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A sophisticated network of fraudsters pose as Vanguard news website to swindle users

On facebook, there is a page, Organic Terrain, that is used by scammers to defraud unsuspecting members of the public. The scheme begins with a sponsored post hoisted by the Organic Terrain page. Usually, the sponsored post comes with an interesting and eye-catching headline that lures users to want to read more. Yet, in reality, the post conceals more, while serving as a lead into a larger hoax that is staged to defraud members of the public. 

Forged as a news report from a credible news site, the scheme is most often presented as a carefully crafted post. 

The post usually comes with the header, “They didn’t know they were being recorded-Is this the end of their careers?” attached with a photo of prominent persons and headlined with a mouth watering link,  such as the one in the picture below to tease the curiosity of the user: “Aliko Dangote’s statement made the banks terrified”.

Image1: The sponsored post, the first step to the larger fraud scheme

The post has garnered multiple reactions; while other facebook users seem to believe it, others only appear to ask questions. 

“I have read this same story several times, with different pictures and different personalities. How true is this?” Jida Abdulkarim asked. 

There is more to the post

This link, when clicked, presents a convincing news report on a supposed Vanguard news website detailing Aliko Dangote’s (Africa’s richest man) support for an alleged cryptocurrency auto-trading program called, ‘Bitcoin Loophole’.  The headline to the report even says, “SPECIAL REPORT: Aliko Dangote’s Latest Investment Has Experts in Awe And Big Banks Terrified” and further claims that Dangote, in an acclaimed and unidentified interview, has made:

“What’s made me successful is jumping into new opportunities quickly without any hesitation. And right now, my number one money-maker is a new cryptocurrency auto-trading program called Bitcoin Loophole. It’s the single biggest opportunity I’ve seen in my entire lifetime to build a small fortune fast. I urge everyone to check this out before the banks shut it down.”

But is the news report by Vanguard? And is it really a Vanguard website?

The website and the alleged news report by Vanguard are uncovered to be a parody website created to mislead unsuspecting members of the public to  believe that Dangote fully supports the investment and is even recognized by a credible source, in this case, Vanguard. 

However, findings show the website is fake and although it contains Vanguard emblems and logos; the URL is https://weeklyfinance.to/ng-aliko-dangote-loophole/ which differs totally from the original Vanguard website and Vanguard URL (as seen in image 2 and 3 below).

Image 2: Screenshot of the parody vanguard website

Image 2 is a screenshot of the parody website that is impersonating Vanguard with a Dangote news story to mislead members of the public. The URL, highlighted green at the top left side of the screenshot, neither contains anything that looks like Vanguard or a word closely related to it. In fact, the URL clearly reads: 

https://weeklyfinance.to/ng-aliko-dangote-loophole/” the same name of the investment that Dangote is said to be promoting. 

Also, the Vanguard logo, circled yellow, differs totally from the one found on the actual Vanguard website with the URL, https://www.vanguardngr.com/ (see details in image 3 below) 

Image 3: screenshot of the original Vanguard website. The Vanguard logo and URL both differ from that of the parody website in image 2

Uncovering the full scheme

Eventually, when users try to click anything on the fake website or linger a bit, they are forcibly redirected to a different website that shows an advertisement about “Bitcoin Loophole” and spaces that are requesting users to fill in their phone number, name and email address. 

Image4: The redirected website requesting user information

It also presents alleged testimonies of past beneficiaries and offers 2 free subscriptions for an unidentified charter.  

Image5: alleged testimonials of past beneficiaries

When users provide their details in image 5 above, they are quickly redirected to another website that openly requests them to make payment and also provide their financial information, such as credit or debit card details, bank account, a final stage to the scheme that needs no further explanation. 

Image6: a screenshot of the last stage of the scheme, requesting users to provide their financial details

Why Facebook could not track it 

A pro-organic page hosts the sponsored post that carries the fraudulent scheme on Facebook. This page,  “Organic Terrain, claims to promote healthy living through an organic lifestyle. But it was only recently created, has a little over 4 posts and has protected its facebook transparency access. Even more, the page only promotes such fraudulent posts, with tantalizing topics around human interest that only lure one into a trap afterwards. It is this skillful maneuvering that makes it rather difficult for Facebook to trace the page’s activities, thus enabling the sponsorship of such posts.  

Image7: a screenshot of the “Organic Terrain” page on Facebook; a host to this fraudulent scheme

Is Vanguard aware of this impersonation?

Victor Ogunyinka, the online editor, Vanguard, explained, in a phone call with DUBAWA, that this is not the first time parody websites are impersonating Vanguard and misleading the  public. “This is not the first time this is happening. We have reported this issue to Facebook  more than twice now and nothing has been done about it,” he said. 

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