Attention, money. Five examples of manipulative advertising on Telegram channels

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In a highly competitive environment, Telegram channels promote content under the guise of cash payments or bonuses.

Detector Media systematically investigates Ukrainian segment of Telegram, so we came across suspicious messages. Users are sent contextual ads via bots or private Telegram channels. Most often, it refers to cash payments or bonuses. The amounts and methods of receiving them vary, but the link leads to other Telegram channels. Visually, this ad is similar to the scam we described earlier (you can read here , here і here ). So, we decided to check who/what is behind such a specific advertisement.

Option one. The Ukraine Online Telegram bot informs the recipient that they can apply for and receive four thousand hryvnias from the state. The message is designed in the style of the state program “Eupidpryamka”, and even its logo is also used. To receive the payment, they offer a list of banks and a supposedly separate link for each of them. In fact, all of them are the same and direct to the closed telegram channelUkraine 24/7.

The channel was launched in May 2021. The channel has 750 thousand subscribers. The channel’s owners publish an average of 91 posts per day with an average reach of 200 thousand. This channel most often shares the posts of the telegram channel “Ukraine in Shock | Lyman | Kherson | Svatovo | Kremenna” (almost 202 thousand subscribers, the average reach of one post is just over 43 thousand). This channel is older, created in April 2019. There is mutual citation between channels.

Option two. The recently created (in May 2022) private telegram channel “Right to Know” (almost 106 thousand subscribers) sends out advertisements for alleged UN international assistance. They say they give everyone 6600 hryvnias – 2200 hryvnias for three months. Again, they appeal to the fact that today is the last day to submit an application and give a list of banks where it will be more convenient to receive it. Clicking on the link, we see an offer to join the closed channel “Russian Ship Go F*ckYourself”. It was created in December 2020, but apparently had a different name. The channel now has about 300 thousand subscribers. On average, 83 thousand people read the post. The content of the channel is quite specific: it includes posts from the official channels of Volodymyr Zelenskyi, Andrii Biletskyi, Oleksandr Pavliuk, and the State Service for Communications, as well as content from pro-Russian telegram channels Sheptun, Taisnyi Deputata, etc.

Option three. The Telegram bot “Attention, it is important” sends a notification that your mobile account has been replenished with 250 hryvnias for Internet connection until the end of martial law. To receive the bonus, you are offered to choose a mobile operator from the list. However, instead of the expected bonus, they offer to subscribe to the closed channel “News Online | Ukraine“. The channel has just over 75 thousand subscribers. About 15 thousand people read the posts. The channel is part of the News and Media category and is similar to an information resource.

Option four. The private telegram channel “Right to Know” warns that “today the president signed a new law” according to which every Ukrainian will allegedly receive assistance in connection with Russian aggression. Then they offer to choose their age to get three thousand hryvnias. In addition, in order to grab the reader’s attention, the message offers to “find out your new salary,” “connect Elon Musk’s Internet for free and “get 250 hryvnias of assistance fromKyivstar. All the links lead to the closed channel “Ukraine News War” created in June 2020. The channel currently has just over 190 thousand subscribers. From the list of channels he reposts, we can conclude that this channel is focused mainly on entertainment content with interspersed messages about the war.

Option five. The same private telegram channel “Right to Know” again offers “only once” to receive three thousand hryvnias because of Russian aggression, which should be paid by Privatbank, Monobank or Oschadbank. The message also uses the logos of these institutions. The link leads to the closed channel “UKRAINE 24/7 (News)”. He currently has almost 63,000 subscribers, but their number has been rapidly decreasing over the past month. Perhaps this is what motivated the channel owners to turn to promotion specialists.

It was not possible to study theRight to Knowchannel in detail. It is closed. The channel’s audience has grown significantly over the past month (by almost 40 thousand). In the description of the channel, the author notes: “I am a Ukrainian, I write about the war and not only. Donate? No thanks, I’d rather subscribe to the channel“. The channel mainly distributes content about the situation in Ukraine, news from the frontline, etc. Using the message archive, we found a message on this channel about “promotional draws” of 2500 hryvnias for subscribing to the Tesla Telegram channel. At least they look more honest than manipulating payments.

The author of the channel does not shy away from manipulating messages about the nuclear threat.

Again, the links hide advertisements for the Ukrainska Pravda (Voyna, Novosti) channel (this is not the channel of the real Ukrainska Pravda) and directs to the Good Evening We Are From… channels – the text depends on which region you select.

The channel also featured gambling advertising:

All this was published on the Right to Know channel in October. It is probably because of this kind of advertising content that the channel’s author does not need donations from his readers.

We also found the Aldo Agency Telegram channel. He was listed as a contact for advertising on several of the previously described Telegram channels. In the description, the authors write: “Do you want the freshest and most exciting content? Contact us and we will make your channel an interesting read. Individual approach to each client“. Apparently, for their own promotion, the channel’s authors posted a list of clients, including, in particular: “All Seeing Eye”, “Top_news | News of Ukraine”, “Typical Ukrainianа, “Emergency”, “Kyiv Movement TG”, “Russian Ship Go…”, “Pravda Ukraina”, “News of Ukraine”, “Country of Ukraine”, “Through the eyes of a Ukrainian”, “News 24/7 War”, “Ukrainian Truth”, “Ukraine News War”, “Voice of Ukraine | War”, “Ukraine 24/7 | News | War”, “ARMY | Online”, “Good evening, we are from Kyiv (Lviv, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia and Vinnytsia)”, “Nihuevaya Ukraina”, “News 24/7“, “Ukraine without censorship”, “Insider writes”, “Glorious Lviv”, “Kyivsky Dvuh, Virus News, World in Polls, Ukrainian Show Business, RED NEWS|UKRAINE, Realities of Ukraine, Slavnyi Kharkiv, Volyn Holovne.

Telegram channels are now the most popular source of news for Ukrainians. Naturally, with such a wide range of choices, channel owners face the issue of content promotion and competition for subscribers. However, is it worth manipulating users’ attention with promises of financial assistance and payments? Especially in the context of a major war, when many Ukrainians are in need and really need money. However, as we can see, the platform’s non-transparent and ineffective moderation rules do not create sufficient barriers to such fraud.

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