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Beware of These Top 5 Bitcoin Scams
The value of bitcoins goes up, and then it comes back down. The press is all over the story. Pundits and market watchers all have their opinion and voice it loudly across the airwaves and the Internet.
Bitcoin has taken us all on quite a rollercoaster ride. Only time will tell whether this cryptocurrency, which has been controversial since its introduction in 2008, will continue booming or if the bubble will burst and prompt more people to short-sell Bitcoin.
One thing is certain: Bitcoin’s meteoric rise has attracted a lot of attention. People may not understand the technology or philosophy behind Bitcoin, but they do see stories of early adopters and savvy investors who turned a few thousand bucks into millions when Bitcoin’s value increased.
And they want to be one of them.
Unfortunately, that puts them in a position—along with veteran investors—to be victims of opportunistic con artists and hackers who perpetrate Bitcoin scams. One of the benefits of cryptocurrency is that it’s unregulated by the government and very private. But that also makes it ripe for fraud.
Let’s check out the top five Bitcoin scams you need to look out for:
Bitcoin Scam 1: Fake Bitcoin Exchanges
In 2020, South Korean financial authorities and the local Bitcoin community exposed one of the most insidious Bitcoin scams: a fake exchange called BitKRX. It presented itself as part of the largest trading platform in the country and took people’s money. To avoid this, you should stick with popular, well-known Bitcoin exchanges and Bitcoin forums so you get news of fakes quickly.
Bitcoin Scam 2: Ponzi Schemes
Bernie Madoff is perhaps the most well-known Ponzi schemer. He did it with mainstream investments. But the principle of a pyramid scheme, in which you take money from new investors to pay previous investors, can be applied to Bitcoin scams. MiningMax, one such scheme, brought in $200 million before 14 fraudsters were arrested. As you can imagine, the investors never got any returns on their Bitcoin investments.
Bitcoin Scam 3: Fake Cryptocurrencies
A common scam is to present a new cryptocurrency as an alternative to Bitcoin. The idea is that it’s too late to cash in on Bitcoin and that you need to invest in one of these up-and-coming cryptocurrencies. My Big Coin was shut down for this reason. The fraudsters behind My Big Coin took $6 million from customers to invest in the fake cryptocurrency and then redirected the funds into their personal bank accounts.
Bitcoin Scam 4: Old School Scams
If somebody emailed or called and said they were from the IRS and that you owed back taxes that had to be paid immediately, would you send them money? Many people do. Instead of having the victim wire money via Western Union or transfer funds to a bank account, con artists are contacting victims and demanding that victims transfer bitcoins. The best way to avoid this scam is to be skeptical of phone calls or emails that say they’re from a government agency. Legitimate authorities wouldn’t contact you that way, and they won’t ask for bitcoins.
Bitcoin Scam 5: Malware
Malware has long been a way for hackers to get passwords needed to access computer networks or steal credit card and bank account numbers. Now they’re using it to conduct another one of the most common Bitcoin scams. If your Bitcoin wallet is connected to the Internet, they can use malware to get access and drain your funds if you’re not protecting yourself from malware.
You can download malware by clicking links in your email. You can also download it from websites and social media. There might be a post, for example, where someone claims a certain program allows you to mine bitcoins for free. Download it, and you get malware.
When in Doubt, Verify
If you’re not sure of a website or email’s legitimacy, contact the company involved directly. If you can’t find the company’s contact information easily on social media or on its website, that’s a red flag.
Don’t Fall Victim to Bitcoin Scams
Bitcoin is a volatile enough investment as it is. Don’t increase your chances of losing money by falling prey to these Bitcoin scams. Stay alert for potential fraudsters and trust your instincts. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
10+ Cryptocurrency Fraud and Scams You Need to Pay Attention to
The most (un)common cryptocurrency fraud and scams you need to look out for
Cryptocurrency is not exactly a newfangled contraction; the idea of a decentralized digital asset was coined in the late ‘80s by David Chaum, the American cryptographer whose works ignited the computer science revolution that gave birth to Bitcoin, Blockchain, Altcoin, and a whole new way of looking at monetary transactions.
But cryptocurrency fraud is one of the looming dangers of this new digital opportunity. Here’s how you can make sure you don’t fall for it.
The Birth of Bitcoin
Ecash, the first form of cryptocurrency and Chaum’s brainchild, was launched in 1983 as an alternative to paper money. Digicash, the company regulating this novel ‘non-corporeal’ monetary asset, managed to raise over $10 million in a span of a decade.
