For years, two Danish men have been stealing the identities of more than a hundred Facebook users. They used stolen names and profiles to create fake endorsements for their websites. Their victims hail from 14 different countries, including The Netherlands.
Leadfresh, the company run by the Danish men, posted fake endorsements on websites such as Geldninja.nl to persuade visitors to engage in online gambling and invest in Bitcoins. The founders and teams mentioned on the sites also turned out to be fake.
After analysing the various websites and the companies and tracing the employees behind them through social media, Pointer tracked down the Danish fraudsters. On their business page, the two men claim to work for a company based in Wyoming in the United States, but the address is nothing more than a post box. In reality, their operations take place in Davao in The Philippines.
“This looks like a clear example of identity theft”, says Tina van der Linden, a lecturer in IT law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. “That is a prosecutable offence under article 231 of the Penal Code. In terms of private law, they are also committing a tort.”
The victims come from all over the world, including Denmark, Turkey, Finland, Spain, Italy and France. “I earned 120 dollars in just 40 minutes”, reads a comment from a Dutch victim whose name and photo were used on the site. “It’s my photo and my name, but I didn’t write it. I have no interest in this kind of thing, but I don’t know how to contact these guys”, says Hans, who is one of the victims and declined to be identified by his full name.
Leadfresh admits to stealing and misusing the identities of people from Facebook for years. “We used a tool that gathered names and photos from Facebook. I didn’t really stop and think about it. The comments weren’t written by the people themselves”, says co-owner Christoffer Ravnsborg. “It’s definitely wrong, absolutely.” The company has now deleted the fake comments.
Leadfresh earned money off of the fake endorsements through affiliate marketing. If a website visitor signed up for an online gambling site or invested in Bitcoins through Geldninja.nl, the company would receive a portion of the profits. “That can range from 1 Euro to 100 Euros for each sign up, depending on what the parties involved have agreed upon. I would imagine that they would earn closer to 100 Euros each time than 1 euro”, says affiliate marketing expert Jennifer Kok.
Translation by Traci White