Scams in general has been around ever since humanity existed; and around 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 simply due to the pseudo-anonymous nature of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, allowing scammers to get away with huge heists with potentially little to no trace if they know what they’re doing.
The best way to not get caught up by these scams is to simply 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.
One of the most effective scams until today; not only in the cryptocurrency space, but in the world wide web in general.
A phishing scam is an attempt to steal account login information, credit/debit card information, your bitcoin or crypto wallet’s recovery phrase, or whatever valuable information that a bad actor can take advantage of, mostly through fake clone websites and software.
One simple way of scammers spreading phishing sites is through the Google ads platform. You do a simple Google search query, typing up “Binance”, and if you don’t use an ad blocker, there’s a decent chance that the top search result would be an advertisement.
It clearly says “www.binance.com/“, on the link text, 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 you’ve just opened is going to be something like “binancel.com“, “binancesite.co“, or something else that isn’t the legitimate “binance.com“.
Some of these methods are so tricky, as they use domains like “biṇaṇce.com“. You might not have noticed it immediately, but it’s actually an ‘ṇ‘, a Latin character.
Google ads is just one way of spreading phishing sites and software though. Other ways and methods of them spreading phishing sites and software includes:
- social media: scammers could create fake accounts Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media sites and communities in general, masquerading as certain companies(Ledger, Coinbase, Trezor, etc).
- hacked YouTube accounts: scammers have been hacking YouTube accounts with a decent number of subscribers and change the YouTube channel name to a certain company. They would then say that they’re conducting a “crypto giveaway” or something similar, while posting a video(live or not) with a link to a phishing site or to a download link of a fraudulent software.
- fake customer support: this is mostly happening on Reddit and Twitter, but it could happen on all social media sites. Scammers would target people who had made a post concerning issue(s) with certain services(Binance, Ledger Nano S/X hardware wallet, etc) by messaging them and sending them a link to a phishing site or to a download link of a fraudulent software.
Always keep your eyes peeled. Some hackers and scammers are extremely smart and they can create other more convincing ways to trick people into opening their phishing links. It’s heavily recommended for people to always check their browser’s address bar if they’re actually on the legitimate website.
Tips to not get phished:
- always do a double or triple check on your browser’s address bar to confirm that you’re actually on the legitimate website.
- install a well-known and reputable ad blocker like uBlock Origin on your browser, or use the Brave browser instead.
Fortunately, 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(mostly people in the tech industry). The scammer would then reply to the legitimate person’s tweet, saying something along the lines of:
As you can see, Elon Musk’s legitimate Twitter username is @elonmusk whereas the scammer is using the Twitter username @elonmusk___.
This scam should be pretty obvious, but unfortunately some people might still fall for it.
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.