The concept was sound and the idea of getting rid of traditional money appealed to the general public. And in 2009, a group called Satoshi Nakamoto launched Bitcoin, which was unanimously considered the first (and true) decentralized digital currency.
With the advent of a new era of non-bank-dependent digital currency, numerous Bitcoin alternatives were seeded on the market. Altcoins they’re called and, at the moment, there are over 4,000 of them in use.
Living the dream, right? Well, not my intention of casting a dark cloud over this brave new world, but wherever money’s involved, there’s bound to be someone trying to bamboozle a goose.
Cryptocurrency fraud, the subject du jour, has gained quite a foothold, with hundreds of thousands of people being swindled every day. Not exactly breaking news, but the ploys have become so intricate, that it’s increasingly difficult to tell apart the fake from the legit one.
Hence this little handy hand-guide will tell you all about the wondrous world of crypto scams and how to avoid them. Let’s start with a rundown of the most (un)common scams.
SECURE YOUR ONLINE BROWSING!
As a rule of thumb, you should never accept crypto-trading with companies or startups that are not blockchain-powered. In layman’s terms, that means that all transaction data can be tracked and reviewed.
Furthermore, before committing to a company or another, you may want to review their credentials – look for status quo indicators such as adherence to initial coin offerings rules and digital currency liquidity.
That’s about it at a glance. Up next, we’re going to dive into the most common and uncommon cryptocurrency scams. Enjoy (or not).
Fake ICOs (initial coin offerings)
Here’s how ICOs are defined:
“An ICO is a type of funding using cryptocurrencies. Mostly the process is done by crowdfunding but private ICOs are becoming more common. An ICO is a quantity of cryptocurrency sold in the form of tokens or coins to investors or speculators, in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. The tokens sold are promoted as future functional units of currency if or when the ICO’s funding goal is met and the project launches. In some cases, like Ethereum the tokes are required to use the system for its purposes.”
Impeccable textbook definition, don’t you think? But what does it really mean? Let’s water it down a little. Imagine the following scenario: assume, for a moment, that you’re running a tech company that has come up with an entirely new cryptocurrency management system or a crypto coin. All fine and dandy, but how on Earth are you going to raise enough money to streamline your idea?
Certainly, you can try to go through banks or call up some capitalist investors, but that would mean dividing or even giving up the ownership of your small business. Fortunately, there’s a better way to go about this – the ICO.
First, you will need to get the attention of some people willing to invest in your idea. Not so fast; to pull this off, you will also need a way to show your future partners that your idea is sound. You can do that by creating a crackerjack whitepaper.
It’s essentially the documentation that proves that your crypto idea works and is, of course, worth the money. You should also consider setting up a website to increase your company’s credibility.
The second step you should take would be to convince the interested partners to give you some of their money in exchange for a small amount of your ‘homemade’ currency.
The point is to up the currency’s rate of circulation and usage of thereof. That, in turn, will increase the value of your newly-created digital asset which translates into a steady cash flow for your company. In this case, the incentive would be a higher return on investment.
Sorry for the rather long detour, but it’s important for you to know the mechanics behind ICOs in order to understand how scams work and how swindlers act. Enter fake or fraudulent ICOs which are specifically engineered to bleed cash from naïve investors.
How do they do that, you ask? By promising astronomical gains in the span of a couple of weeks. For instance, by spinning the fake crypto coin’s white paper (that would the project’s documentation I was telling you about), the fraudster will attempt to lure in investors by promising them astronomical gains (100x or even 1,000x) in a short amount of time – try a couple of weeks or event days.
Fake ICOs count as some of the most common types of cryptocurrency scams. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, the scales kind of tipped in the ‘favor’ of the fake one.
In fact, according to a Bloomberg study, over 80 percent of ICOs are fraudulent, with less than 8 percent reaching out. Yes, they can be avoided, but we will talk more about that in the third part of this article.
Another cryptocurrency scam is the so-called shady or overnight exchange. How does that work, you ask? Let’s assume for a moment that you want to exchange your digital token for a better-performing crypto coin.
One would naturally assume that this is what every crypto coin possessor should aim for if he (or she) is looking to increase gains. The best way to go about this would be to exchange your coin with another that outperforms it.
Still, before you go full wolf of Wall Street on this one, consider choosing a legit and regulated cryptocurrency broker or exchange system. Why? Because you would risk losing your entire portfolio by tying them in a venture that simply sounds too good to be true.
Shady exchanges tend to follow a similar pattern – boy has crypto-money, boy finds better price, boy makes deposit coaxed by shady deal-man, boy asks about how the deal’s performing.
