The Indian police have busted an online scam which cost around 650,000 users around $549 million or Rs 3,700 crore, reports The Indian Express. The officials have said that assets worth crores of rupees have been seized from the accused Anubhav Mittal, who ran the scam agencies Ablaze Info Solutions, Social Trade India, 3W Digital and Ms Intmaart India.
The accused propagated a false story claiming to receive Rs 6 per like on social media websites, and offered to pay Rs 5 per user that would like the post on their behalf. The agency apparently offered four systematic investment plans with different incentives depending on how much a user would pay to sign up for the service. The users that signed up were then sent fake links to like, post which the company promised to pay.
According to a Yahoo report, the ringleaders of the scam only started paying some users in August last year, although the scam has been on for many years. Since the payments, a lot more people signed up for the scam, and it looks like the owners got caught as the payouts ran dry.
Interestingly, the report mentions that officials found 250 passports of employees and members that were awarded a trip to Australia, which was to be later used as further promotional content. It’s surprising that the ringleaders kept running the scam till they got arrested, as higher popularity would increase the chances of getting caught – and with Rs 3,700 crore in funding, the scam sounds like it was wildly popular.
Essentially, the scammers ran the equivalent of a multi-level marketing scam, which encourage existing distributors to recruit new distributors by paying a percentage of the recruits’ sales. However, instead of actually having a product, the agency simply required users to like posts, making it even easier for the scam to go viral.