February 24, 2024

Facebook scammers have been targeting users in the Middle East with ads that include purported “investment opportunities” for funding legitimate retail organizations.

In reality, the pages are ploys for duping consumers into sinking money into the fraudsters’ pockets. Research from Group-IB and the UAE Cybersecurity Council found that the campaign, which ran last December, included 884 unique scam pages, with 60% of them targeting users from the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

The sprawling effort, while now defunct, is emblematic of a dangerous trend not just for consumers, but also for retailers, according to Sharef Hlal, head of Group-IB’s Digital Risk Protection Analytics Team for MEA.

He notes that legitimate retail investment offerings from well-known brands are common in the region, and they’ve proven to be popular, with investment growing and the process of buying and selling shares becoming ever easier through online platforms.

“We note the ever-increasing number of retail investors worldwide, as both wealthy, middle-class, and even low-income individuals look to put their income to work, especially with the growing proliferation of investment apps and portals available online,” he says.

Given how normalized such schemes are, it’s little wonder that cyber scammers are seeing an opportunity in masquerading as well-known brands offering funding opportunities, he explains.

“[Middle East] countries are renowned for their prosperity and the pace of their…

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