Teary-eyed deal-man says that he couldn’t upscale the business, the price dropped, and that the coins are worth zilch. The dénouement – the shady dealer gets your coins and you end up with a dent in your wallet.
There’s nothing wrong in picking up an app to manage your cryptocurrency portfolio – plenty to choose from and, speaking on behalf of the vast majority, they’re great-look and easy to use.
Yes, I know that you know that there’s a big “but” around the bend, but it is an article on cryptocurrency fraud. Lately, a great deal of fraudulent wallets has been discovered on Google’s Play Store.
Though Google is making efforts to root these posers, their efforts are hindered by malicious developers which seed them by the hundreds. Anyways, the latest crypto-wallet apps to be cloned was Trezor. So, what happens when you use one of these apps to manage your portfolio? Money goes in and, poof, it melts into nothingness. User beware!
Pyramid schemes (Ponzi)
Handsome son of a gun, isn’t he? Meet Charles Ponzi or the reason why the dictionary people added a new entry under the word “pyramid”. Yup, he’s the mastermind behind the eponymous lurk. Never heard of it? That’s all right; it just means you haven’t had any dealings with hedge funds and private equity.
Pulling this off is does not require a Ph.D. in rocket science; just the right amount of guile. The idea is to coax as many people as possible to invest in, well, something.
Ponzi managed to pull this off with postage stamps, so why wouldn’t it work with cryptocurrency? The pyramid scheme in a nutshell: the scammer comes up with a ‘foolproof’ investment scheme. Enters the goose, just ready to be plucked. The swindler will persuade the goose to tie his money into this outstanding venture, promising higher gains.
The goose will then invest a sum amount in the idea. But that’s not all – the initial investors now have the job to bring in new investors if they want to get a share of that dough or, in this case, digital coins.
Once the new investors step in, the older ones begin getting payouts. And it goes merely on until the new investors well run dry. In the end, the only one who stands to win is the scammer.
When all else fails, you will always have the ‘classics’ to fall back to. A while back, I wrote an article about just how effective PayPal phishing scams are, even though everyone knows about them and how they work (ironic, isn’t it?).
Pretty easy to imagine how this type of scam works – using psychological manipulation, the scammer will trick you into revealing your username, password, or billing information. The most commonly used tactics are Punycode and the so-called fake Airdrops. So, how does this work?
Simply put, the scammer sends the user a link that sends him to a fake page. Naturally, this page looks exactly like a legit crypto-trading service. On top of that, the pot is sweetened by a free Airdrop. In most cases, the users are asked to send a certain number of Bitcoins or Ether to a spiked MyEtherWallet.
Considered to be the most devastating weapon in a scammer’s arsenal, impersonation scams are very hard to detect and, therefore, to counter. This is what in cybersecurity lingo is called a multi-vector attack.
First, the impersonator must gather as much information as he can about the victim. Up next, there’s the company on behalf of which he will attempt to contact the victim. Of course, this also involves calling up some vital info.
For instance, in some cases, the scammers posed as the project owner or even the company’s CEO in order to lure the victim with a once-in-a-lifetime offer.
Here’s where the multi-vector attack comes into play – using a combination of social engineering, phishing, and cold-calling, the scammer will coax the victim into investing his crypto coins into his idea.
As I said, impersonation scams are very hard to detect simply because the scammers know how to do their homework. The only possible defense once can think of might be having some inside info on the company.
Careful who you trust with your cryptocurrency portfolio. There are dozens of unregulated online brokers and exchanges and, like in most scamming schemes, they lure customers with low prices, competitive trading products, and quick returns.
After you make the deposit, it will become increasingly hard to withdraw your money. For instance, they would ask for high commissions or conjure up bogus reasons why you can’t withdraw your funds or gain. Worst case scenario – they stop returning your calls and run away with your money.
Automated trading systems
Given the volatility of crypto coins like Bitcoin, promoters would look by just about any opportunity to make a profit. The general tendency would be to speculate the price differences between various exchanges.
Why is this considered a scam? In most cases, these cryptocurrency exchanges have ludicrously long withdrawal process, not to mention the fact that they tend to charge a lot in order to swap Bitcoins or Ether with fiat currencies (government-issued currency that can’t be backed up by a physical commodity with value, like silver or gold).
Basically, it’s the textbook definition of money). Long story short – crypto coin arbitrage takes a lot, doesn’t guarantee gains, and will more than likely lead to financial loss. I should also add that these types of trades take a long time to settle, which means that anything can happen in the interim. Caveat emptor!
