A scam victim has described how she was blackmailed into recording a hostage-style video, in a desperate attempt to prevent scammers believed to be based in Nigeria from selling her Facebook and Instagram accounts.
In the video, the woman tells her followers that she gained €10,000 by investing in the fraudulent scheme, which she describes as “legit” and “secure”. She goes on to encourage others to invest in the scheme, saying “I hope you will have the same opportunity that I did”.
This is part of a scam run by a fake Facebook profile using the name Ddexterr Ssmithh. Times of Malta recently reported how this scam is also using AI deepfakes to impersonate Maltese citizens.
The woman, who has asked to be referred to by the pseudonym Christine, said her ordeal began late last year when scammers contacted her on WhatsApp, attempting to lure her into a get-rich-quick crypto scheme.
Although she did not buy into the scheme, the data she exchanged eventually led to her losing access to her Instagram account.
A few weeks later she was contacted again through WhatsApp, with scammers posing as Instagram officials who would help her regain access to her account.
This led to her also losing access to both her Facebook and Gmail accounts in the space of just a few hours.
In WhatsApp chats seen by Times of Malta, Christine repeatedly pleads with the scammers to return her accounts, saying that she will lose all her photos of her son “from when he was a baby”.
Ignoring her pleas, the scammers tell her that if she wants to recover her account, she needs to record an “appreciation video”, saying “it’s real and legit, I’m not hacked”.
Christine, at her wit’s end, reluctantly complies, but her initial efforts do not impress the scammers, who tell her to “make a new one and speak louder and smile while saying the words”.
The video was eventually uploaded to her Facebook profile, alongside manipulated photos of fake Revolut transactions.
The scammers later attempt to force her to send them photos of her credit card, warning her “I’m giving you only 1 minute to send the picture of the card or else I will sell your account”.
Christine stands firm, replying that she has already reported them to the police at Ħamrun station.
Christine believes that the scam is being run by a gang in Nigeria, saying that just before she lost access to her accounts, she received a notification saying that somebody in Nigeria was attempting to access her account.
In the chats, the scammer also uses a Nigerian term for fool.
She says she reported the case to the police and has been in sporadic contact with them over the past months. While she has managed to regain access to her Instagram account, she has lost both her Facebook and Gmail accounts, seemingly permanently.
‘I lost €1,000 to scammers’
Christine’s experience is an increasingly common tale. Times of Malta has spoken to several other people who viewed a video similar to that recorded by Christine and, believing the scheme to be genuine, fell victim to the same scammers.
While many have only lost access to their social media accounts, others appear to have lost significant amounts of money.
Alex, also a pseudonym, is one such case. He came across a video of an acquaintance of his praising the scheme, saying that he earned €10,000 in the blink of an eye and, having just begun dabbling in cryptocurrency, he approached Ddexterr Ssmithh asking for advice.
Reassuring Alex that the scheme was “100% secure” and “guaranteed”, the scammers convinced him to transfer €1,000 to the scammer’s Binance account. Binance is one of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency exchange platforms.
Not satisfied with their haul, the scammers attempted to fleece more money, telling Alex that in order to withdraw his profits he needs to purchase a “gold account” from another exchange platform, at the cost of an additional €2,500.
Alex refused, realising that the scheme is a con and eventually giving up hope of ever recovering the money he gave away. He says while he considered reporting the case to the police, he never did so because he was afraid of retribution from the scammers.
A police spokesperson told Times of Malta that the police had received reports of scams linked to Ddexterr Ssmithh.
“The police are well aware of the scam. Between April 2022 and last month, six reports were lodged. From investigations made, victims were scammed €36,600 in cryptocurrency,” the police said.
“This is potentially multi-jurisdictional scam as activities trace back to locations beyond our jurisdiction These scams have involved a number of fictitious names where the victims claim they were enticed to invest and largely influenced by videos ‘posted’ by other Maltese individuals. However, it has resulted so far that the victims were not asked to post a video.”
A cursory glance through Facebook indicates that the scam is in full flow, with new victims cropping up every few hours.