When bringing up the words "crypto" or "bitcoin" to normie friends, often the first rebuttal has to do with scams or hacks. There are scams and bad actors in crypto, there is no hiding from that fact. But how do we fight this?
We think the answer is education. No matter what industry you're in, scammers exist. They currently thrive in crypto because of how *mysterious* it is to the average person, just like the internet was in the 90s and early 2000s. But fear not, because by educating as many people as we can about these scams and how they work, we can beat scammers at this game.
Check out part one of the series and also our blog post on what makes a crypto wallet secure:
Avoid These Common Crypto Scams: Easy Money (Part 1)
What Makes A Crypto Wallet Secure?
Without further ado, we present to you part 2 of our MEWtopia series on crypto scams!
The “Trusted Investor” Scam
If you’ve ever been on Twitter, YouTube, or even TikTok, then you’ve likely seen comments praising random investors. These comments often include a WhatsApp number or Telegram handle to contact.
For this one, scammers will leave fake comments created by bots comments (most commonly) under YouTube videos and Tweets. In the comment, a seemingly random person will be singing praises about how great a specific “investor” is. When you scroll past, you’ll see more “random people” commenting about how awesome that same investor is, and they all attach a WhatsApp number.
In reality, those are bots commenting, and the “trusted investor” behind the WhatsApp number is actually a scammer. After contacting the scammer, they have many methods of getting victims to send them money and they are constantly evolving.
How to avoid: Never reach out to any “trusted investors” that you see being relentlessly shilled on social media. Learn to distinguish the difference between organic and botted engagement! Often bots will have the same set of 5-10 sentences that they all say.
Fake Celebrity Endorsements
In the coming age of AI, we must be extra vigilant of the fake celebrity endorsement scam. In this scam, a scammer will create an AI representation of a popular influencer or celebrity, and use their image to endorse what ultimately ends up being a scam.
Probably the most well known occurrence of the fake celebrity endorsement was when someone created a fake Elon Musk to promote their malicious crypto project.
Sometimes we see scammers take control of an influencer's account then use it to post malicious links. This is another form of fake celebrity endorsements and during the weekend of September 9th, 2023, THE Vitalik Buterin had his Twitter hacked and this exact scenario played out on his profile page.
How to avoid: Always do comprehensive research before engaging with and investing in a crypto community. Verify legitimacy of team members and any endorsements by looking them up on Google/LinkedIn and seeing if this is something they normally do. Always fight the fear of missing out.
Crypto Romance Scams
Romance scams have been around for decades, and they’ve recently found their way into crypto. This one is basically your run-of-the-mill romance scam, but with crypto sprinkled on top.
The scammer will get to know their victim on an intimate level. They pose as a romantic interest and once they feel they’ve got you in a vulnerable and favorable position, they manipulate you into sending them money for a plethora of reasons ranging from family emergencies to gambling addictions. The scammer will continue to squeeze every last bit of money they can out of you until you finally say no and stop engaging.
Another very common way they’ll engage with you is by trying to sell you on some “cool project” that “made them a lot of money” which in the end turns out to be another scam vector. This is also the trademark approach of the “Bromance Scam”.
How to avoid: Always trust your gut. If someone is asking you to send them money repeatedly, it is highly likely a scam. Also, reverse image search is your friend.
Crypto Bromance Scam
This one, as you may have guessed, is similar to the romance scam. Except for this scam, the scammer doesn’t present themselves as a romantic partner, but rather a helpful hand. These ones are particularly dangerous because at first it seems so innocent and friendly! These scammers will often work for months to build your trust, then scam you at the perfect moment that they’ve been waiting for all along.
These scammers are most often lurking in Discord servers and Telegram groups. They’re often very knowledgeable when it comes to crypto and display it on the public forum of their choice (Discord, Telegram, etc). The objective here is to build trust in the infiltrated community as a knowledgeable and trusted source of information. Then they wait.
Eventually someone will ask for help doing something rather technical, like providing liquidity on a certain DeFi protocol or accessing a faucet on an alt L1. This is when the scammer swoops in and attacks.
The scammer at this point has built trust in their respective community as a thought leader. They reach out to the person asking for help and claim to know a fix - but ‘it’s a little complicated and probably easiest if you just share your screen.’
The scammer then walks the victim through a series of actions that either
A) reveals a private key
B) drains the wallet of all funds.
By the time the victim realizes what happened, the video call has been ended and the scammer is off with your money.
How to avoid: Never share your screen with someone you don’t trust with control of your wallet. If someone wants to help you and is insisting that you share your screen, it is most likely a scam. Don’t do it!
Fake Job Offers
In our current economy, the “fake job offer” scam is becoming more and more prevalent with each passing day.
Remote work scams or work-from-home scams trick people into applying for fake jobs that claim to let you work from anywhere you want. In the end, these jobs aren't real and are just a way for scammers to steal your personal information and/or crypto.
Fake Job scams typically ask the "new hires" to buy training materials or office supplies from certain vendors (that they’re in control of) before they can start their "job." If not that, the applicant would need to send crypto to an address for “supplies” etc. At the end of the day, you’re just sending them funds and you get nothing in return - not even the job! These scams often look like multi-level marketing plans or even pyramid schemes, trying to take advantage of those looking for work.
Another way this scam can be executed is via malicious documents. In one case, Axie Infinity was hacked for over $6 million dollars after one of their engineers opened a job offer letter containing spyware.
How to avoid: Always double check a company's website and social media to help verify their legitimacy. Be wary of links sent to you, they could be malicious. Never send money to a recruiter before knowing every detail pertaining to a job. Even then, be extra cautious of people pretending to be job recruiters!