Pump & Dump online groups
P&D scams are not exactly new. In fact, economic analysts argued that this type of fraud goes all the way back to the early 18 th century.
Though most of these schemes were conducted by word of mouth, emergent techs such as the Internet, social media, and email servicing made it possible for scammers to attract even more investors.
So, what’s up with this P&D scams? In laymen’s terms, it’s a plot aimed at inflating the stock price of certain commodities in a bid to buy low and sell high. What happens is when the scammers dump their ill-gotten shares, the prices will plummet, leading to investors losing their money fast. The same thing happens with cryptocurrency.
Bear in mind that it takes quite a lot of people in order to pull this off. The scammers usually congregate over social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Slack, and IRC. On average, such a group would total some 100,000 members.
Each is a vital cog in the effort to manipulate the price of altcoins with low market caps. These groups use various tools to monitor volumes, a vital first step identifying crypto coins with the highest ‘scheming’ potential. After that, it’s all a matter of buying low while watching the prices go down.
Social media engineering
Social media platforms are a great way to get to know investors and people who are willing to trade cryptocurrency. However, at the same time, these platforms are breeding ground for fake cryptocurrency traders, scammers impersonating legit traders, and bots.
Remember the golden rule – if it sounds too good to be true then it’s most definitely a scam. It would also be in your best interest to stick to legit communication channels and avoid private messages received on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Fake emails are, by far, the most ‘popular’ way of luring potential investors. What’s even more unnerving is the fact that they really look like legit emails piped through by legit company – logos, headers, names, addresses, social media handles.
Don’t fall for it; if you ever receive such an email, check every bit of information before acting. For instance, if the email contains phone numbers or physical addresses, you should consider calling the trader.
Try to gauge the offer’s genuineness: are the numbers doable? How about initial coin offerings? Does the trader operate over a regulated cryptocurrency exchange? Has he informed you about liabilities? And, most importantly, see how confident he is about the plan itself. The scammer will always try to boast the plan.
Cryptocurrency fraud – Case Studies
Now that you got the hang of what to look out for, here are some cryptocurrency fraud cases. Enjoy, but watch your back.
The BITPoint Hacking
On the 12 th of July, BITPoint, a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange, reported that over $28 million were stolen in a massive hack attack. It was later revealed that the losses amounted to $19.3 million, but that didn’t make things any better.
The official report revealed that the funds were stolen mostly belonged to the company. The looted assets included Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, XRP, and Ether.
Since the company’s cybersecurity safeguards were inefficient, BITPoint decided to postpone withdrawals and deposits for the time being. In addition, Asahi Shimbun, BITPoint’s CEO, has announced that the company will return the assets to the customers affected by the attack.
Binance May Heist
In late May, Binance, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, suffered a $40 million loss in the wake of a “perfectly-orchestrated” hacking attack. The authorities pointed out that among the assets stolen by hackers were 2FA codes and API Tokens.
A total of 7,000 Bitcoins were stolen and several high net-worth accounts have been compromised. That did not put the company of business, of course, since the stolen assets were roughly two percent of all of Binance’s holdings. The exchange announced that it will be using part of its self-insurance funds in order to cover for the loses.
What happens when six hackers get together? They steal $27 million worth of Bitcoins. According to a Europol press release, in late June, five men and one woman were detained following a 14-month-long investigation which involved law enforcement officer from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The report revealed that the six suspects were part of criminal ring responsible for the theft of $27 million from 4,000 people. The method used was typosquatting, which involves the use of clandestine cryptocurrency exchanges in a bid to tap into the victim’s cryptocurrency wallet.
Fall of the Kraken.
Earlier this year, Kraken, one of Bitnance’s competitors, was hit by a cryptocurrency price drop last year. This flash-crash resulted in the coin’s price plummeting from $8,400 to a mere $75. At the time, the company believed that the sudden crash might have been caused by a glitch in the system.
However, that didn’t account for a high-profile’s wallet being hacked and emptied. The subsequent investigation revealed that glitch and hacking were related. Furthermore, the suspect managed to obscure 1,200 bitcoins or the equivalent of $10 million before being apprehended by the authorities.
GateHub XRP Heist
On June the 6 th, a group of cybercriminals managed to steal $10 million worth of XRP coin from cryptocurrency exchange GateHub. The authorities revealed that the amount was stolen from 100 compromised Ledger wallets.
Although the account holders were contacted and reimbursed, the investigators have yet to produce any suspects. In addition, out of the $10 million that was stolen from GateHub, only $200,000 were retrieved.
