Cointelegraph has uncovered a profit sharing scheme where self-proclaimed “hackers” lure unsuspecting clients to sell their coins after reading promotional articles purportedly posted on crypto media outlets such as NewsBTC and CryptoCoinsNews.
As the old adage goes, when something is too good to be true, it probably is. This appears to be the case with at least one website btcgoi.com, which claims to purchase bitcoins directly from clients via hacked PayPal accounts at above market value at ~US$259 compared to the current market price of ~US$236.
Speaking to an online customer service representative by the name of “Elizabeth A.,” I was told that the reason the website can buy at above market price is because they are running “a promotional offer” that is “available only for few days.” Due to the current low price of bitcoin, the representative explained that they can “afford to pay 10 % more than market value … in order to satisfy customers.”
Interestingly enough, Elizabeth replied that they nevertheless “will buy bitcoins almost all the time... only this period we offer a good price in order to attract customers till march,” after which, I was asked if I would like to sell some coins.
Apparently, the scheme operates by paying out customers for their coins (from hacked PayPal accounts) above market price for small amounts at first. Then, after the customer sees that these transactions are successful, they will sell larger bitcoin amounts, after which the payments will no longer go through and the customer is left with no bitcoins and no money.
This was uncovered after we received a press release earlier this month, which raised a lot of red flags. So we decided to dig deeper and got in touch with one of the people behind the service, known only by the skype name SterBlich.
Eyeing a potentially large windfall, SterBlich was eager to divulge all of the details to Cointelegraph regarding how the scheme works offering a 50/50 profit split with the “partner” media outlet.
SterBlich listed a few media partners that his group worked with already, specifically:
- CryptoCoinsNews (CCN)
SterBlich touted that CCN and NewsBTC allegedly received 75 and 35 BTC, within 24 hours from the scheme, respectively. When asked whether CryptoCoinsNews did in fact cooperate with SterBlich in the scheme, CCN Director David Parker replied:
"[SterBlich] published a sponsored story that he paid for with a PayPal account he had hacked. We realized that once we got a refund request from PayPal. The funds were refunded to the rightful owner and the story was removed."
Bitcoinist CEO, Mate Tokay, meanwhile shared the following information with Cointelegraph:
"SterBlich reached out to Bitcoinist for advertising and wanted to start some sort of shady cooperation. Later they claimed this:
‘look brotha i will be straight we are a group of hackers who have lots of websites running adwords/facebookads/bing/press releases join with us and get your half :) stop work your ass for few cents for exemple [sic] when you advertised one of our website btclowen we made 63 btc only from your website and much much more from newsbtc (the thing is that we really make the payments via bank or paypal ... of course with frauded ones but still )’
“After that I blocked them from my skype."
NewsBTC Business Development Manager, Samuel Rae, issued the following response:
“Btcgoi approached us late last week in an attempt to purchase a press release to be published on the site. The release was to detail them buying BTC at market price +10%. We recognized it as a scam and instantly ceased communication with the ‘company.’ We have had no further communication, and have at no point received funds, BTC or otherwise, from them.”
One of the media sites not allegedly involved, according to SterBlich, is CoinDesk as they chose not to cooperate with the group “because they make already lots of money from legally shet [sic],” he explained.
Promising Cointelegraph a potentially hefty sum of 100BTC to publish a btcgoi.com press release, SterBlich said that “we will make much more than NewsBTC and other low pr sites.”
It is uncertain whether the aforementioned crypto media websites actually received any funds or cooperated with SterBlich as it is possible that the numbers were simply thrown around to incentivize Cointelegraph to become the latest complicit victim.
Additionally, SterBlich claims that he has “plenty” of other fraudulent websites that are used for these purposes, namely:
And possible many others, which he failed to mention.
The cryptocurrency space is undoubtedly still a “wild west” that can offer as much opportunity as risk. With the suppressed bitcoin price and stiff competition, it is not surprising that many within the space are taking advantage of unwary customers by resorting to unethical means of securing an easy profit.
Cointelegraph advises its readers to be careful and always do your homework before sending money to someone online, especially when using cryptocurrencies since there is no real way to get your funds back if the other party reneges on a promised payment. Multi-signature secured transactions, for example, are a good way to circumvent this problem of trust and ensure that your funds are safe. Because otherwise, if it’s too good to be true, then…I think you already know.
Below you will find two screenshots as well as the full transcript of the skype conversation between me and SterBlich who explained how the scheme works in detail:
[1:18:25 PM] allen: addy gave me your contact info
[1:18:57 PM] SterBlich: oh ok
[1:19:12 PM] SterBlich: did he explain you how is the things ?
[1:19:20 PM] SterBlich: we are a group of hackers which we hunt clients ...
[1:19:22 PM] SterBlich: we do pay the clients
[1:19:25 PM] SterBlich: via paypal / bank
[1:19:32 PM] SterBlich: but not with our accounts :)
[1:19:39 PM] SterBlich: some of them have luck to keep the money
[1:19:41 PM] SterBlich: some of them not .. .
[1:19:44 PM] SterBlich: due to the account owners
[1:20:42 PM] allen: he mentioned it but im not quite sure how this works exactly
[1:20:47 PM] SterBlich: ok
[1:20:51 PM] SterBlich: let me explain you
[1:20:59 PM] SterBlich: I have been worked with other press release
[1:21:01 PM] SterBlich: and we still do :)
[1:21:07 PM] SterBlich: the things is exactly like that
[1:21:11 PM] SterBlich: they create articles
[1:21:15 PM] SterBlich: to add it to top 1 !
