Fraudsters use Leo Varadkar’s image to trick investors into buying non-existent cryptocurrency online

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Online scammers have misused Leo Varadkar’s photo to try to trick people into investing thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.

Google is investigating fake ads that have appeared on respected websites.

It comes as vulnerable people in Ireland have allegedly lost millions of euros in cryptocurrency-based fraud.

In a separate scam, one victim allegedly lost €1 million, while many others were robbed of €50,000-200,000 after being tricked into buying non-existent cryptocurrency.

In the latest crypto scam, which features an image of Mr. Varadkar without his permission, readers are told that “Leo is under a lot of pressure” and that “banks are suing him after he reveals his source of income.”

He then creates a false narrative about Mr. Varadkar, claiming that he encourages people to invest their money in cryptocurrency for big returns.

The advert, designed to make it appear as a legitimate news article, claims Mr Varadkar is ‘honest about how he makes his money’ and appeared on The late show to announce a new “escape from riches”, which says “it can turn anyone into a millionaire in three-four months”.

The fake advert states: “Leo has urged everyone in Ireland to take advantage of this incredible opportunity before the big banks shut it down for good.”

The scam, which appeared in advertisements served automatically by Google on legitimate news websites, but which are not controlled by those sites, misquotes him as saying, “My number one money-maker is a new cryptocurrency autotrading program.” It uses the American spelling of program.

It encourages the reader to deposit up to €25,000 for “immediate” returns.

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The false cryptocurrency investment advertisement with the image of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

The false cryptocurrency investment advertisement with the image of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

The ad falsely claims the program is backed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

It also features a fake profile of a smiling family who say they’ve made a big comeback after “struggling to make ends meet”.

A Tánaiste spokesperson said: “The government is already tightening regulations around online misrepresentation. But it is also the responsibility of all websites to ensure that they do not contain false, incorrect, misleading or defamatory material.

A Google spokesperson said: “User protection is our top priority and we have strict advertising policies that govern the types of ads and advertisers we allow on our platforms. We continue to invest significant resources to stop bad actors and we are constantly evaluating and updating our policies and improving our technology and we will continue to work hard to keep our users safe.

Mr Varadkar joins a growing list of high profile people who have been targeted by online scammers.

In January, broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan settled her claim in the High Court over false and misleading adverts posted on Facebook.

She took legal action after fake adverts, which appeared online in 2018 containing her image and name, falsely claimed she had quit her job at RTÉ. Prime time skincare product promotion program.

Irish celebrities such as Vogue Williams, Ryan Tubridy, Pat Kenny and Graham Norton have also had their photos hijacked by online scammers in recent months.

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