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Cybercriminals cash out $280,000 from Facebook ad scam

A fake get-rich-quick scheme is targeting victims via Facebook advertisements linking to one of 900 scam pages impersonating well-known companies, according to cybersecurity firm Group-IB.

The scheme offers potential victims the “false promise of achieving significant gains by investing in large, reputable companies,” according to Group-IB, whose Digital Risk Protection team uncovered hundreds of scam pages linked to the new campaign.

A total of 35 well-known brands from 13 countries were imitated by the scammers, with the Middle East and Africa (MEA) the most targeted region, according to Group-IB. Research showed that 60% of scam pages impersonated companies from the region.

To a lesser extent, the campaign also targeted users in Latin America and Asia-Pacific and the advertisements were placed in Arabic, Spanish, and English.

Group-IB estimates that financial losses from this campaign totaled $280,000 during the four-month period from March to June in 2023.

“The scammers’ core aim is financial gain, achieved by convincing the victim to voluntarily make a payment to enroll in the fake investment scheme,” Group-IB said in a report.

The campaign is thought to have “burst into life” in July last year, but a small number of domains leveraged in this scam could be traced back to 2020. Group-IB experts reported a similar scam in Europe last year.

The report did not specify the companies impersonated by scammers, but noted an oil company “usually associated with wealth and prosperity” and a significant number of state-owned enterprises, potentially to make the scam appear more credible.

Upon clicking on a scam link, a user is redirected to a site that contains a form asking for their personal information, including email address and phone number.

Victims are then urged to invest in what is claimed to be a leading trading platform, and offered misleading perks such as a welcome bonus or high-accuracy investment recommendations.

Daily emails encourage users to sign up and offer various payment methods to cover a required minimum deposit, which Group-IB said was $50 in June.

If the target fails to respond, the scam intensifies with calls from fake customer service hard-selling the scheme and pressuring users to immediately invest and double their share price in ten days.

Immediately after the call, victims are also asked to upload sensitive documents such as IDs and passports, which poses significant security risks, according to Group-IB experts, including identity theft and its use in further criminal activities.

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