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article imageOp-Ed: Fake news social media finance scam nets $670,000 in Australia

By Paul Wallis     Sep 20, 2019 in Internet
Sydney - You know those Get Rich Quick ads? Seems if you tack them on to a legitimate news source, fake news is considered real news. An Australian woman lost over half a million in this one. Social media is again in the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons.
I saw this ad on Facebook myself. The story was supposedly run on Australia’s public broadcaster, ABC, giving a tip from billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest about a new wealth “loophole” which was going to make it big. The supposed interviewer was Waleed Aly, a highly respected journalist.
I thought it was clickbait, and I’ve worked in financial reporting, so I trust absolutely nothing and didn’t believe a word. I was surprised Forrest and Aly would put their names to it, and that ABC would run it. (There is no such thing as a “loophole” in tax or anything else financial. Something is taxable or it’s not. It returns good money, or it doesn’t.)
The rest of the scam was salad dressing. These guys claimed to be operating out of the Caribbean, so the implied “experts” even sounded more credible. Everyone knows how many financial geniuses operate from there. (None of them. The real guys can do without the hurricanes, deadly, super-heavy crime, etc., for some reason.)
Other people obviously did think it was credible. The very-much-ripped-off woman assumed, with some justification, that the usually, if not always, very diligent ABC was running a quality news story. So she bought in, big.
The idea was the usual spiel that the promoters/scammers would invest on her behalf. They even paid back $50K and sent her a Louis Vuitton handbag for her birthday worth $1400. That would be very nice, but she wound up down by that $670K anyway.
The fake news connection
The connection with a legitimate news source was the clincher. This ad was presented AS news, and rattled around on social media, unquestioned by sites which didn’t know a thing about it. This is where fake news on social media gets dangerous and a half.
Credibility in this case was based entirely on real names, delivering a fake message. ABC is one of the most trusted organisations in the country. Andrew Forrest is a major league corporate heavyweight. Waleed Aly has a truly distinguished reputation.
….And not one word of it was real, or had anything to do with any of them. In theory, their PR and media monitors should have seen the ad, and they didn’t. These entities would usually distance themselves from any sort of fake news and publicly deny any involvement, let alone endorsement, but everybody missed it.
Fintech and fake news
So – Is this yet another revenue stream for fake news? Yes and no. Fake news gets paid for. The people who make it get paid quite well. This version is a departure from the usual methods, but it’s also in the “fake fintech” category. That’s a major deal because fintech routinely promotes practically anything it gets paid to promote.
It’s business as usual for the not-very-trustworthy financial market, which does a lot of gouging of its clients on a routine basis. A lot of “investment advice” is basically advertising. It has nothing at all to do with good investment, or even basic investment. They sell financial products, not facts.
This isn’t really very different from the get rich quick scams of the past, but with a slightly new twist. Global media has always carried a lot of junk information and investment scams are almost traditional.
To blatantly promote anything in major media using these names would be legal suicide, if those names have a working brain cell between them. To do it on social media, however, is so easy it can be put together and out there scamming people in about an hour.
Time to do something, bozos
The fake news industry is worth a LOT of money. Nobody producing it gives a damn about the fake news or its negative effects. It’s the money they like, which is why fake news is so bad.
The difference this time is that this is straight out fraud. It’s a criminal offence. With the usual brilliance of ring-around-the-white-collar criminals, they’ve published a virtual audit trail of proof of their fraud. They ARE traceable, proxy servers or no proxies. There are transactions. There are places money is transferred. Finding them is more number crunching than detective work, but it’s doable.
It’s also an open and shut case. One prosecution could nail this whole class of scams, including the non-online variety. Would that make investing safer? To a point, it would. Scammers like to win, not take stupid risks.
Forrest, to his credit, has called for social media to fight the scams. Why, then, wouldn’t law enforcement take the opportunity to track down a great case? This unfortunate woman simply believed people she considered trustworthy.
Social media has a lot to lose
Social media also has something to lose here – Its dubious remaining credibility with users. Social media advertising is annoying. If it becomes dangerous, however, that’s a whole new ball game.
Is a social media platform party to a fraud? Most deny liability, with good reason. It might be hard to prove they are involved on a legal basis.
…But people vote with their clicks, too. The idea that social media is actually very high risk can murder advertising revenues. Everyone knows there are risks online, but six figures? No thanks, they will say, in their millions.
People don’t want to know about this constant crap anymore. People worldwide have had far more than enough of the fake news, the nutcases, and now big money scammers, too? There has to be a point where no more can be tolerated.
Why log in to what has become a mere choice of criminal-infested online hells? Social media has reached saturation point with these problems, and gone well beyond it. Active user numbers are slowing, and let’s face it, people do have many alternatives.
Fix this problem social media, or it’ll fix you.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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