Social media giant, Facebook is suing Basant Gajjar for cloaking activities on the platform aimed at promoting Bitcoin scams and disseminating fake news about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Fake Bitcoin Investment Schemes and COVID-19 News
According to a lawsuit filed on Thursday (April 9, 2020) by Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram, in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, Gajjar cloaked landing pages for multiple ads on Facebook since 2018, some of which sold fake bitcoin schemes and dietary supplements.
An excerpt from the court filing reads:
“Defendant’s cloaking services were used to promote, among other things, deceptive diet pills and pharmaceuticals, cryptocurrency investment scams, and even misinformation about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Gajjar, an Indian citizen residing in Bangkok, owned and operated an unregistered company called LeadCloak, which specialized in cloaking ads. Cloaking is a technique that hides the true nature of an advert by presenting something different to the public.
By putting up seemingly “harmless” ads on platforms like Facebook, the media platform’s review process is blocked, thereby preventing the platform from clamping down on deceptive ads.
The lawsuit further claimed that Gajjar employed cloaking services in March 2020 to promote a fraudulent bitcoin scheme. According to Facebook, the defendant posted a harmless ad about stainless steel spoons. However, the ad was in fact about a bitcoin investment scheme which supposedly cushioned people economically from the coronavirus pandemic.
Also, the defendant used the image of a celebrity to lend “credibility” to the virtual currency investment platform. Apart from selling bitcoin investment, Gajjar also employed cloaking services to promote fake dietary supplements and paraded images of celebrities who supposedly used the product.
Consequently, the social media giant is seeking a permanent injunction against Gajjar, LeadCloak, and collaborators. Facebook is further claiming damages and asked for relief.
Crypto Scams by Any Means
Fraudulent actors waste no time in preying on victims during a pandemic or some major world event, like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1.6 million cases have been reported since the novel virus surfaced.
In the United Kingdom, the country’s national fraud & cyber reporting center, Action Fraud, recently revealed that residents were receiving fake emails requesting donations in bitcoin to the National Health Service (NHS).
We continue to receive a high volume of reports about fake emails being used to solicit donations to the NHS.
The NHS will never ask you to send money directly to a bank account, or make a payment using Bitcoin.
— Action Fraud (@actionfrauduk) April 9, 2020
Furthermore, the agency warned citizens not to yield to such emails, as the UK healthcare system will not request donations in BTC or ask for a transfer of funds into a bank account.
Back in March 2020, the UK’s financial regulatory body, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), issued a warning regarding COVID-19 scams. The agency further revealed the tactics of the bad actors and asked citizens not to reveal sensitive details and also beware of mouth-watering schemes, fake charity projects.
Chester Wisniewski, a researcher at the security outfit Sophos, exposed the activities of fraudsters who impersonated the World Health Organization (WHO) to seek donations in bitcoin for the health agency.
When basketball players and fans globally were mourning the death of basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, who, along with his teenage daughter and seven others died in a plane crash, crypto hackers saw the perfect opportunity to strike.
The rogue actors concealed a digital currency mining script in the wallpaper of the late former basketball player. Fans who downloaded Bryant’s picture from the internet would unknowingly enable crpytojackers mine digital currency on their computers.
Regulatory agencies across different jurisdictions constantly warn investors to beware of fraudulent bitcoin schemes that offer a bogus return on investment (ROI). The U.S.Justice Department charged three men for carrying out a massive fraudulent crypto mining scheme.
As reported by Blockonomi in January 2020, Bitcoin billionaire Pierce Brook backed a digital currency scam operated by EXW Wallet.