Bitrue Hack Attack
During the same month, another cryptocurrency exchange has been hit by a hacking attack – Bitrue, a Singaporean crypto company, lost over $4 million.
According to the authorities, sometime in June, the unauthorized access occurred. At around the same time, Bitrue’s platform reported that 9.3 million XRP and 2.5 million ADA were transferred to an unknown wallet.
The subsequent investigation revealed that the cybernetic attack was possible due to a system vulnerability that surfaced after the company’s Risk Control Team performed a 2 nd review process. Although the assets are irretrievable, the company has reimbursed all the affected parties.
Tips to avoid cryptocurrency fraud
Quite a lot to take in, isn’t it? What can I say? The world’s a wonderful place; the question is now how can one protect himself against these threats. Check out these awesome tips.
Research, research, and even more research
The best way to avoid cryptocurrency fraud is to do your homework before investing your crypto coins. There’s plenty to choose from – in fact, there are over 500 online exchanges.
So, in order to avoid being scammed, take your time to research the exchanges: read their blogs, look at the conversion rates, gains, ICOs, over-the-web security protocols. For extra safety, you could shoot an email to support or a company’s representative to ask about the exchange.
Figure out a way to store your cryptocurrency
Buying and trading crypto coin is only the first step. Next along the lien would be figuring out a way to store your digital assets. So far, there are two ways to store cryptocurrency: working through exchanges and digital wallets.
Exchanges work very much like traditional banks: they offer deposits, accounts, and, of course, charge fees for deposit management and transactions.
As for the second storage method, digital wallets are to cryptocurrency what Revolut and Payoneer are to fiat currencies. Evidently, the decision’s entirely up to you.
Know the tell-tale signs of fraudulent ICOs
As you might have figured out by now, fake ICOs are a scammer’s weapons of choice. Of course, none of this would be possible without someone naïve enough to believe this stuff.
Anyway, in the case of ICOs, you can easily figure out if the project’s legit or fake by taking a closer look at the white paper for signs of forgery. These include:
Fraudsters are more likely to copy an entire whitepaper and pass it as their own rather than writing the whole thing from scratch. Just copy-paste the whole things into Google and the search button. If you see the same thing elsewhere, it’s more than likely that you’re dealing with scammers.
No team members
Most exchange presentation websites feature a media section that contains info about the members of the team. Look for any inconsistencies: incomplete descriptions, stock photos, odd-looking contact details.
The websites would look like they were made in a hurry. You know what I’m talking about.
Since these websites were made for one purpose and one purpose only, it’s obvious that the person or persons behind the scheme won’t spend time worrying about details such as blog posts, landing pages, or newsletters. Take some time to read a post or two. Lack of proofreading alone should be a major red flag, one that may point out that the website is, indeed, fake.
Staff reluctant to answer tough questions
Even the most experienced scammer cannot dupe a crypto-savvy user. So, if you decide to get in touch with a member of staff, start asking questions. The more technical they are, the better. A legit employee will be in the position to answer every question related to the product, whereas a scammer might eschew them.
Boost your online security
While it’s always a good idea to beef up your online security, now more than ever you should take the time to review your cybersecurity habits. I know it’s convenient to trade or buy crypto on the fly, but sloppy practices usually result in compromised personal data.
To his end, I would advise you to conduct every transaction from a secured endpoint. Our Thor Foresight Home product can safeguard your computer and cryptocurrency account against all types of online attacks such as malware, ransomware, cryptojacking, and even bitcoin miners.
On that note, you should definitely consider running a quick scan of your system in order to root out lingering bitcoin miners.
Pay Attention to These 7 Bitcoin Scams
Bitcoin – the possible Pandora’s Box of the currency world – has never been short of controversy. Whether it be aiding the black market or scamming users out of millions, bitcoin is no stranger to the front page.
Still, the jury is out on the legality and usefulness of bitcoin – leaving it in a proverbial grey area. Bitcoin’s price has fluctuated throughout its history, falling and rising, currently hovering near $10,000. Perhaps you’ve found bitcoin while it looks to be on the rebound and find yourself interested in it as an investment.
However, there have been several legitimate bitcoin scams that have become infamous, and you need to know about them – but, what are the top 7 bitcoin scams? And how can you avoid them?
What Is a Bitcoin Scam?
For most cases, it may be pretty obvious what a scam is – but with bitcoin, and cryptocurrency in general, things become murkier. Bitcoin itself is an unregulated form of currency that essentially is a mere number that is only given value because of an agreement. It’s basically like a moneybag with a lock on it – the code of which is given to the recipient of the bitcoin (an analogy drawn by Forbes in 2020).
