Libra Scammers Are Promising Early Access to Facebook's Digital Currency to Steal Private Information

One scam video that appears on YouTube and coaxes people to hand over personal information to get “early access” to Facebook’s Libra digital currency
Gif: YouTube

If you search YouTube for Facebook’s Libra, you’ll find plenty of videos that tell you how to buy the digital currency. The problem is that many of the videos are published by scam artists who are apparently trying to steal your personal information. How do we know they’re scams? Libra hasn’t even been launched yet.

The Washington Post first published a story this morning about the proliferation of fake Libra content that’s spreading on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Gizmodo easily found scams on those platforms by using simple search terms like “Libra wallet.”

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As just one example, a YouTube video called “How to Buy Facebook Libra Coin” encourages viewers to click on a bit.ly link in the description of the video. That link takes users to a website called Libra Reserve that’s designed to look like an official Libra site. If you visit this website (which we don’t recommend), do not type in any of your information. The website looks pretty damn official, complete with the wavy Libra logo, but it’s a scam. (The official Libra website, by the way, is Libra.org.)

A pop-up on the site claims people from various countries have “purchased” different amounts of Libra, which, again, is impossible since Libra has not yet launched.

This is obviously bullshit.
Screenshot: Libra Reserve

No contact information was available for the owners of Libra Reserve.

The scam website also promises “early access” to Libra, which hasn’t been released yet and might not even see the light of day if some U.S. legislators have any say in the matter. The controversial project is being debated around the world as people question the ethics of major multinational companies effectively releasing their own currency. Worryingly, some members of Congress acknowledge that there might not be anything they can do to stop it.

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Other searches on platforms like Instagram revealed that some people were less scam artists and more good old-fashioned squatters. Accounts with names like “libra coin wallet” were advertised as “Account for sale. DM to negotiate.”

Facebook spearheaded the Libra project along with 27 other companies, to form something called the Libra Association, which will be headquartered in Switzerland. The companies, comprised of everything from big credit card firms to venture capital shops, say that they’re just looking out for the little guy—the “unbanked.” But the experts say that the digital currency is likely to empower large companies and undermine small countries.

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And while the Libra Association promises it will be a responsible world citizen, many people are skeptical that Facebook along with companies like Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, and Uber, have our best interests at heart. Facebook has played fast and loose with user information for more than a decade and profits from the private information of its 2.38 billion users. They can’t even keep fake Libra scams of their platform, and it hasn’t even launched yet.

Still, in a statement provided to the Washington Post, a Facebook spokesperson said, “Facebook removes ads and pages that violate our policies when we become aware of them, and we are constantly working to improve detection of scams on our platforms.”

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that they’ve changed their ways, but it seems virtually impossible to actually hold the company accountable for its transgressions. The company is being fined a whopping $5 billion by the FTC, but after news of the settlement broke, Facebook’s stock actually went up 1.8 percent. Zuck built a monster that’s too big to fail.

To be safe, it’s probably just a good idea to stay away from any websites that promise to give you early access to Libra until it launches sometime in 2020. And even then, it might be a good idea to stay away for the foreseeable future.

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The Libra Association declined to comment about the scammers who are using the Libra name online

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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog