plan, along with some fabricated image to attract people onto the scheme. The post was shared more than 5,000 times and had more than 8,000 comments on it. Comments included people showing interest in investing and sharing personal details. Jitendra Alwani a Dubai based digital marketing expert said about the post:
I was stunned to see the number of likes, comments on the post and shares on the post,
My opinion is Facebook ads are being pushed without scrutiny. They should audit all accounts and verify the details. I’m sure they have the technology. Not everyone is digitally literate.
Facebook claimed that they removed the post and deleted the account as soon as the scam posts were brought to its attention. A Facebook spokesperson while talking to The National said:
We want people to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook. Claiming to be another person on Facebook violates our community standards, and we have a dedicated team that’s tasked with helping to detect and block these kinds of scams.
This is not the first-time crypto ads have caused issues for Facebook as illegal crypto ads have been a headache for Facebook for quite some time now, and despite the company’s continuous efforts, the problem persists.
Lawyers at Facebook have been persistent that the company has been doing everything in its power to stop such incidents from taking place; however, they did say that it is impossible for Facebook to monitor all the ads uploaded on its platform all the time.
Just last month a Dutch Billionaire Media Mogul John De Mol worth over $1.7 billion sued Facebook over such ad that used his face to scam people using crypto. The scam used his picture without his permission and people had lost more than $1.9 million participating in those schemes due to his reputation.
The odd about the case was that De Mol had been reporting these ads for over a year but Facebook didn’t take them down. The ads have since been removed from Facebook; however, the lawsuit argues that the ads shouldn’t have been allowed on the platform at all.
Lawyers representing Mol have asked the court to order Facebook to fix its broken ads scrutiny system. Facebook in 2018 put a ban on ICO and crypto ads citing the following concerns:
We want people to continue to discover and learn about new products and services through Facebook ads without fear of scams or deception. That said, many companies are advertising binary options, ICOs, and cryptocurrencies that are not currently operating in good faith.
However soon after the ban was placed Facebook lifted some part of the ban, eventually keeping only ICOs on the block list.