Bitcoin scams have been famously criminal and public in nature. With no bank as a middleman in exchange, things become more complicated; so hackers and con men have had a heyday.
Top 7 Bitcoin Scams
There have been (and undoubtedly will be) nearly countless bitcoin scams, but these frauds make the list of the top 7 worst bitcoin scams to date. Take note.
1. Malware Scams
Malware has long been the hallmark of many online scams. But with cryptocurrency, it poses an increased threat given the nature of the currency in and of itself.
Recently, a tech support site called Bleeping Computer issued a warning about cryptocurrency-targeting malware in hopes of saving customers from sending cryptocoins via transactions, reported Yahoo Finance.
“This type of malware, called CryptoCurrency Clipboard Hijackers, works by monitoring the Windows clipboard for cryptocurrency addresses, and if one is detected, will swap it out with an address that they control,” wrote Lawrence Abrahams, computer forensics and creator of Bleeping Computer.
The malware, CryptoCurrency Clipboard Hijackers (which reportedly manages 2.3 million bitcoin addresses) switches addresses used to transfer cryptocoin with ones the malware controls – thus transferring the coins to the scammers instead. And, according to Asia Times, even MacOS malware has been connected to malware scams involving cryptocurrency investors using trusted sites like Slack and Discord chats – coined “OSX.Dummy.”
2. Fake Bitcoin Exchanges – BitKRX
Surely one of the easiest ways to scam investors is to pose as an affiliate branch of a respectable and legitimate organization. Well, that’s exactly what scammers in the bitcoin field are doing.
South Korean scam BitKRX presented itself as a place to exchange and trade bitcoin, but was ultimately fraudulent. The fake exchange took on part of the name of the real Korean Exchange (KRX), and scammed people out of their money by posing as a respectable and legitimate cryptocurrency exchange.
BitKRX claimed to be a branch of the KRX, a creation of KOSDAQ, South Korean Futures Exchange, and South Korean Stock Exchange, according to Coin Telegraph.
BitKRX used this faux-affiliation to ensnare people to use their system. The scam was exposed in 2020.
3. Ponzi Scheme – MiningMax
“Ponzi bitcoin scam” has got to be the worst combination of words imaginable for financial gurus. And, the reality is just as bad.
Several organizations have scammed people out of millions with Ponzi schemes using bitcoins, including South Korean website MiningMax. The site, which was not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, promised to provide investors with daily ROI’s in exchange for an original investment and commission from getting others to invest (basically, a Ponzi scheme). Apparently, the site was asking people to invest $3,200 for daily ROI’s over two years, and a $200 referral commission for every personally recruited investor, reports claim.
MiningMax’s domain was privately registered in mid-2020, and had a binary compensation structure. The fraudulent crypto-currency scam was reported by affiliates, resulting in 14 arrests in Korea in December of 2020.
Korea has long been a leader in technological developments – bitcoin is no exception. However, after recent controversy, it seems as though this is changing.
“But a lot of governments are looking at this very carefully,” Yoo Byung-joon, business administration professor at Seoul National University and co-author of the 2020 research paper “Is Bitcoin a Viable E-Business?: Empirical Analysis of the Digital Currency’s Speculative Nature,” told South China Morning Post in January. “Some are even considering putting their currencies on the blockchain system. The biggest challenge facing bitcoin now is the potential for misuse, but that’s true of any new technology.”
4. Fake Bitcoin Scam – My Big Coin
A classic (but no less dubious) scam involving bitcoin and cryptocurrency is simply, well, fake currency. One such arbiter of this faux bitcoin was My Big Coin. Essentially, the site sold fake bitcoin. Plain and simple.
In early 2020, My Big Coin, a cryptocurrency scam that lured investors into sinking an alleged $6 million, was sued by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to a CFTC case filed in late January.
The CFTC case further details that the suit was due to “commodity fraud and misappropriation related to the ongoing solicitation of customers for a virtual currency known as My Big Coin (MBC),” further charging the scam with “misappropriating over $6 million from customers by, among other things, transferring customer funds into personal bank accounts, and using those funds for personal expenses and the purchase of luxury goods.”
Among other things, the site fraudulently claimed that the coin was being actively traded on several platforms, and even mislead investors by claiming it was also partnered with MasterCard, according to the CFTC case.
Those sued included Randall Carter, Mark Gillespie and the My Big Coin Pay, Inc.
