Scam alert. Mark Shuttleworth is not the new face of a bitcoin investment scheme.
  • Mark Shuttleworth’s name and picture have been posted on adverts promoting cryptocurrency scams on Facebook.
  • Facebook removed the ads - but almost immediately, the scam popped up again in a different guise. 

Facebook has tried to shut down ads that illegally used South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth as its "front man" - but hours later they popped up again.

Shuttleworth’s name and picture have been posted on adverts promoting cryptocurrency scams on Facebook and on fake news websites. 

The images and ads look similar to those used for a scam called QProfit System, which surfaced earlier this year.  That scam claims that its designer, Jerry Douglas, was asked by Shuttleworth to develop a cryptocurrency system. It also creates the impression that Shuttleworth is out for “revenge” after losing a R250.5 million lawsuit against the Reserve Bank. 

Shuttleworth, who has an estimated fortune of R9.6 billion and is CEO of the open-source operating system provider Canonical, has denied any involvement in a blog post

“I can’t comment on whether or not Jerry Douglas promotes a QProfit System and whether or not it’s fraud. But I can tell you categorically that there are many scams like this, and that this investment has absolutely nothing to do with me. I haven’t developed this software and I have no desire to defraud the South African government or anyone else. I’m doing what I can to get the fraudulent sites taken down. But please take heed and don’t fall for these scams,” wrote Shuttleworth.

An advert on Facebook fraudulently using Shuttleworth's name.

Ads for the new version of the scam, which asks for an initial fee of $250 (R3,750), have recently appeared on Facebook. Here, Shuttleworth’s face and a false testimony are used to promote a scheme for an app called Bitcoin Trader and Bitcoin Revolution. The ads take the users to different fake news websites, including a site called POIP News.

Business Insider SA alerted Facebook to the new scam ads last week. On Monday it responded by removing the ads.

“We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and encourage people to report any adverts that they believe infringe on their rights, or shouldn’t be on Facebook. As soon as these pages and ads were highlighted to us, we worked promptly to remove them and can confirm that several accounts and pages that violated our Advertising Policies have been taken down," said a spokesperson.

But while the original post was removed, within the same day a new one had surfaced. 

The scam changed the picture, Facebook Page and the link leads to another fake website. But the subject line remains the same.

The Facebook adverts take you to this fake website masquerading as a Fin24 article.  

Fake Fin24 website

It uses fake profiles: on one site 'Fiona Presley' comes from Stevenhage in the UK, and on the fake Fin24 page, she lives in Port Elizabeth. 

The sites share similarity in the adverts displayed at the bottom.


On the sites, Shuttleworth’s face and a false testimony are used to promote a scheme for an app called Bitcoin Trader.

The fake testimony on POIP News.


The photo was actually taken on March 7, 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa, for an interview with Media24.

The photo was actually taken on March 7, 2011 in Cape Town for an interview with Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images.


Multiple fake testimonies from prominent people, including from 'Markus Jooste', are also used.

Markus Jooste


A sister site called PatientHelp.org features Patrice Motsepe. 

Patrice Motsepe
Fake interview.
 


Photos of Naas Botha and his family were used to advertise a similar scam on Facebook.

Fake advert on Facebook, Naas Botha.


Tips on how to avoid a cryptocurrency scam
  • Only deal with reputable, locally registered entities with a track record
  • Make sure that you can verify the identity of the owners, employees and the entity
  • Try to find verifiable information about them in local and international media
  • Find out if they have a strong technical team, to handle complex matters such as securing digital currencies, handling currency forks and so on
  • Make sure they have strong anti-money laundering (AML), know your customer (KYC) and anti-terror financing (ATF) procedures in place. Otherwise, if you’re a customer on a platform without strong compliance measures and, say, when selling your Bitcoin, you’ll have no idea if you’re inadvertently facilitating the other side of a suspicious transaction.
  • Look at who has invested in the company. Reputable venture capital firms spend enormous resources to make sure their investment goes into reputable companies with competent teams, strong security and so on.

Information provided by Marius Reitz from cryptocurrency trading company Luno. 


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