Istanbul, Turkey is awash in billboards advertising new crypto offerings from virtual asset exchanges, but Binance — the world's largest crypto exchange by trading volume — recently discovered that some of its billboards in the city are, in fact, illegitimate and fraudulent.
On Monday, Binance's Turkish branch announced that scam artists have plastered fake Binance billboards throughout the country, many featuring a fake number answered by crypto thieves.
Some of the scam artists are leading Turkish investors astray with false phone numbers promising opportunities that will never materialize, in exchange for users sharing private information like their seed phrases, which would enable access to their crypto wallet, or even asking users to register an entirely new account.
Binance Turkey has taken to Twitter to warn customers in the country about the scheme renting billboards, claiming: "For a while, billboards similar to the image below have been striking in different regions of Turkey. [This] has nothing to do with #Binance!” The company added that it would pursue action against those who are "clearly involved in fraudulent activities.”
Binance has expanded its presence in the country, launching its first 24-hour customer service center this past April. Part of its motivation has been to stop fraud and assist customers seeking help with their crypto transactions.
Binance is not the only crypto exchange plunging deeper into the Turkish market. Coinbase is mulling a nearly $3.2 billion acquisition of Turkish crypto exchange BtcTurk.
Cryptocurrency has exploded in popularity in the country, thanks to a depreciating Turkish lira, high inflation and interest rate cuts.
According to Reuters, daily trading volume in cryptocurrency now surpasses 1 million trades per day.
Last year, Turkey's central bank imposed a ban on cryptocurrencies for goods and services: "Their use in payments may cause non-recoverable losses for the parties to the transactions… and include elements that may undermine the confidence in methods and instruments used currently in payments,” the central bank said.
In particular, Istanbul expressed concern about the high transaction risks associated with virtual assets and the "irreparable" damage they might cause to the economy.