Blockchain/AI. CEO at Zenodys, Advisor at Nextgrid.ai and Deepamine.co
The Cryptocurrency world is well known to attract all kinds of scammers. Especially when crypto gets hot (like lately is), scammers pop up on social and many other channels all the time. I took some time to dig into the mechanics and dynamics of these scams (so you don’t have to :) ).
BEFORE YOU READ: If you were recently contacted by some stranger (via Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Telegram or even Tinder and etc.) that promised you amazing earnings of cryptocurrencies, mining, NFTs, forex or even stocks… immediately STOP talking to them.
They are ALL SCAMMERS. Without any exemption.
I wasn’t paying much attention to the scammy world of the Internet until the 2017 ICO craze when my friend lost more than US$20,000, by sending money to fake an ICO (cryptocurrency project).
Scams are pretty simple but sophisticated and as it press the usual buttons of our most common human weaknesses; loneliness and greed.
These are still the main mechanism that scammers used to get people into irrational behaviour. My friend is a smart, sane, rational person, but well, at that time she was a bit lonely, and then she also turned greedy.
It took some more coincidences that got me into the world where I helped wealthy institutional individuals to get a glimpse of cryptocurrency, mostly Bitcoin.
In those days, wealthy individuals were still quite inexperienced, plus the anonymity and borderlessness of crypto attracted hordes of self-proclaimed world-class businessmen, traders, high octane mobsters, and all sorts of crypto geniuses, all glued into a bunch of scamming groups.
Scams spread from highly sophisticated ones to absurd ones.
All that is happening could be written into a book one day, but most scams pretty much try to utilize the same trap: greed.
In October 2019, just for fun, I took another challenge. In a short span of a couple of days, two attractive ladies contacted me via LinkedIn and FB. Both from China (they said Beijing and Shanghai, but who knows) started a conversation and chit-chat.
The pattern was pretty much like this:
You get the point…
Everything was pretty much predictable, but the scam was well orchestrated. They really took time to build trust and story, sending me a lot of pictures and videos at first. Them (or whoever was the one in the pic) in their fancy houses, driving a Bentley, jewelry, clothes, branded stuff, flashy income charts, and so on.
They (or she) put a lot of effort to build trust, we also had some pleasant calls with the Shanghai one and she sent me voice messages.
So it’s a fair scam, I’d say :).
It was pretty obvious that it is just one person behind both accounts because a couple of times the Beijing one mixed the chat window (ouch), but she managed to explain it somehow. They were also confused a couple of times because I gave them opposite answers. Well, that was fun.
It was a forex scam where you open a test account, do initial testing with fake funds, and experience amazing gains, and then they make you put your own money. It would be the last time you’d see these funds (and probably the ladies too).
Besides the loneliness and greed, they targeted another beautiful weakness; a desire for adventure.
I managed to find all possible excuses why I haven’t transferred money yet. Our “romance” ended when Covid struck China and obviously WhatsApp messages got blocked behind the Great Firewall.
At that time all other similar friend requests pretty much disappeared.
It took until this years’ crypto craze for people to start adding me again.
Conversation patterns are pretty much similar, but if I compare them to Chinese Syndrome ladies, they are way more impatient. They dive into the investment opportunity after a couple of days with pretty much boring pics — and no videos or calls.
Anyways, some scam mechanisms are pretty usual (call it boring) but others are super fun.
Let’s start a countdown: Top 5, listed from boring to fun ones.
This is a pretty boring one.
It usually comes with some middle-aged women with some of husband/children pics (the typical type that is crypto genius, lol) adding you on FB. After a bit of non-exciting chit-chat, they mention how their life changed after they tried this amazing platform.
They usually point me to something like https://lopezcrypto.com/home/. You can easily register on the platform, it needs zero profile/email verifications (lol and it looks super creepy), and play around. Just don’t send money lol.
They play on the note of greed, promising amazing gains: If I put 1 Bitcoin in I’ll get like halfback in a week.
Anyways, here’s a glimpse. They claim they are Americans, speaking pretty much good English so I assume they are from the US.
Well said, no risk no gains. Especially if you’re a scammer
She knows the secret
This is a pretty standard one. Fake accounts claiming they are official representatives (Binance, Uniswap…) and offering you amazing opportunities (haha).
Most of them are claiming they are from the US, but too many would address me as ‘sir’ (not really the American way) and use pretty much broken English.
American woman calls me… SIR?
They usually send you to a web page like https://www.uniswapfund.org/ (Site went down already…), that looks exactly like the official one
They promise you tokens if you share it - Airdrops, discounts, extra tokens if you put your funds in (of course).
Right. Put your USDTs and you get airdrop. With bad grammar
Similarly, scammers use fake support accounts on Discord and Telegram for recent NFT projects, and to my surprise even some experienced people had their wallets drained.
