When the cryptoeconomy went parabolic in 2017, an upswell of bad actors also flocked to the arena to try their hands at conning inexperienced cryptocurrency newcomers of their coins.
Likewise, crypto scams considerably declined in 2018 and 2019 as new defenses were put forth and a bear market saw prices and interest acutely drop off, generally speaking.
Yet where there’s money to be made, con artists are always right around the corner. And a new wave of buy pressure around top cryptocurrencies so far in 2020 has more analysts projecting that another cyrpto bull market may be near.
Of course, it’s an open question if the space’s bears or bulls will win out this year, but anecdotally the past month has seen an influx of increasingly optimistic sentiments around bitcoin, ether, and beyond.
If that trend continues, look for scammers to mirror that optimism and accordingly attempt to make inroads anew into the ecosystem.
Impersonating the Notable, Again and Again
Crypto scammers have various avenues they can try in order to steal funds from others.
Impersonation schemes, though, are one of the most common and effective ploys you may come across.
These impersonations aren’t platform-centric but rather happen on any site where cryptocurrency communities are active. Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram are typical targets, naturally. And these malicious imitations manifest around both prominent individuals and projects.
For example, look no further than Ethereum wallet MyCrypto and trading platform ShapeShift, both of which are unfortunately dealing with malicious impersonators on Telegram right now. These impostors take advantage of the trust that users place in the ecosystem’s top-tier services.
We are having the same issue.
— ShapeShift (@ShapeShift_io) February 2, 2020
It’s proven to be something of a nightmare situation, MyCrypto’s chief marketing officer Jordan Spence recently noted:
“Why is Telegram allowing fake groups to remain up?! This fake MyCrypto group is PUBLISHING APKs to steal funds from users and there’s NOTHING a user can do about it except report and pray.”
Yet even on platforms like Twitter where moderation is quicker and more straightforward, the end result is can be a whack-a-mole dynamic: one scam account may be taken down, but another can quickly rise in its place.
Passable at First Glance
Moreover, some crypto scams exhibit characteristics of micro-targeting and can thus be quite sophisticated. The idea is for these ploys to look extremely believable at first or even second glance.
Linda Xie, a co-founder of Scalar Capital and a former product manager at major U.S. crypto exchange Coinbase, is one person whose identity has been improperly commandeered in such a scheme.
Xie took to Twitter on February 3rd to warn colleagues that a scammer was impersonating her via email with fake Coinbase employment offers. “Please be careful,” she said.
Someone is impersonating me sending out emails offering a role at Coinbase. I do not work at Coinbase anymore and will never send you an email like this. Please be careful pic.twitter.com/47yLdL2PpO
— Linda Xie (@ljxie) February 3, 2020
Scammers will never be entirely defeatable in any industry, but through education and proactiveness we in the cryptocurrency ecosystem can seriously defang their bites.
The good news is that educational efforts have advanced considerably around the crypto space since 2017. There’s more general wisdom and excellent, readily accessible resources for people to rely on.
Even with all that said, it’s worth perpetually hammering on the basics, both for novices and veterans alike.
- Triple check account names on social media.
- Triple check URLs.
- Check multiple information channels if you have doubts that the source in front of you might not be legit.
- If an offer sounds too good to be true, it is.
- Never click on dubious links.
Most importantly, if you see something nefarious, do what you can if you can. Report scammers’ profiles wherever possible. It might not seem like a lot, but doing so can mean the difference between a scam being up for minutes or hours.