Due to the pseudo-anonymous and digital nature of cryptocurrencies, scams are unfortunately still prevalent across the crypto landscape. By understanding how common crypto scams work and their shared attributes, investors can better avoid falling victim. In this guide, we’ll explore various examples of cryptocurrency scams and the patterns that connect them.
Fake Initial Coin Offerings
Fraudulent ICOs were rampant during the 2017 crypto bubble. Scammers launched fake projects, created professional websites, fabricated team credentials, and promoted the ICOs across forums to collect investor funds with no intent of building anything.
The commonalities were too-good-to-be-true returns promised, faked team profiles, «guaranteed» language, and pressure to invest quickly before the ICO sold out.
Pump and Dump Groups
Coordinated groups will suddenly buy a low market cap cryptocurrency to pump the price, which draws in unsuspecting investors. Once enough victims buy in, the pump group dumps their holdings to crash the price and profit from the losses.
Common traits are Telegram groups organizing the pumps, claims of «inside info», and price charts showing the classic pump and dump pattern.
Fake Crypto Exchanges
Scammers create glossy websites for fictional crypto exchanges to lure depositors. The sites look extremely legitimate with fake order books, analytics, user dashboards, etc. Once users deposit funds, they are unable to withdraw as the exchange is entirely fake.
Warning signs are no information on the team, promises of high returns, and no existing online reputation.
Malicious Smart Contracts
Deceptive developers create scam decentralized apps with smart contracts designed to drain deposited funds through code loops or technical exploits. Investors can take caution by reviewing contract audits, assessing the team, and validating market reception from a small initial investment.
Fake Crypto Wallets
Fake cryptocurrency wallets are launched to steal private keys and seed phrases. They are heavily marketed through app stores and Google ads.
Common clues are unknown developers, newly launched, promises of high yields, and requiring excessive permissions. Only use well-known established wallets.
Multi-Level Marketing Schemes
MLMs like OneCoin combine cryptocurrencies with traditional pyramid schemes for recruitment. Typical methods are requiring payment to join, rewarding members for recruiting others, outsized promised returns, pressure to join early, and complex multilevel compensation structures.
Ransomware hackers infiltrate computers and servers to encrypt data until crypto ransom is paid. Hallmarks include infiltrating older unpatched systems, demanding payment in privacy coins, threats of permanent data loss, and reliance on victims’ fears.
What are some tactics to keep from this? Upgrading defenses, backing up data, and avoiding downloading unverified content reduce exposure.
Fake Cryptocurrency Giveaways
Scammers impersonate celebrities or influencers by creating fake social media profiles. They promise free crypto giveaways if users first send a small amount to an address.
Common tactics are using verified profile pictures, creating hype around fake livestreams, and pressuring quick action before the bonus expires. Real giveaways are rare.
Phishing links are shared via social media, email, or text to lure users to fake crypto exchange or wallet login pages. Users input their credentials which are stolen.
Telltale signs are freshly registered domains, spelling errors, and insecure links without HTTPS. Avoid clicking random links and manually type site addresses.
Fake Cryptocurrency Reviews
Affiliate marketers are paid to write fake reviews and recommend worthless or scammy cryptocurrencies and services (we don’t do that ever!). Typical methods are undisclosed affiliate links, recommending obscure cryptos with no substance, and lots of hype language like «huge potential» without discussing risks.
That’s why it’s important to only read large web resources with a long domain history. And stay skeptical of crypto product reviews.
Bogus Cryptocurrency Investment Advice
Unqualified individuals will promote crypto «investment advice» with guaranteed returns or inside secrets. Tactics include paid group chats, discord groups, subscription services, and referral bonuses.
Remember: Genuine professional financial advice requires verified credentials. Ignore random online advisors.
Classic Ponzi schemes sell cryptocurrency «investment packs» with promises of high assured returns paid from new investors’ money.
Warning signs are consistent unrealistic returns regardless of markets, multi-level referral commissions, and withdrawals only after recruiting others. Government registration and transparency are lacking.
In an emerging industry like cryptocurrency, scammers unfortunately take advantage of hype and greed to run various fraud schemes. But by learning their common attributes like unregistered anonymity, pressure tactics, too-good-to-be-true returns, and lack of auditable transparency, crypto investors can detect and avoid potentially costly scams.
While cryptos have many legitimate applications, investors need to beware of scams and thoroughly research any opportunity. Warning signs like overly consistent returns, pressure tactics, overly complex methods, and anonymity should prompt caution. By learning common scam techniques and traits, cryptocurrency participants can better secure their funds from fraudulent schemes.