Here is some additional read if you are interested in NFTs and Airdrops…
To avoid these types of scams:
Guys in their 30s to 40s adding me mostly on FB. Usually pretty boring stuff except for one guy that I really had fun with.
He started a conversation that he was setting up some amazing mining equipment and with his experience, I can earn millions. He even sent me videos of this mining equipment.
He went from super nice (you’re my best friend) to being aggressive (you’re stupid, you’ll be poor forever).
I told him I don’t trust him and if he sends me some Bitcoins to show me trust, I’ll invest 40 BTCs. He said he has so many Bitcoins he can send me 1,000 BTCs. Then he sent me US$3 worth of BTCs. I was so disappointed by this penurious I decided I won’t invest in his mining kingdom.
(Here’s transaction record: https://www.blockchain.com/btc/tx/2eea62626bd2a7e74ea8a8773b7d2cffd56d706b03c4b6887a1cbd7ef030e02a
Anyways, never send any funds to crypto addresses, they will be lost forever.
Best gains in history, for sure
Bad scammers, ruining your business
His mining rigs
Ok, previous scams were really simple, but this one was more sophisticated because it exploits unintuitive mobile Coinbase Wallet (many of them have this flaw also, so beware).
I am usually contacted by Asian ladies on FB or directly via Whatsapp, claiming they are from Taiwan or Singapore, or Hong Kong (this time no China mainland).
She came from a different number this time
They pretty much follow a similar, but a more impatient pattern as 2019- ladies. I still presume most come from China because they do copy-paste mistakes sometimes (Chinese characters instead of English text — so they use translator) and Taiwanese ones strictly use Taiwan Province as their origin (none of my Taiwanese friends do that — don’t want to mix any politics here, just stating the odds).
They also came in pairs, usually responding at similar times.
Right, completely different personas, striking at the same time,
Anyways scam goes usually like this:
So they are offering some pool mining, where you lock in your USDT (they need ETH to pay for this transaction).
From here on things can get tricky. So you are in Coinbase Wallet (which you trust) and from here on, they offer to guide you:
What they do is that inside the Coinbase Wallet, they send you to an external web page, where you put your ETHs for gas and then, well, send USDTs to a crypto black hole, where you’ll never see them again.
But I had fun with these, because what’s better than scamming a scammer. And no one is more greedy than a scammer, right?
So it went like this:
So few eventually she sent me ETHs :).
Greed is not good.
The usual Coinbase Wallet with dangerous (red) Bookmark feature
Bookmark tab, that opens scammy webpage (cb-titan.org), where you buy certificate (Voucher) with ETH and then it enables you to swap USDT to start ‘mining’ (SCAM ALERT)
After they realized I scammed them (sounds weird, I know) they went super aggressive (well, expected).
The moment scammer realizes she/get gets scammed
I offered to send them their money back if they tell me a bit more about who/how/where… etc. they are… but of course they refused. So, their funds will go to charity.
Be super cautious if you use these types of Wallets like Coinbase that allow you to connect to external pages. If you follow external links, you are not in a relatively safe Wallet environment anymore.
The best way is not to follow any links you don’t know (or double-check if links are not fake), and absolutely never SEND any funds like this.
I hope Coinbase put some safety measures here (alerts or guidance) or even moves this feature into a less visible place. It opens the door to countless scams.
This is absolutely my all-time favoruite scam. As stupid as it is, it’s extremely fun.
It goes like this:
The usual chit-chat darling/friend and hey amazing investment opportunity
They introduce me to another woman who is like the “Great Teacher’s” assistant
She adds me to the WhatsApp group, a webpage where I register and invitation code(Page is super creepy — so creepy I don’t understand how to put in words lol)
But here is where the real fun starts haha.
Every day at one hour the “Great Teacher” tells you magic parameters you put in to get amazing gains from BTC. Gains are earned immediately if you follow the teacher’s magic parameters.
So after one minute or so WhatsApp Group is flooded by Disciples thanking the Teacher for his amazing work, with a lot of proof of earning. Of course, this is orchestrated bot crap, but someone had a lot of imagination creating all this.
See some screenshots, you’ll have a lot of laughs haha.
This looks creepy creepy
I am stuck here
This is too good, the great teacher tells some parameters
And then all this happiness starts flowing in.
I believe this is too stupid for anyone to fall for it (I hope), but unfortunately, some people still fall for it.
Greed always works well for scammers and in these Covid times, a lot of people feel lonely and afraid.
And this makes us more way more vulnerable to different people (or groups) with bad intentions. As you can see some are fun, but some of them can be more sophisticated and dangerous.
I wasn’t able (or would take too much time) to dig who these people actually are and who or what stands behind them.
Besides some guesses about the origin, I can say they weren’t really crypto experts. For example, none of them came to an idea or was able to check my transaction history on Ethereum or Bitcoin or USDT, which would immediately tell them I am not telling the truth.