Common Types of Crypto Scam and How to Avoid Them: Part 1

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Common Types of Crypto Scam and How to Avoid Them: Part 1

Home>Industry Insights>Common Types of Crypto Scam and How to Avoid Them: Part 1

Cryptocurrency has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade, offering new financial opportunities and technological advancements. However, with this surge in interest comes an increase in malicious activities targeting crypto enthusiasts. Understanding these common crypto scams is crucial for safeguarding your investments and personal information. In this article, we will explore three prevalent types of crypto scams and provide practical advice on how to avoid them.

Phishing Scams

Phishing is one of the most common and deceptive types of scams in the cryptocurrency world. These scams exploit trust and urgency to manipulate individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as private keys, passwords, or personal details. In a crypto phishing scam, attackers impersonate legitimate entities, such as exchanges or wallet providers, to trick individuals into divulging their confidential data. Some of the more common tactics include:

Sending fake emails that mimic those from trusted sources

Scammers often craft emails that appear to come from legitimate cryptocurrency exchanges, wallet providers, or even prominent figures in the crypto industry. These emails typically contain urgent messages about account security issues, new login attempts, or important updates. They include links to fraudulent websites designed to capture login credentials or private keys. These emails often use professional branding, logos, and language to appear authentic, making it difficult for recipients to distinguish them from genuine communications.

Creating replica websites that look identical to real crypto services

Another prevalent tactic is setting up fake websites that closely resemble those of legitimate crypto platforms. These replica sites are meticulously designed to replicate the appearance and functionality of genuine sites, often using similar domain names with minor variations, such as substituting a zero for an 'o' or adding extra characters. When unsuspecting users visit these sites and enter their login information, the scammers capture their credentials and use them to access the victims' real accounts, stealing their funds.

Using social media or messaging apps to lure victims with urgent requests

Scammers also leverage social media platforms and messaging apps to reach potential victims. They may create fake profiles posing as customer support representatives, influencers, or even friends and family members. These fake accounts often send direct messages with urgent requests, such as verifying account information, participating in giveaways, or resolving security issues. The urgency and personalized nature of these messages can make them particularly convincing, prompting users to act quickly and provide sensitive information without verifying the legitimacy of the request.

One notable example of a phishing scam is the attack on MyEtherWallet users in 2017. Hackers exploited a vulnerability in the DNS infrastructure to redirect users to a fraudulent version of the MyEtherWallet site. When users attempted to log in, their private keys were stolen, resulting in the theft of millions of dollars' worth of Ethereum.

Fake ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings)

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have become a popular method for new cryptocurrency projects to raise capital. However, the rapid growth of ICOs has also attracted scammers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting investors. Fake ICOs are fraudulent schemes where scammers create a seemingly legitimate cryptocurrency project to solicit investments, only to disappear with the funds without delivering any actual product or service. This is how fake ICOs scam investors:

Creating convincing but fraudulent websites and whitepapers

Scammers often design professional-looking websites and draft comprehensive whitepapers to present their fake ICOs as legitimate projects. These websites may feature detailed project descriptions, development roadmaps, team biographies, and even testimonials to build credibility. Whitepapers, which are supposed to provide technical and business insights into the project, are often filled with impressive but meaningless jargon to confuse and impress potential investors.

Promising high returns and early bird bonuses

To attract investors, fake ICOs often promise unrealistically high returns on investment and offer enticing early bird bonuses for those who invest quickly. These promises are designed to create a sense of urgency and fear of missing out (FOMO), prompting investors to commit funds without conducting thorough due diligence.

Disappearing after collecting funds without developing the promised product

Once the scammers have collected enough funds, they shut down the website, erase all traces of their online presence, and vanish, leaving investors with worthless tokens and no means of recourse. This is often referred to as a "rug pull," where the project’s founders abruptly exit and take the invested funds with them.

One notorious example of a fake ICO is PlexCoin. The project promised investors returns of up to 1,354% in less than 29 days, raising over $15 million before being shut down by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for fraudulent activities. The SEC’s intervention revealed that PlexCoin’s founders had no intention of developing the promised cryptocurrency platform and had misled investors with false information.

Malware and Ransomware

Malware and ransomware are significant threats in the cryptocurrency space, targeting users to steal their digital assets or extort payments by holding their data hostage. These types of scams exploit vulnerabilities in software, hardware, and user behavior to gain unauthorized access to private information and funds.

Malware, short for malicious software, includes a variety of harmful programs designed to infiltrate, damage, or disable computers and networks. In the context of cryptocurrency, malware typically aims to steal sensitive information such as private keys, login credentials, and wallet addresses.

How malware is deployed:

  • Infected downloads: Scammers often hide malware in software downloads, fake updates, or pirated content. Once downloaded and installed, the malware can monitor keystrokes, capture screenshots, and log sensitive information.
  • Malicious websites: Visiting compromised or fraudulent websites can trigger malware downloads. These sites often masquerade as legitimate crypto services or news sites to trick users into visiting them.
  • Phishing emails: Malware can be distributed through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or links. Opening these attachments or clicking on the links can install malware on your device without your knowledge.

The CryptoShuffler Trojan malware, discovered in 2017, specifically targeted cryptocurrency users by monitoring clipboard activity. When a user copied a cryptocurrency wallet address, CryptoShuffler replaced it with the attacker’s address, redirecting funds to the scammer during transactions.

On the other hand, ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s files, rendering them inaccessible until a ransom is paid, usually in cryptocurrency. Ransomware attacks can be devastating, leading to significant data loss and financial damage.

How ransomware is executed:

  • Email attachments and links: Similar to other forms of malware, ransomware is often distributed through phishing emails with malicious attachments or links. Once the attachment is opened or the link is clicked, the ransomware is installed on the device.
  • Exploiting vulnerabilities: Ransomware can also spread by exploiting security vulnerabilities in software or operating systems. Attackers often scan for unpatched systems and use known exploits to deliver the ransomware payload.
  • Drive-by downloads: Simply visiting a compromised website can lead to a ransomware infection. These sites use scripts to automatically download and execute ransomware without the user’s interaction.

In 2017, the Wannacry ransomware attack affected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide, encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in Bitcoin. The attack caused widespread disruption and highlighted the destructive potential of ransomware.

Final thoughts

Cryptocurrency offers exciting opportunities but also comes with significant risks. By understanding and recognizing common types of crypto scams—phishing, fake ICOs, and malware/ransomware—you can better protect yourself and your investments.

If you need further security for your private keys against malware, do consider CoinWallet, an MPC-powered wallet designed to simplify and secure your crypto transactions. Click here (Android) or here (iOS) to download CoinWallet and take full control of your digital assets today!

David Ho

The Author

David Ho

Writer / Blockchain Enthusiast