[1:21:20 PM] SterBlich: where everyone can see it
[1:21:28 PM] SterBlich: clients will come to us
[1:21:33 PM] SterBlich: will test us with low amounts ...
[1:21:36 PM] SterBlich: we do the payment
[1:21:41 PM] SterBlich: everytime
[1:21:44 PM] SterBlich: even if is huge amount
[1:21:49 PM] SterBlich: we pay with frauded money
[1:21:57 PM] SterBlich: once we received the btc
[1:22:05 PM] SterBlich: from the clients they came from your website
[1:22:12 PM] SterBlich: we send you half
[1:22:17 PM] SterBlich: you can monitorize the transactions
[1:22:19 PM] SterBlich: through the bitcoin address
[1:22:23 PM] SterBlich: listed on the website
[1:22:32 PM] SterBlich: so there is no act scam on our partnership
[1:23:30 PM] allen: is it 50/50?
[1:23:34 PM] SterBlich: yes
[1:23:59 PM] allen: and what is your website/service?
[1:24:05 PM] SterBlich: well I have plenty of them
[1:24:07 PM] SterBlich: btcgoi.com
[1:24:10 PM] SterBlich: will be the one ...
[1:24:11 PM] SterBlich: you will use
[1:24:34 PM] SterBlich: other you might know is : btclowen.com mywalletbtc.com
[1:24:38 PM] SterBlich: sellbtcinstant.com
[1:24:39 PM] SterBlich: bla bla
[1:25:08 PM] allen: ok so this is how you can buy coins above market price at btcgoi?
[1:25:21 PM] SterBlich: aha
[1:25:42 PM] allen: and what kind of profit could we potentially see here if we get 50%?
[1:25:46 PM] allen: from an article
[1:25:58 PM] SterBlich: I am not pretty sure .... what clients view your website
[1:26:06 PM] SterBlich: but I can give you some exemples
[1:26:57 PM] SterBlich: newsbtc made 35 BTC
[1:27:03 PM] SterBlich: in 24h of article :)
[1:27:12 PM] SterBlich: ccn for exemple
[1:27:16 PM] SterBlich: made 75 btc
[1:27:26 PM] SterBlich: prolly more because we changed wallets
[1:27:29 PM] SterBlich: we don't remember well !
[1:27:33 PM] SterBlich: bitcoinist and others
[1:27:38 PM] SterBlich: also made ...
[1:27:40 PM] SterBlich: not remember :)))
[1:27:47 PM] SterBlich: all worked with us
[1:27:50 PM] SterBlich: except coindesk
[1:28:20 PM] SterBlich: coindesk is not working with us because they make already lots of money from legally shet :)
[1:28:24 PM] allen: haha
[1:28:43 PM] allen: ok do you have a press release about btcgoi?
[1:28:55 PM] SterBlich: yes I got few articles
[1:28:59 PM] SterBlich: i can send them to you ...
[1:29:00 PM] SterBlich: and you choose
[1:29:05 PM] SterBlich: or if you want you modify ..
[1:29:10 PM] SterBlich: my writer was on weed ....
[1:29:11 PM] SterBlich: when he did it
[1:29:29 PM] SterBlich: but there is no grammar errors ..
[1:29:34 PM] SterBlich: since is a native language
[1:29:49 PM] allen: ok sounds good send them to [removed]
[1:31:34 PM] SterBlich: i hope you don't back off at 100 btc :)))
[1:31:41 PM] SterBlich: think big ok ?
[1:31:42 PM] SterBlich: :))
[1:31:50 PM] SterBlich: don't retreat at 100 btc
[1:31:58 PM] SterBlich: because i got cases like that before
[1:32:06 PM] SterBlich: they got 100 btc and they run away :D
[1:32:34 PM] allen: nah everything should be fine
[1:33:49 PM] allen: ok i'll wait for the press releases, and then should i tell you which one i pick or it doesnt matter?
[1:36:28 PM] SterBlich: it doesn't matter
[1:36:32 PM] SterBlich: which one you pick
[1:36:35 PM] SterBlich: you can even change whatever
[1:36:36 PM] SterBlich: you wish
[1:36:41 PM] SterBlich: add a good image
[1:36:45 PM] SterBlich: and sticky it on first page :)
[1:36:46 PM] SterBlich: top 1
[1:37:01 PM] SterBlich: or you know better
[1:37:03 PM] SterBlich: what you have to do
[1:37:27 PM] SterBlich: just make sure you recheck the pr
[1:38:12 PM] allen: ok got it
[1:39:23 PM] SterBlich: and after that is everything about luck and about your readers
[1:39:30 PM] SterBlich: today ... there must be only few victims
[1:39:33 PM] SterBlich: tomarrow can be big hits
[1:40:48 PM] SterBlich: everything is based by how visible the article is ... who see it and bla bla
[1:41:01 PM] SterBlich: but i am pretty sure ... we will make much more then newsbtc and other low pr sites
[1:48:14 PM] SterBlich: i will need also your bitcoin wallet
[1:48:19 PM] SterBlich: bitcoin address
[1:48:27 PM] SterBlich: so i can tell to my workers where to make the payment !
[1:48:30 PM] SterBlich: your cut !
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