An investigation by The Standard has revealed that British celebrities are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals using artificial intelligence (AI) to generate fake crypto scam ads on social media.
In the latest wave of scams, fraudsters are using readily available AI tools to fabricate images of celebrities such as Ian Wright, Gino D’Acampo, and Bear Grylls. These manipulated images are then used to promote get-rich-quick crypto ad scams on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
The scam ads have garnered over a million views on Twitter alone, as per the public view counts. Cybercriminals pay for promoted advertising posts that mimic content from trusted influencers or organizations. The ads often feature arresting images, like a celebrity being apprehended by the police, and direct users to fake articles designed to resemble reputable publications such as The Guardian.
The Standard discovered that these scam webpages are surreptitiously inserted into legitimate websites. For example, a scam article was found hosted on a government agency website in Brazil, indicating the deceptive tactics employed by scammers.
Celebrities speak out on crypto scam ads
Ian Wright took to TikTok to address the scams after being made aware of their existence. He debunked the false claims and urged people not to fall for the scam ads, emphasizing that he had not been arrested or engaged in any activities that would lead to his arrest.
The Standard has reached out to Facebook and Twitter for comment on the issue. The Guardian, one of the media outlets whose brand is exploited in these scams, expressed awareness of the situation and has submitted requests to take down the fraudulent content. The media company also welcomed the forthcoming online safety bill, which will impose greater legal responsibility on online platforms to prevent the circulation of such scam ads.
Rising trend of AI-generated scams
While precise data on the scale of scam ads and their impact remains elusive, experts note a concerning surge in AI-generated scams on social media. Criminals employ generated images of well-known celebrities to endorse products or spread fake news. Katherine Hart from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute highlighted the need to collaborate with social media platforms to swiftly remove these scams. However, as one ad is taken down, another one tends to resurface.
Over the past two years, scams utilizing generative AI have frequently used Elon Musk’s image to promote cryptocurrencies, particularly during the 2021 lockdowns when he announced Tesla’s significant Bitcoin investment. According to cybersecurity firm Avast, victims lost an average of $250 to these scams. In a single month, Avast prevented the ad from being shown to over 10,000 users in 11 countries across multiple continents.
Continued efforts to combat scams
In March, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requested additional information from social media networks regarding their mechanisms for detecting malicious ads. The FTC highlighted that in 2022, US citizens lost over $1.2 billion to fraud originating from social media platforms.
Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon are the top three brands impersonated by threat actors to deceive users and steal personal and confidential data. These cases underscore the importance of robust measures to combat scams and protect online users.
As AI-generated scams become increasingly prevalent, British celebrities have become targets for fake cryptocurrency scam ads on social media platforms. The use of manipulated images and deceptive tactics highlights the urgent need for collaboration between regulatory bodies, social media platforms, and law enforcement agencies to combat these scams effectively and safeguard users from financial losses and reputational damage.