When Elon Musk began the development of Starlink, a satellite internet constellation, in 2015, his vision was to provide high-speed and stable internet access across the globe. Little did he know that SpaceX’s groundbreaking project would fall prey to a Bitcoin scam that had the potential to dupe many prospective users.
That’s precisely what happened when some unidentified scammers created a fake Starlink website in Persian that offered the service to users in Iran. The website is still operational, as of this writing.
The Toll of Bitcoin Scams
Now, if you’re familiar with the world of cryptocurrencies, you’d know that such scams have a huge financial and emotional impact. The confidential nature of Bitcoin transactions makes them difficult to trace.
That means you need professional help to get money back from a Bitcoin scammer if you become the victim of such fraudulent activities.
The silver lining is that social media users were quick to point out several inconsistencies in the fake Starlink website. It quickly led to the unveiling of the scam and potentially saved many people from getting duped.
So, what lessons can you draw from the incident to avoid falling into the trap of similar cryptocurrency scams in the future? Let’s find out.
Starlink Bitcoin Scam: How It All Started
The seeds of the recent scam were laid with the launch of a website that closely imitates the official Starlink website. However, the fraudulent website is in Persian and targets users in Iran. It claimed to offer Starlink’s services to people in Iran in exchange for advance payments made in Bitcoins.
The website demanded a monthly payment of $49 in addition to a one-time hardware fee of $249. Unlike the original Starlink website, the scammers first sent a form to users, asking them to fill out personal information, including their name, postal address, phone number, and email address.
Thereafter, the users received a second email with details of making the Bitcoin payment before they could start using Starlink’s satellite internet system.
While little is known about the identity of the scammers, the domain registration information of the fake “starlinkiran.com” website reveals that it’s listed under Dynadot LLC. On Better Business Bureau, Dynadot LLC is described as a web hosting company headquartered in San Mateo, California that has been in business for 18 years.
Why Did the Scam Work?
To begin with, residents in Iran have been facing widespread internet connectivity issues. The lure of getting their hands on Elon Musk’s internet service would’ve been too tempting to resist.
Also, as ardent followers of Elon Musk would know, the billionaire has been an active cryptocurrency influencer. So, it didn’t come across as unusual for the duplicate Starlink website to request payment in Bitcoin.
It’s worth noting here that Starlink’s official pricing includes a hardware fee of $499 and a monthly subscription fee of $99. The fake website claimed to offer connectivity at half the price. It’s only natural that some users thought they were getting a good bargain as early adopters of Starlink in Iran.
How Was the Scam Unveiled?
Despite the close resemblance of the duplicate website to Starlink’s official website, there were a few sketchy details that caught the attention of Reddit and Twitter users.
To begin with, Starlink doesn’t accept advance orders from users in regions where they haven’t launched their services. And there haven’t been any official announcements from SpaceX or Elon Musk about making Starlink available in Iran.
Also, the official Starlink website doesn’t ask for payments to be made in Bitcoin. Instead, you get to choose from a wide array of payment methods, including credit cards.
It’s also worth noting that Dynadot LLC, the parent company behind the fraudulent Starlink website, has barely any engagement on its social media profiles, despite having thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter.
The combination of these red flags quickly blew the lid of the scam and saved many users from the potential stress and financial repercussions.
Key Lessons for the Average User
This particular scam was quickly uncovered, but it doesn’t mean such fraudulent activities will cease to exist. In fact, earlier this year, Elon Musk impersonators pulled off a cryptocurrency scam, raking in more than $2 million in six months.
Incidents similar to the Starlink scam could gain traction in regions with internet connectivity problems.
The best way of protecting yourself from such scams is to never let your guard down. Make sure you check the official website and social media profiles of a company/brand before you decide to pay for their services.
Also, if a website appears sketchy, consider checking its domain registration details and learn more about the parent company.
Lastly, if an offer seems too good to be true, consider it a potential red flag. Check the official website to find out whether the company is running any promotional offer at the moment.
Getting your money back after falling into the trap of a Bitcoin scam is possible. But it can be excruciatingly difficult and requires the intervention of experts. Your best bet is to steer clear of such scams by exercising caution while doing Bitcoin transactions.