My Favourite Scams these days (Cryptocurrencies, Mining, Forex and NFT scams) — 2021 deep dive
A simple, a little bit of fun and not so dramatic guide to the top 5 scams and how to avoid it.
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.
It started with a genesis scam
I wasn’t paying much attention to the scammy world of theinternet 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.
Cryptocurrency OTCs and other Crypto Investments
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.
The Chinese Syndrome
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:
- I am impressed by your profile
- We have so much in common
- During the weekend I do charity
- I will be happy to guide you when you come here
- You can stay in my house, it’s huge
- I bought this Rolex for my father because he is my hero and because he supported me in my life
- He taught me to invest
- I don’t have to work because I earn a lot by investing
- I will teach you how to invest as you are so special to me
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 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 much obvious that it is just one person behind both accounts because 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.
These days — Silence of the wolves has ended
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.
5. Married women from the US with BTC investment platform
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.
4. Official project fake sites, NFT support fakes profiles and airdrops dusting scams
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.
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).
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:
- Don’t trust people you don’t know and offering you amazing gains (worth repeating)
- Don’t trust people you don’t know and offering you amazing gains (worth repeating)
- Don’t send any funds anywhere
- Check official communication channels on official sites (Fe, google Uniswap, click on the official page, check their official communication channels, check whether the page is listed somewhere on the official projects’ webpage.
- Check official communication channels on official sites (Search Uniswap on Google, click on the official page, check their official communication channels, check whether the page is listed somewhere on the official projects’ webpage.
- On communication channels don’t trust people claiming they are supporting. Double-check them on Twitter or official public channels before doing any actions like sharing your wallet screen, (NEVER DO THAT), sharing your Wallet Private Key or its QR code (NEVER DO THAT)
3. A BTC mining guys with home mining equipment
Guys in their 30’s to 40’s 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.
2. The Chinese Syndrome AD 2021 and Coinbase Wallet — Ethereum mining scam
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).
They pretty much follow a similar, but the 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.
Anyways scam goes usually like this:
- I have an amazing opportunity, I earn 2 or 3 ETH (Ethereums) per day by just investing 50 ETHs (lie of course, lol).
- It’s called Ethereum mining. Do you know how to mine? No? Well, it’s way better than Bitcoin so you should try.
- It’s super safe, organized by US company Coinbase (then they copy-paste Coinbase Wikipedia text)
- It’s made by super safe Coinbase Wallet (Wikipedia text), so there are no risks at all.
- Funds are all the time in your wallet (lie) and you can stop anytime (haha, liars)
- It’s simple to do, I will teach you.
- You need around $50USD in ETH to buy a certificate and a minimum investment of US$750 worth of Tether stable coins (UDST).
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:
- You need to download the Coinbase Wallet. (I do)
- Now deposit your USDT and US$50 worth of Ethereum send me a screenshot (I sent a fake screenshot of having deposited 40,000 USDT or something)
- (From here on they exploit pretty creepy Coinbase Wallet’s UI because if you are inexperienced, you think you operating inside the wallet).
- Go to the second tab (Bookmarks) and click on Coinbase’s new mining page: http://cb-titan.org
- Now buy a mining certificate with Ethereum (don’t)
- And then put your USDTs to mine these amazing fees (NEVER DO THAT!!!!!)
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:
- ME: I deposited 40,000 USDT (or some amount) but I don’t have ETHs. I contacted my friend to send them but he is too busy.
- HER: Why don’t you swap some USDTs in ETH
- ME: have no clue how to do it (I am afraid… etc) and my friend is busy until next week
- HER: (could not resist my 40,000 USDTs at her finger tips, so after a while): I can send you $50 in ETHs because you are my dear friend and I want to help you and I trust you…
- So few eventually sent me ETHs :).
After they realized I scammed them (sounds weird, I know) they went super aggressive (well, expected).
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.
1. The Great Crypto Teacher and his Disciples
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.
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.