Despite recent turbulence in crypto prices, online scammers are still going as strong as ever. However, the social media platforms that serve as the primary hunting grounds for these scammers are now facing more scrutiny than ever before. Richard Branson has been in direct talks with Facebook about fake endorsements for crypto scams appearing on the website with his name and image.
Branson is a renowned British billionaire who started his empire with Virgin Records and eventually expanded into airlines, passenger rail, telecommunications, and even space tourism through Virgin Galactic. He’s among the most recognizable entrepreneurs on the planet, so it’s no wonder why scammers use his name and image to promote get-rich-quick schemes like BitiQ UK.
Branson has been made aware of how his name and image are being used to lure innocent victims to online crypto scams. His public response to the issue has made it clear that he is deeply upset by the impact these scams have on everyday people and that he’s doing everything he can to stop the scammers.
These fake celebrity endorsements are spread across social media and other platforms, but Facebook is at the center of most discussion. Many examples of fake ads directing victims to online scams can be found on Facebook, and many critics say that they aren’t doing enough to stop them. Branson has said that he has spoken personally with leadership at Facebook on the issue.
Branson also has a team of lawyers identifying and acting on examples of fake endorsements on other social media platforms.
Fake Endorsements Widespread Online
This is far from the only example of the celebrities and entrepreneurs appearing in fake ads taking the fight to the social media platforms themselves. In fact, Branson is now working with another notable figure in the UK who has also taken action against Facebook for fake ads.
Martin Lewis is the founder of Money Saving Expert, a website that provides consumer financial advice. As such, it was a real problem when his name and image started appearing on ads for crypto scams. In 2018, Lewis filed a lawsuit against Facebook for these fake ads. However, this was settled in 2019, and Lewis dropped the lawsuit after Facebook donated £3 million for a public awareness program.
Together, Branson and Lewis are now pushing the UK government to implement regulations against paid scam ads on social media platforms in the new Online Safety Bill that is currently moving through parliament. The bill will increase the liability of social media platforms for user-generated content that leads to crypto scams.
Online Scammers Develop Multiple Techniques
The practice of using fraudulent celebrity cameos to advertise scams has plagued social media for years. Richard Branson is one of the most prominent examples, being used for advertising all kinds of crypto scams. He’s far from the only celebrity to have their name used, though. The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, is another favorite.
Big names that garner universal recognition aren’t the only strategy that scammers use. Many of their ads are more closely targeted, featuring national or regional celebrities from television shows and news. While going with famous billionaires can make any supposed crypto opportunity seem like a great investment, the more carefully selected fake celebrity endorsements can inspire trust more easily.
It’s not as though the scammers have to choose between the two strategies. They can run both sets of fake endorsements on social media, directing people to practically identical websites that all run the same scam. That’s how these scammers operate and how they’re able to reach so many victims.
Consumers Shouldn’t Wait for Regulation to Save Them
Fake celebrity endorsements for crypto scams are a serious problem online today, which is why individuals like Branson are fighting back. However, it is yet to be seen how new regulations are going to impact the online landscape. Chances are, avoiding these scams will still come down to how careful users are when dealing with opportunities they find on social media.
It’s far from easy to distinguish these kinds of scams from real opportunities. Branson, in particular, really has endorsed Bitcoin in the past, so it isn’t outlandish to think that he could be endorsing specific projects. However, these scams are so widespread that the only safe path is to simply ignore any celebrity endorsements you find on social media.