Vortax: a fake scam AI company. Just like the old ICO days!

  • Amy is busy with all manner of disconcerting nonsense that at least isn’t crypto. So let’s have some fun with a scammer while we wait for her!

Lots of AI companies sell a fake product — where the product doesn’t work or where the “completely automated” system is a lot of underpaid workers in a cheap country.

Amazon is the most recent example — their “Just Walk Out” shopping experience, which was allegedly using AI-backed cameras to replace cashiers, was really running on thousands of underpaid staff in India monitoring the screens. [Gizmodo]

But the AI scam cycle is at the stage where there’s money in creating companies that don’t exist.

The scam in this case appears to be trying to get someone to download a malwared video conferencing app in the hope of stealing their cryptos. It wasn’t entirely clear, though, because the scam wasn’t sufficiently functional to actually work.

Welcome to Vortax

Our source was contacted on Twitter by someone who said that a small venture capital firm with a podcast would like to do an episode with them. They’d done podcasts before, so that was fine and plausible. The podcast would be done using an app called Vortax.

Vortax’s claimed product is a Zoom clone that transcribes, summarises and translates meetings live. This is plausible — as a product that can’t possibly work properly yet, but someone would try to sell it anyway. Very AI.

Vortax’s address is listed on its Twitter as 1100 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario M6K 1E6, a mixed-use development with hireable working space. But there is no company called “Vortax” registered in Ontario.

This “Vortax” is not on Crunchbase — though there is a different (and real) company of that name, a web marketing firm in Colorado, who are innocent in this affair. [Crunchbase]


Vortax’s Twitter account is @vortaxspace. [Twitter, archive]

The account was created in 2022 — though there are no tweets before 2024. It’s a gold-tick paid account (a basic gold-verified account is $200 a month), with over 9,000 followers and six paying subscribers!

Most of the tweet stream is reposts of tweets from OpenAI and Scale AI. There are five original tweets, from 6 March and 13 March. All responses to the original tweets are obvious bots, some broken.

Medium blog

Vortax has a blog on Medium. The posts are on how to have a successful online meeting. All posts are from 7,8 and 9 December 2023. [Medium, archive]

More fun happens when you search for fragments of claimed customer quotes. If you compare Vortax’s post about charity site Every.org to a post on CB Insights about another video conferencing app, Vowel, you’ll see that the customer quotes are word-for-word identical — but altered to be about Vortax rather than Vowel! [Medium, archive; CB Insights]

Vowel actually sold the product that Vortax claims to sell, but there’s evidence for Vowel’s existence. [Vowel, archive]

Vortax lifts from other sources too. The post “60+ check-in questions for more engaging meetings” is a lightly AI-rewritten lift from AI-for-meetings startup Dive. [Medium, archive; Dive]


The Vortax website is at either vortax.space, vortax.io or vortax.app — all three worked yesterday, but as I write this vortax.space shows “This site is suspended” in Russian. vortax.io still works. They seem to change names a lot. [vortax.space, archive; vortax.io, archive; vortax.app, archive]

Have a look through the site and count the red flags:

  • There is no team page.
  • On the pricing page, none of the links to buy plans work. [Vortax, archive]
  • On the download page, none of the download links work. [Vortax, archive]
  • App Store and Google Play are both labeled “Comming Soon” — with a typo.

Our guy tried emailing Vortax at the email link on their site (support@vortax.space) about the typo on their download page — and the email bounced.

The website domain names weren’t registered until 3 and 4 January 2024, to a Russian registrar. This is odd for a company with a pile of Gartner badges for achievements in 2023 and whose Twitter was created in 2022. [who.is; who.is]

Don’t ask Y

Vowel’s video service was terminated as of 15 December 2023. The Vowel website last worked in February. [Vowel, archive of 3 April 2024, archive of 7 February 2024]

Most of the Vortax site seems to have been lifted from Vowel’s defunct site.

Here’s a customer testimony: “As a remote-first company, Vortax has laid the foundation for how we collaborate and learn from each other across time zones. Without it, we’d be screwed!”

Of course, this is actually a quote about Vowel.

Vortax’s blog page is called “And Sometimes Why”. That only works as a pun if, say, your company’s name is Vowel. [Vortax, archive]

Vowel also had all the Gartner badges that Vortax lays claim to.

The Twitter contact

The Twitter account which contacted our guy is mostly retweets with six original tweets over three days in December, all NFT pictures. The account also has a distinctive bio.

This account’s name, bio and avatar are copied from another crypto-bro-looking account with no original tweets at all. That account copied its bio from a third crypto-bro account — though this one has a months-long history as a perfectly normal crypto degen.

Our guy contacted the venture capital company that the first Twitter account claimed to work for. The CEO verified that the initial contact was lying.

The scam

These scammers have been active for a few months. There’s a couple of crypto guys calling out Vortax on Reddit r/cryptoscams. One said they were “part of a Japanese project seeking help for translation”; another said they were doing a crypto podcast. [Reddit; Reddit]

In both cases, the contact asked them to do the call over Vortax.

Game developer Alireza Jamali analysed the scam on LinkedIn. They approached Jamali with a recruitment scam. He got as far as downloading the software and examining it: [LinkedIn, archive]

Scam starts when you try to enter the room ID, a setup file is downloaded in order to install the video meeting app, but the problem is, the setup file is THE VIRUS. fortunately vortax.io is just a crypto miner run by a Russian guy and if you install it, no damage is done if you clean remove any trace in registry and startup, it could be a ransomware which would be devastating for the victims.

Jamali also details how to clean up after the Vortax malware, if you were unlucky enough to be deceived.

Vortax seems to have targeted a lot of crypto guys. I would expect the software to look for crypto wallets it can drain.

It only didn’t work when we tried it out because the download links weren’t working.

What to do?

This is a horribly plausible attack for me personally — because I always try to say yes to media requests, and quite often they have a favourite app they want you to use.

So if someone contacts you out of the blue and wants you to download software … pretend you’re writing a scam report on it. Check it out thoroughly.

Or ask to use something normal and not their weird software. Live AI voice translation is absolutely not at product stage as yet.

This sort of scam is also highly templatable. There’s a bit of human involvement, but quite a lot of this appears press-button. There are likely any number of scams along these lines. No doubt Vortax will set up again tomorrow under another name.

This is like a trip back to the golden age of ICO scams! Including the bit where none of this works properly and if you kick the tyres, the whole thing falls apart like a clown car.

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6 Comments on “Vortax: a fake scam AI company. Just like the old ICO days!”

  1. Gizmodo’s article linked in the introduction bears further investigation, as I have heard that they misunderstood the technical details and the headline claim that you repeated may be substantially false. The Indian workers are reportedly merely training the AI, not monitoring live transactions.

  2. On reading the article myself, it appears that Gizmodo’s claims (while disputed by Amazon) are reasonable based on their sources, but the sentence “The cashiers were simply moved off-site, and they watched you as you shopped.” is misleading, as the videos are being reviewed after the fact and not live. That is one valid reading of the phrase “as you shopped” but not how many people are understanding it, leading to further confusion.

  3. I walk past 1100 King W quite often. It’s an apartment building with some shops facing the street. Definitely nowhere for a tech firm to be situated.

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