Scammers Impersonate Malta's Prime Minister on Instagram to Sell Bitcoin

  • Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is being impersonated through a fake profile on Instagram. 
  • A post from the fake profile by an Instagram user named Wang Wei had requested, in the prime minister's name, to contact the Chinese conman for advice on Bitcoin investments.

Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, has reportedly been impersonated, online by an Instagram user with the account name wangwei8976. Wang Wei is believed to have created a fake Instagram profile of the Maltese prime minister, in order to lure people into making questionable bitcoin (BTC) investments.

Through a post from the fake profile, Wei recommended, under prime minister Muscat’s name, that investors contact him for advice on bitcoin investments.

Although the misleading post has now been taken down, local news outlet, the Independent, described the impersonation attempt as being carried out “by an industrious and seemingly Chinese conman, who has gone to great lengths to create a fake Instagram profile replete with official-looking photographs.”

Misleading Post On Bitcoin Investments 

According to the news agency, the fake profile even included a link to partitlaburisti.org, the Maltese prime minister and his political party’s official website. While the misleading crypto investment post has now been removed by Instagram’s management team, Wang Wei’s Instagram account is still reportedly active.

The prime minister’s fake profile (josephmuscat290) has also not been removed. His real profile is under the account name josephmuscat_jm. Moreover, Muscat’s fake profile currently has over 1,300 followers and many of them appear to be Maltese residents, including experienced politicians.

Currently, it is still not clear who’s actually operating the prime minister’s fake account. This is the link to Wang Wei’s Instagram profile: https://www.instagram.com/wangwei8976/, and this is the link to the fake profile of prime minister Joseph Muscat (who’s also the Leader of Malta’s ruling Labor Party): https://www.instagram.com/josephmuscat290/.

Crypto Influencers Impersonated

Notably, this is not the first time that a famous, or influential, personality has been impersonated on social media, in order to mislead cryptocurrency enthusiasts and investors. As CryptoGlobe reported in July, cryptocurrency platform TRON’s founder Justin Sun had been impersonated on Twitter.

Crypto scammers had reportedly hijacked the official Twitter account @AlmostHumanFOX, which belongs to FOX’s Almost Human TV show. After gaining control of the account, the scammers had been attempting to lure unsuspecting users by offering “fake” giveaways or free digital currency.

The fraudsters had also been providing cryptocurrency addresses to which they were requesting that payments be sent to enroll in the fake giveaways. Given the serious nature of the increasing number of fake profiles on social media websites, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the companies managing them have been criticized for not protecting their users. In many cases, social media sites have been known to take little or no action against online scammers.

Bitcoin Veteran Peter Todd: Reducing Bitcoin’s Block Size to 300KB Is a “Dumb Idea”

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Peter Todd is a Bitcoin veteran. Describing himself as an Applied Cryptography Consultant, Peter has been interested in digital money ever since he read Adam Back’s seminal Hashcash paper as a teenager. Having spent a lot of time himself thinking about how to create a digital currency - when the bitcoin paper was released in 2009, Peter realized that the solution had been found.

Formerly a Bitcoin Core developer, Peter has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in the space, regularly providing a more technically-based commentary to the changing winds of the crypto scene.

Short, sharp and to the point, Peter answered a few of my questions about bitcoin, crypto more broadly, and what the future holds for the industry.

Avi Rosten: How did you get into crypto?

Peter Todd: Via the Freenet Project, back in highschool. Like any good civics/democracy minded high schooler would be, I believed in freedom of speech and Freenet was an obvious way to promote that.

AR: What are some of the developments in the crypto space in the past couple of years that you find most interesting?

PT: Lightning is probably the biggest one. Monero and Zcash second, although remember that "interesting" doesn't necessarily mean "good".

AR: What do you think about recent talk by some Bitcoin Core developers around reducing Bitcoin's block size?

PT:  Some? I think you mean basically just one, Luke. I think it's a dumb idea that's a mere tweak at high cost.

(Peter explained a little more expansively in this interview for the WhatBitcoinDid Podcast why he doesn’t like small block sizes: “I think his technical arguments for that are good, but I think he doesn’t understand the social side of that, which essentially makes it impossible.")

AR: When the bitcoin block reward eventually goes to 0, will mining fees act as enough of an incentive?

PT: Maybe? Maybe not? It'd certainly have been less risky to have some small perpetual inflation, or at least a Monero-like "tail emission"

AR: What do you think of the Lightning network? Will it enable bitcoin to become a widely-used medium of exchange?

PT: How widely used is widely used? Bitcoin is already a fairly widely-used medium of exchange amongst use-cases that need it - lots of services and people at risk of censorship use it, from Patreon alternatives to file hosting sites.

If you're talking about replacing credit cards and the like, it'll probably never happen.

AR: Do you think Bitcoin should incorporate some privacy features or do you think it would make Bitcoin less useful as financial regulators might then treat it as a privacy coin e.g. Japan's FSA's order to exchanges not to deal with privacy coins?

PT: From a purely technical perspective most of what people think of as "privacy features" are risky to implement, with a high chance of a bug leading to the destruction of the entire system. Monero has already had one inflation bug, and Zcash has had two (including the one caught just prior to initial release).

On the other hand, Bitcoin already has many onchain privacy features, ranging  from the UTXO model to various technical things that make Lightning possible. And on the second layer, having at least some level of privacy isn't just a feature, it's mandatory: without decent privacy you can't get scaling, as to scale you have to make transaction data less widely distributed.

AR: What do you think of the two most recent implementations of the MimbleWimble protocol (Beam and Grin)? If the community decided that Bitcoin needed to have these privacy features, what do you think would be the best way to implement them?

PT: I just don't see that happening for another 5-10 years. These protocols are just too new to trust for something as valuable as the entire Bitcoin system. Better to adopt them as additional layers, as Liquid has done.

AR: If you wanted to work with smart contracts, which of the existing platforms would you use? Ethereum, EOS, TRON, Rootstock (RSK) ...?

PT: They're all bad. Their idea of smart contracts doesn't make much sense for most applications. Lightning is currently the best example of a smart contract system in production, and the on-chain scripts it uses are trivial.

There's very little reason to have complex on-chain smart contract schemes.

AR: What’s your biggest criticism of Ethereum?

PT: See the previous question.

It's just not a model that makes much sense.

AR: How do you think crypto news and media could improve?

I'd say get more competent journalists and give them more time and resources to write articles. But realistically, where's the money to do that going to come from?