New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern has become the latest target of cybercriminals fraudulently using her image to endorse a scam crypto investment scheme. It resembles the near-ubiquitous ‘crypto giveaway’ scam on Twitter, which uses cloned accounts of famous people to defraud people of their crypto holdings.
‘Ads Keep Springing Up’
The adverts are said to have been targeted mainly at New Zealand residents who are directed to a phony website, designed to closely resemble CNN with a fake news report claiming the New Zealand Treasury “invested $250 million- half its wealth” in a Bitcoin startup. Upon learning of this, the Prime Minister’s office made a report to Facebook and got the adverts take down.
The adverts, which reportedly depicted Ardern holding money or with United States President Donald Trump were targeted at different age groups, bearing catchy lines like “every Kiwi age between 30 and 45 must not miss this”.
Commenting on the adverts, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s office said the “ads keep springing up” and the office is unable to keep a constant watch on them both manually and digitally.
According to her, Facebook is usually quick to bring the adverts down once alerted of these fraudulent activities. She, however, lamented that this keeps recurring and suggested that social media platforms - Facebook in particular - should remain proactive in “shutting down the fake news that shows up on their sites”.
Growing Pattern in New Zealand
Ardern is not the first Kiwi politician to be featured in a bitcoin-related fake news story. In late 2017, former Prime Minister John Key was a victim of Facebook and Twitter adverts which redirected Kiwis to a mock NZ Herald website, where Key was quoted saying
I purchased a mere $1000 and followed the bitcoin loophole system, and now seven years later my $1000 investment is worth $300 million. It's funny to think how that $1000 has grown to become my biggest asset.
At the time, Key was unable to get the posts taken down in a timely fashion. Also earlier in 2018, Ardern expressed concerns about fake news after National MP Judith Collins sent out a link on Twitter of a fake story about France loosening laws on pedophilia, noting that “we should all be concerned”.