According to new research, the OneCoin cryptocurrency project - accused by the authorities of being a Ponzi scheme - attempted to increase its profits by using "unauthentic" accounts to publish favorable reviews on TrustPilot and Quora.
The Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), an entity under the US AtlanticCouncil think tank, said in a report on its blog that OneCoin launched the "astroturfing campaign" around the same time as its founder, Ruja Ignatova, is disappeared in 2019 following numerous lawsuits filed against her and other project members.
The OneCoin scandal
In March of last year, US prosecutors in New York arrested a man considered to be one of OneCoin's "leaders" on charges of stealing "billions" from investors through the alleged pyramid scheme. Simultaneously with the capture of Konstantin Ignatov, Ignatova was also charged with online fraud, securities fraud and money laundering.
Project lawyer Mark Scott was also found guilty of laundering $ 400 million for OneCoin in New York last November. Around the same time, several nations announced that they were taking steps to protect investors from the project that used pyramid selling tactics to attract new investors.
An anomalous flow of positive reviews
DFRLab researchers found that OneCoin received a series of five-star reviews on the TrustPilot consumer evaluation site in October last year.
“Of the 579 reviews for OneCoin on the site, 90% were positive. Of the five stars, around 400 have been published in just one month, "they write in the post.
Researchers say numerous one-star reviews have been "buried" by the wave of positive reviews. The lab team was unable to tell if the reviews came from automated or "non-authentic" accounts due to the limitations of the TrustPilot user interface, but the spike in five-star ratings "indicated an abnormal flow of favorable reviews. ".
Similarly, an analysis of the reviewers on the Quora site found profiles that posted positive comments regarding OneCoin that show "signs of unauthentic behavior". These included the absence of profile pictures and bios, irregular publication times and "an exclusive interest in discussions related to OneCoin". Most of these profiles presented themselves as cryptocurrency experts, according to the report, but limited responses to OneCoin's "feasibility or value". DFRLab said it was unable to confirm individuals' identities through cross-searches on social media.
“Until direct evidence emerged linking these fake profiles and related inauthentic reviews to OneCoin employees, nor evidence of automated activity on the platform, the favorable profiles and reviews still served to build trust for the OneCoin brand in a period. in which he was in the midst of a billion dollar scandal, "concludes the report.