This year has seen a string of cryptocurrency scams tied to high profile persons, most of whom aren’t even necessarily in the digital assets space. The latest big-name victim happens to be Marc Merrill, the founder of Riot Games, who got his identity and credit card stolen, which was then used to purchase cloud computing services from Amazon and Google.
In Nov 2014, Matthew Ho of Singapore allegedly used Merrill’s American Express credit card to purchase cloud computing services on both Amazon and Google servers. These services were then used to mine cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, according to a report from Forbes. By forging a fake driver’s license, a fake email address, and using Merrill’s home address, Ho apparently convinced Amazon that he was Merrill and was granted “access to substantially elevated levels of cloud computing services.”
Identity Thief Racks Up Huge Bill On Company Card
Along the way, Ho totaled up a $5 million tab on the American Express card. Presumably, the charges took so long to notice due to the fact that Riot Games used the same card to purchase legitimate Amazon cloud services. Using similar tactics, Ho purchased cloud computing from Google to the tune of an additional $240,000. He then mined cryptocurrency on these services and flipped it on P2P exchanges like Localbitcoins.net.
Fortunately, thanks to data provided by Amazon, Google, Facebook and others, Ho was arrested on Sept 26 and now faces 14 different charges, including those involving other unnamed victims. While this is an unfortunate story, it is hardly the only example of celebrities being used unwillingly in the scams of cryptocurrency thieves.
Celebrity Scams Becoming More Common
Just this month, BeInCrypto reported that Grand Tour host Jeremy Clarkson found his name fraudulently tied to a fake trading app called Bitcoin Revolution — and that’s only the beginning. Over the last six months, Kate Winslet, John de Mol (creator of Big Brother), and even billionaire mogul Richard Branson have all reported finding their names attached to cryptocurrency themed scams, usually perpetuating around Twitter or other social media.
Not all scams are out for your money mind you, some may be exist only to influence your opinion. Just the other day Bobby Lee, who previously founded the Bitcoin China exchange, posted a somewhat controversial story to Twitter in which he alleges to have met Bruce Willis and his daughters on a flight and happened to give the actor a couple of Lee’s own ‘Ballet’ cryptocurrency wallets.
The community was quick to question the legitimacy of the claim, as the photo didn’t seem like one that Lee would post if he really had a friendly conversation with Willis. Furthermore, no evidence has been produced outside of Lee’s own tweet, and Willis has been silent. While scam would be a strong word to use in this case, it may still be a case of a celebrity being used for promotion without their knowledge.
It is unlikely scams like this will go away anytime soon, but users would be wise to be extra wary of any promotion with claimed celebrity involvement that isn’t publicly acknowledged by said celebrity. Still, it is likely that every year more innocent people, famous or otherwise, will fall victim to the false claims and identity thefts of scammers like these.
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