You may not have heard very much about QAnon in recent months, but believers in the right-wing conspiracy theory are very much still around.
And those believers are proving to be easy-to-dupe marks for influential QAnon promoters looking to make money.
Two QAnon influencers are using their cachet within their conspiratorial communities to prey on their followers and bilk them out of millions of dollars via cryptocurrency scams, according to a new report by the tech-based fact-checking firm Logically.
Using their large followings on Telegram, QAnon influencers Whiplash347 and PatriotQakes have promoted numerous fraudulent tokens to their followers on the messaging platform. The two, along with other leaders in the chats, frequently weaponize QAnon conspiracy theories in order to sucker their fans into investing in their various cryptocurrency schemes.
According to Logically’s research, the two mainly use their Telegram channels to run their scams. Whiplash347, an anonymous QAnon influencer, has built a Telegram channel with 277,000 subscribers thanks to his promotion of QAnon conspiracy theories over the years. PatriotQakes — who, unlike Whiplash347, has also gone by her real name, Emily Tang — also runs the Quantum Stellar Initiative (QSI) Telegram channel, which has 30,000 subscribers.
“I am without doubt that Whiplash347, Emily, and QSI are scam artists,” said a former admin of the QSI chats, Rocky Morningside, to Logically. “[They] were promoting pump and dumps, and this appeared to be a very large and well organized Ponzi Scheme.”
Logically’s detailed report follows just how these crypto scams played out on the Stellar blockchain. Stellar, a network like Bitcoin or Ethereum, allows anyone to create their own tokens in “5 easy steps.” The QAnon influencers would create scam tokens and then transfer their holdings out for real money or more establish cryptocurrency after telling their followers to invest. This is commonly known as a “rug pull” in the crypto space. The tokens were created under the domain name “Indus.Gold,” and the QAnon influencers would tell their followers that the crypto was backed by a real New York bank with a similar name. In fact, many of the scam cryptocurrencies followed a similar naming pattern in order to make them sound connected to an actual real company. Logically found that none of these tokens had any connections to the companies they were named after.
For example, Sungold token, which was pitched to their followers as being “backed by a Kazakh gold mine,” was supposedly “linked” to a Russian company of the same name. Logically could not find any information to back this claim up. This scam, however, netted the QAnon influencers approximately $2 million according to Logically.
Followers of the vast right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon have a number of outrageous and obviously false beliefs. The movement itself was built upon the lie that former President Donald Trump was trying to takedown a global Satanic child sex trafficking ring run by baby-eating Hollywood elites and members of the Democratic Party.
The QAnon influencers appear to use these conspiracies in their money-making schemes. The channels release investment advice regarding which cryptocurrency assets to buy into. They would claim this investing knowledge came from “secret military intelligence” and that this meant they “knew which assets were going to succeed.” According to the Logically report, the Telegram chat leaders would also reference supposed connections to “Donald Trump, Elon Musk, and JFK Jr,” and claim that “aliens will facilitate a ‘quantum’ wealth transfer to the followers.”
QAnon followers have long-believed that JFK Jr., President John F. Kennedy’s deceased son is still alive and a supporter of Trump. In fact, Whiplash347 was a major disseminator of conspiracy theories about the Kennedy’s. The Telegram channel was a major influence on some of the more cult-like QAnon phenomena, including an assembly at Dealey Plaza in Texas last year, during which adherents believed that the assassinated former president was going to reveal that he was actually alive.
In YouTube videos discovered by Mashable, Tang would utilize other common QAnon beliefs about the “banking cabals” and news media to sell her followers on these scam crypto assets.
According to Logically, their research led to a Telegram support group made-up of those who were scammed by the two QAnon influencers and were trying to warn others. A survey in that chat found that between 52 people who responded, a total of $223,494 was estimated to have been lost in these crypto scams.
In addition, Logically spoke to the family of one individual who lost more than 98 percent of his $100,000 investment into these QAnon influencers’ crypto scams. The family says the man later took his own life over “losing his house and construction business due to unpaid debts.”
And there’s one more wrinkle to the report: Logically believes that it is “likely” that the original Whiplash347 isn’t the one running the Telegram channel of the same name anymore.
Logically determined in its report that currently “the group mostly contains forwarded messages from other crypto investing groups, and contains far fewer Q-related posts than it did at the account’s inception.”