Online scams has been around since the world wide web started; and almost a decade ago, it looks like scammers has found another industry to make money off– the cryptocurrency space. The cryptocurrency space is infested with scams due to the pseudo-anonymous nature of most coins and tokens, allowing scammers to get away with huge heists with potentially little to no trace.
The best way to not get caught up by these scams is simply to educate yourself and be extremely cautious in everything you see online in general.
Listed and described in this article are some of the common scams that are being used in the cryptocurrency space.
Phishing sites are scam sites that are masquerading as certain legitimate websites like exchanges and cryptocurrency wallet sites, tricking people that the website they’re in is the legitimate one by trying their best to copy the exact same look and feel of the website they’re copying.
Once the victim enters their login credentials on the phishing site, their login credentials would then be immediately sent to the scammer, then the scammer would quickly login to the victim’s wallet/exchange and withdraw the funds to the scammer’s wallet.
Phishing sites mostly appear on Google and other search engine’s ads, though they can also be spread through social media sites and forums.
Here’s an example: You do a simple search query, typing up “Binance” or “Binance exchange”, and so if you don’t use an ad blocker, there’s a good chance that the search top result would be an advertisement.
It clearly says “www.binance.com/“, on the displayed link, but when you actually click on the link and take look at your browser’s address bar, there’s a decent chance that the site is going to be something like “binancel.com“, “binancesite.co“, or something else that isn’t the legitimate “binance.com“.
Some scammers are even so tricky, as they use domains like “biṇaṇce.com“. You might not have noticed it immediately, but it’s actually a ‘ṇ‘, a latin character(a letter ‘n’ with a dot below it).
Take note that this doesn’t only occur on exchanges. These phishing scams exist also to steal Facebook and other social media accounts, online banking accounts, the list goes on.
Always keep your eyes peeled. Some hackers and scammers are very smart, and can create other ways to trick people into opening their phishing links.
Another way of scammers spreading phishing links besides through search engine ads is though email or direct messaging on social media and forums. Scammers may pretend to be a company employee and email or message you something along the lines of: “Your account has been locked due to suspicious activity. Click on the link below to unlock your account“; and the link they’ve given you would actually be a phishing link.
Common signs of a phishing site:
- The site is using a different URL – no matter how similar the URL is to the website you’re planning on using, if it’s not the exact URL then it’s most likely a phishing site. (e.g. colnbase.com instead of coinbase.com).
- The site doesn’t have a secure badge.
NOTE: Phishing and scam sites can also have secure badges
- The site’s appearance and overall feel looks strange or weird; as some phishing sites are unable to copy the original website with 100% accuracy.
Common sites being used for phishing
- Coinbase, Binance, Bitfinex, and other exchanges
- MyEtherWallet, Blockchain Wallet, and other wallet sites
- Online banking sites
- Social media sites
Tips to not get phished:
- always do a double or triple check on your browser’s address bar and confirm if you’re actually on the legitimate website.
- install an ad blocker on your browser, or use Brave browser instead.
- don’t do a Google search on the website you’re planning on opening. Instead, type the URL manually and accurately on your browser’s address bar; or better, save the legitimate website as a bookmark on your browser.
Twitter Giveaway Scams
As of recently, fortunately, the Twitter giveaway scams have died down a bit. Though they could still appear on Twitter once in a while.
Twitter giveaway scams are pretty straightforward. The scammer would make a fake Twitter account masquerading as a famous person in the cryptocurrency industry or technology industry in general, then the scammer would then reply on the legitimate person’s tweet, saying something along the lines of:
As you can see, Elon Musk’s legitimate Twitter account’s handle is @elonmusk whereas the scammer is using the Twitter handle @elonmusk___.
This scam should be pretty obvious, but unfortunately some people still fall for it.
Investment scams/Ponzi schemes
Investment scams has existed pretty much since the internet was first gaining traction.
Investment scams and ponzi schemes mostly have well-designed websites that claims to give you 10% profit daily from your initial deposit or something along those lines.
They ask you to deposit a certain amount of money(or crypto, in this case), and promise a certain amount in return daily, weekly, or monthly. Some investment scams allow you to withdraw your profit for a while, in the hopes of you depositing more money, then they simply lock up your account after a while. Losing you access to your funds.
Today, most of these scams mostly pretend to be “trading bots“, “cloud mining“ sites, “bitcoin/crypto investment“ sites, etc.
Yes, some people do make money off these sites, by using the site’s referral program. If you invite another person into the program and get the person to deposit money, you get a small percentage off the deposit. These scam sites mostly use referral programs to get people to spread these scams online for them; sometimes even to the point of YouTubers spreading them, causing a huge number of people to fall for these scams.
If you wanted to invest in the cryptocurrency market, buy the coins or tokens yourself using a reputable exchange and hold them on your own secure wallet.
Some famous crypto-related ponzi scams in the past:
Pump and dump schemes
Pump and dump schemes are pretty easy to spot, as pump and dump group leaders usually advertise them as “trading signal groups“, or sometimes even straight-off shamelessly advertise them as “pump groups”.
The scheme is pretty straightforward: The group leader asks his/her members to buy a certain coin/token that is quite low in marketcap to make the price far easier to manipulate, claiming that it will rise or “pump” in price.
The thing is, before the group leader announces which coin/token to buy, the leader already bought a significant amount of that certain coin/token, so the leader can sell them in a significantly higher price. The price of that coin/token does then increase because of the group members buying loads of the specific coin/token, while the leader is selling at higher prices; earning the group leader significant amounts of profit, sometimes even as high as 10x.
How do you not fall into these schemes? Easy. Simply don’t join these groups, and invest wisely.
Initial Coin Offerings or ICOs is quite similar to crowdfunding whereas the company/team accepts BTC/ETH from the people in exchange for a certain amount of their coins/tokens, depending on how much you sent them.
ICOs aren’t really scams as some are definitely legitimate, but a big percentage of ICOs are indeed either scams, or are bound to fail. Unfortunately, some well-made ICO scams are quite hard to detect as a scammer could create a legitimate well-thought project and simply just not deliver the product and run away with the money. Though there are some characteristics that could be enough proof for you to stay away from certain ICOs.
For a more in-depth guide about ICO scams: Detecting Scam ICOs
Gambling/exchange site deposit scams
This scam usually takes place by someone asking the victim to use a certain gambling site, and them saying that they gave the victim some free bitcoin to start playing/gambling with. If the victim attempts to withdraw the funds, the website then asks the victim to deposit a certain amount of bitcoin, claiming that deposit to be for the “withdrawal fees”; but in fact, the victim is sending the bitcoin to the hacker’s bitcoin wallet. After the victim made a deposit, the scammer then runs away with the deposited bitcoin.
This scam usually is being attempted via private messages on forums and some social media sites, to prevent people from calling out the scammer.
You can easily avoid this scam by simply not entertaining such offers on private messages or emails.