Comparitech.com, the privacy advice and security comparison website, has discovered a phishing scam that has been going since 2015 and steals money from novice Bitcoin users who try to transfer funds anonymously. The phishing attack comes from an article that is the top search result in Google for ‘bitcoin mixing’.
The phishing links are hidden within an apparently legitimate article about Bitcoin mixing, the process of taking money from one Bitcoin account and breaking it into hundreds of smaller transactions so that it can be transferred to another account anonymously. The article poses as an informative tutorial with links to two popular Bitcoin mixing services – but the links are actually phishing sites that steal Bitcoin and leave people with no recourse to get it back.
The article appears as a top Google search result on the subject, and would therefore likely be trusted by many first-time users trying to transfer Bitcoin funds for the first time. Google typically removes links to scam websites from its search results, but the Bitcoin mixing article has stealthily been stealing bitcoins since July 2015. A r/grams Reddit thread pinned to the top of the forum is full of comments from people who have each lost hundreds of dollars, and new threads are created regularly by people who have been duped.
Lee Munson, security researcher at Comparitech.com explained: “Bitcoin mixing is commonly associated with illegal activity, but this scam isn’t just limited to criminals stealing from other criminals on the DarkNet. There are numerous legitimate reasons why people may choose to spend money anonymously, such as purchasing a VPN subscription or hiding money during periods of economic or political turmoil. As a result, there are scores of innocent people who could get caught up in this scam, and we therefore encourage Google to help.”
Without verified SSL certificates, it can be difficult to distinguish between phishing scams and genuine sites on the DarkNet. To help with this problem, privacy experts at Comparitech.com offer the following advice for users:
- Any link that takes you to a website on the Dark Web should be treated with utmost caution and do not click on a link that asks you to transfer money or share any information before you have verified it is a genuine service.
- We recommend corroborating onion links at multiple sources around the web to ensure the site you interact with is legitimate.
- Choose Bitcoin mixers with plenty of good feedback from multiple sources on the web.
- If you plan to mix a large sum of Bitcoin, start with the minimum amount as a test to ensure that your deposit goes through.
- Once you’ve got a working link, save it in an encrypted, password-protected note on your computer or external drive.
The full post is available here: https://www.comparitech.com/blog/vpn-privacy/bitcoin-mixing-phishing-scam/