5. ICO Scam – Bitcoin Savings and Trust and Centra Tech
Still other scammers have used ICO’s – initial coin offerings – to dupe users out of their money.
Along with the rise in blockchain-backed companies, fake ICOs became popular as a way to back these new companies. However, given the unregulated nature of bitcoin itself, the door has been wide open for fraud.
Most ICO frauds have taken place through getting investors to invest in or through fake ICO websites using faulty wallets, or by posing as real cryptocurrency-based companies.
Notably, $32 million Centra Tech garnered celebrity support (most famously from DJ Khaled), but was exposed for ICO fraud back in April of 2020, according to Fortune. The company was sued for misleading investors and lying about products, among other fraudulent activities.
The famous DJ wrote his support in a caption on Instagram back in 2020.
“I just received my titanium centra debit card. The Centra Card & Centra Wallet app is the ultimate winner in Cryptocurrency debit cards powered by CTR tokens!” Khaled wrote.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission even issued a warning in 2020 about ICO scams and faux investment opportunities, brought on by a slew of celebrities who promoted certain ICOs (like Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to name a few).
“Any celebrity or other individual who promotes a virtual token or coin that is a security must disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion,” the SEC wrote in an Investor Alert in 2020. “A failure to disclose this information is a violation of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws.”
Another example is Bitcoin Savings and Trust, which was fined $40.7 million in 2020 by the SEC for creating fake investments and using a Ponzi scheme to scam investors. According to Coin Telegraph, Trenton Shavers, the organization’s leader, allegedly scammed investors into giving him 720,000 bitcoins promising a 7% weekly interest on investments – which he then used to pay back old investors and even fill his personal bank accounts.
6. Bitcoin Gold Scam – mybtgwallet.com
Nothing catches the eye of the naïve quite like the promise of gold – bitcoin gold, of course.
That is exactly what mybtgwallet.com did to unsuspecting bitcoin investors.
According to CNN, the bitcoin gold (BTG) wallet duped investors out of $3.2 million in 2020 by promising to allow them to claim their bitcoin gold. The website allegedly used links on a legitimate website (Bitcoin Gold) to get investors to share their private keys or seeds with the scam, as this old screenshot from the website shows.
Before the scam was done, the website managers (slash scammers) was able to get their hands on $107,000 worth of bitcoin gold, $72,000 of litecoin, $30,000 of ethereum, and $3 million of bitcoin, according to CNN.
Bitcoin Gold, the site’s wallet used in the scam, began investigating shortly after, but the site remains controversial. Still, firm released a warning to bitcoin investors.
“It’s worth reminding everyone that it will never be truly safe to enter your private key or mnemonic phrase for a pre-existing wallet into any online website,” Bitcoin Gold wrote. “When you want to sweep new coins from a pre-fork wallet address, best practice is the same as after other forks: Send your old coins to a new wallet first, before you expose the private keys of the original wallet. Following this basic rule of private key management greatly reduces your risk of theft.”
7. Pump and Dump Scam
While this type of scam is certainly not relegated to just bitcoin (thank you for the education, “The Wolf of Wall Street”), a pump-and-dump scam is especially dangerous in the internet space.
The basic idea is that investors hype up (or “pump up”) a certain bitcoin – that is usually an alternative coin that is very cheap but high risk – via investor’s websites, blogs, or even Reddit, according to The Daily Dot. Once the scammers pump up a certain bitcoin enough, skyrocketing its value, they cash out and “dump” their bitcoin onto the naïve investors who bought into the bitcoin thinking it was the next big thing.
Bittrex, a popular bitcoin exchange site, released a set of guidelines to avoid bitcoin pump-and-dump scams.
While “stackin’ penny stocks” may sound like an appealing way to earn an extra buck (thanks to its glamorization by Jordan Belfort), messing in bitcoin scams is nothing to smirk at.
How to Avoid Bitcoin Scams
With the inevitable rise of bitcoin in current and coming years, it is becoming increasingly important to understand and be on the lookout for bitcoin scams that could cost you thousands. As more people become interested in Bitcoin, more people are also likely to try and pull off a scam.
There is no one formula to avoiding being scammed, but reading up on the latest bitcoin red flags, keeping information private, and double checking sources before investing in anything are good standard procedures that may help save you from being duped. Cryptocurrency can be a confusing topic even for the experienced Bitcoin enthusiast, so the more you read up on the world of Bitcoin, the more prepared you can be. After all, knowledge is power.
