The fintech industry, despite its rapid growth and innovation, faces a serious threat in the form of fake reviews and misinformation that are used to undermine the reputation of financial companies and their customers.
Fraudsters distribute these reviews through fake websites, creating the illusion of reliable sources of information, writes StartupMafia.
How the deception scheme works
At first glance, these websites look like normal and informative resources providing news and useful articles about the digital economy and online investing. However, if you take a closer look, you will find that despite regularly updating peerless articles, their real purpose is to create negative reviews in order to make money from market participants.
The fake reviews presented on these sites were similar in content and created according to the same template, which shows the systematic approach to misinformation. These reviews attacked financial services, forex brokers, cryptocurrency tokens and other companies, attributing negative characteristics to them and worsening their business reputation.
All of these fake articles were accompanied by negative “user” comments, creating the illusion of valid criticism. However, analysis of the metadata of the web pages showed that the comments automatically appeared just one minute after the reviews themselves were published.
Fictional individuals are used as experts, and their photos are created using AI in the Generated Photos service. And chat managers use images purchased from Shutterstock. Dozens of similar sites had the same content, the same feedback forms, chatbot scripts and offered services to recover stolen funds.
Does the trail lead to Russia?
A detailed investigation revealed something more surprising: Russia’s alleged involvement in this massive operation.
While some of the blogs mask their location, most were traced to servers in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, raising questions about a possible connection between that country and the organization behind the digital extortion network. Russian police are believed to prefer to disperse rallies at home rather than actively cooperate with their foreign counterparts in the fight against cybercriminals. For example, Evgeny Bogachev, who stole over 100 million dollars from accounts using the Zeus virus, is still at large and living in Russia. There are known cases when Russian police failed to act against hackers who broke into Yahoo, or despite the presence of cybercriminals on their territory, refused to extradite them to an international investigation.
Possible links to the Mexican group
Cybercriminals can hide their location through sophisticated technology and anonymous servers, and it is possible that not only Russian but also international players are behind this. The same servers host the website of Spanish-language radio station eco 103.1 fm and the online software store “clienteshop.info,” which targets South American customers.
An assumption can be made about a possible link between the fake reviews and the Latin American region, including Mexico. This assumption is justified by the fact that many of the fake sites target Spanish-speaking audiences and attract major traffic from the Mexican region.
In addition, similarities in content, site structure, and the use of fake author profiles may also indicate an organized effort, possibly with coordination in a particular region.
The problem goes deeper than a tarnished reputation
So far, fake reviews have been noticed by the companies that are mentioned in them, but ordinary people are suffering from the actions of cyber scammers. Fake blogs not only destroy trust, but also cause real financial damage to ordinary people. The authors of the articles present themselves as experts, while in reality they collect personal data and manipulate inexperienced users of financial instruments, promising quick earnings and, in the end, cheating them. People can fall victim to insidious manipulations and lose their savings and investments.
Despite the media coverage of the problem, a network of sites with fake reviews continues to exist.