Top Cryptocurrency Scams in 2019 – A Look Back
The word scam is often applied to dubious startups and/or Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)/Initial Exchange Offering (IEOs) within the cryptocurrency community. When the project seems to lack any practical usefulness, and the business idea behind it is suspicious, such projects are often referred to as scams.
Compared with other ways of stealing money, the main feature of a Bitcoin scam is that it usually takes advantage of people’s trust and negligence. Currently, the cryptocurrency market is not regulated enough to protect people from scams, so it is such a common thing among users of digital currencies.
South Korean Ponzi scheme
Specialists from South Korea have applied AI components to reveal a multimillion-dollar Ponzi plot that swindled more than 56,000 financial specialists. The investors were mostly new to crypto exchanges, with the larger part being in their 70s. The unlisted M-token was guaranteed to bring 600%, which is the thing that baited users in.
As is typical of Ponzi schemes, the shopping website provided rewards to members for recruitment of new victims: 60,000 won ($52) in cash for each new member and 120,000 won ($104) to the initial recruiter a new member persuaded another person to join.
In what can be said as a test for Korea’s capabilities, the Ponzi scheme was uncovered using an AI algorithm that the crime department had recently started using. The scam was mostly targeted to senior citizens and retired persons, who were promised that with their investment, they would get “mCoin,” which would soon grow to 600% of the value at which they initially bought it.
The $70mn and Indian ICO Scam
Amit Lakhanpal was one of four men who has been accused of stealing $71.6 million as part of an ICO scam. To attract investors, it is said that he and his partners inflated the price of his cryptocurrency and claimed that the royal family of Dubai supported his project. Criminal investigation authorities in the Indian state of Gujarat have booked five people for running a fraudulent initial coin offering (ICO) called Bitstrades.
“[The] majority of investors who lost money in the racket are yet to come forward. We hope that following the registration of the complaint, they will provide details of cheating about the accused to [the crime department],” an investigating officer told Times of India, India’s premier newspaper.
The scammers even went as far as listing an ad on the CoinMarketCap website to show a hint of legitimacy. It’s not just CoinMarketCap. Bitstrades also managed to place sponsored articles on several cryptocurrency news sites, including newsBTC, The Merkle, and CoinSpeaker.
The $40mn Binance Hack
An article by Business Insider Noted that, while it is uncommon to see an established exchange like Binance get hacked, the cybercriminals managed to steal not only 7,000 bitcoin but also two-factor authentication codes and API tokens. Binance also revealed that the hackers were able to compromise “very high net-worth accounts.”
Binance has been fairly forthcoming about the hack, detailing its impact in a blog post from Binance CEO Zhao Changpeng. “The hackers used a variety of techniques, including phishing, viruses, and other attacks,” wrote Zhao. “The hackers had the patience to wait and execute well-orchestrated actions through multiple, seemingly independent accounts at the most opportune time. The transaction is structured in a way that passed our existing security checks.”
The North Korean Mac Malware
Lazarus Group, a gang of hackers believed to be sponsored by North Korea, tried to penetrate Apple computers running macOS by tricking users into downloading a cryptocurrency application from a seemingly legit website.
The attackers created a cryptocurrency-trading application, hosted on GitHub to give it more credibility, and built a good-enough website to promote it. Once the user installs the software and grants it administrative privileges, the hackers have a backdoor into the OS.
The Lazarus Group and other hacking groups based or sponsored by North Korea have been rumored to be operating for years, and the United States has issued a few advisories over time regarding their continuous attacks.
What can you do?
Scams follow a long tradition of exchanges ‘losing’, ‘misplacing,’ and even disappearing with the funds held by them. Mt. Gox, QuadrigaCX, Golix Exchange all hit the news with the same scam. Using this, the community should note that instead of putting all their faith in centralized entities’ hands, but should actually move towards holding their own funds. As it is said in the community, “Not your keys, not your crypto.”
Evaluating red flags can not only save you a lot of money but also better allocate time to evaluate assets without so many red flags. It should be acknowledged that there are exceptions to every rule. These are common red flags that, on average, represent problematic situations for the future of a coin.