What to Know About Cryptocurrency
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Cryptocurrency is digital money. That means there’s no physical coin or bill — it’s all online. You can transfer cryptocurrency to someone online without a go-between, like a bank. Bitcoin and Ether are well-known cryptocurrencies, but new cryptocurrencies continue to be created.
People might use cryptocurrencies for quick payments and to avoid transaction fees. Some might get cryptocurrencies as an investment, hoping the value goes up. You can buy cryptocurrency with a credit card or, in some cases, get it through a process called “mining.” Cryptocurrency is stored in a digital wallet, either online, on your computer, or on other hardware.
Before you buy cryptocurrency, know that it does not have the same protections as when you are using U.S. dollars. Also know that scammers are asking people to pay with cryptocurrency because they know that such payments are typically not reversible.
Cryptocurrencies vs. U.S. Dollars
The fact that cryptocurrencies are digital is not the only important difference between cryptocurrencies and traditional currencies like U.S. dollars.
Cryptocurrencies aren’t backed by a government.
Cryptocurrencies are not insured by the government like U.S. bank deposits are. This means that cryptocurrency stored online does not have the same protections as money in a bank account. If you store your cryptocurrency in a digital wallet provided by a company, and the company goes out of business or is hacked, the government may not be able to step and help get your money back as it would with money stored in banks or credit unions.
A cryptocurrency’s value changes constantly.
A cryptocurrency’s value can change by the hour. An investment that may be worth thousands of U.S. dollars today might be worth only hundreds tomorrow. If the value goes down, there’s no guarantee that it will go up again.
Investing in Cryptocurrency
As with any investment, before you invest in cryptocurrency, know the risks and how to spot a scam. Here are some things to watch out for as you consider your options.
No one can guarantee you’ll make money .
Anyone who promises you a guaranteed return or profit is likely a scammer. Just because an investment is well known or has celebrity endorsements does not mean it is good or safe. That holds true for cryptocurrency, just as it does for more traditional investments. Don’t invest money you can’t afford to lose.
Not all cryptocurrencies — or companies promoting cryptocurrency — are the same.
Look into the claims that companies promoting cryptocurrency are making. Search online for the name of the company, the cryptocurrency name, plus words like “review,” “scam,” or “complaint.”
Paying with Cryptocurrency
If you are thinking about using cryptocurrency to make a payment, know the important differences between paying with cryptocurrency and paying by traditional methods.
You don’t have the same legal protections when you pay with cryptocurrency .
C redit cards and debit cards have legal protections if something goes wrong. For example, if you need to dispute a purchase, your credit card company has a process to help you get your money back. Cryptocurrency payments typically are not reversible. Once you pay with cryptocurrency, you only can get your money back if the seller sends it back.
Before you buy something with cryptocurrency, know a seller’s reputation, where the seller is located, and how to contact someone if there is a problem.
Refunds might not be in cryptocurrency .
If refunds are offered, find out whether they will be in cryptocurrency, U.S. dollars, or something else. And how much will your refund be? The value of a cryptocurrency changes constantly. Before you buy something with cryptocurrency, learn how the seller calculates refunds.
Some information will likely be public .
Although cryptocurrency transactions are anonymous, the transactions may be posted to a public ledger, like Bitcoin’s blockchain. A blockchain is a public list of records that shows when someone transacts with cryptocurrency. Depending on the cryptocurrency, the information added to the blockchain can include information like the transaction amount. The information also can include the sender’s and recipient’s wallet addresses — a long string of numbers and letters linked to a digital wallet that stores cryptocurrency. Both the transaction amount and wallet addresses could be used to identify who the actual people using it are.
As more people get interested in cryptocurrency, scammers are finding more ways to use it. For example, scammers might offer investment and business “opportunities,” promising to double your investment or give you financial freedom.
Watch out for anyone who:
- guarantees that you’ll make money
- promises big payouts that will double your money in a short time
- promises free money in dollars or cryptocurrency
- makes claims about their company that are not clear
Cryptojacking is when scammers use your computer or smartphone’s processing power to “mine” cryptocurrency for their own benefit, and without your permission. Scammers can put malicious code onto your device simply by your visiting a website. Then they can help themselves to your device’s processor without you knowing.
If you notice that your device is slower than usual, burns through battery power quickly, or crashes, your device might have been cryptojacked. Here is what to do about it:
Close sites or apps that slow your device or drain your battery.
Use antivirus software, set software and apps to update automatically, and never install software or apps you do not trust.
Do not click links without knowing where they lead, and be careful about visiting unfamiliar websites.
Report fraud and other suspicious activity involving cryptocurrency, or other digital assets to:
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