A study from Statis Group an ICO advisory company reveals that 80 percent of all 2017 initial coin offering were scams. Of the over $11.9 billion floated in that year in tokens and coins, a massive $1.34 billion of it, was lost.
The scam of the year was Pincoin’s, getting away with $660 million digital assets, followed by Arisebank with $600 million. The comfort here though is that this massive number of scams received only 11 percent of the funds directed to ICOs.
As the cryptocurrency market thrives, so have the con artists, feeding off the lack of education on cryptocurrencies or taking advantage of good old trader’s greed. There is still no silver bullet for this fraud, but there are red flags investors can watch out for, that show that things are bound to go south.
Red Flag #1: Faking Volumes of Trade
The Blockchain Transparency Institute is questioning up-to 87 percent transactions done on 25 top global crypto exchanges. Known as ‘wash trading’ trading platforms are embellishing their trading volumes to market their selling power. CoVenture, in a report, says wash trading is “when a trader/s places a buy and sell order at an identical price without changing ownership of the underlying asset. They use bots to automate these orders leading to an artificially increased volume. This gives unsuspecting traders the illusion of liquidity.”
They use this false image to charge $50,000 or more to coin networks who are falling over themselves to list their assets on these faked volume platforms. The other advantage that they seek by presenting this fake persona is getting fantastic listings on good sites like CoinMarketCap.
Coinmarketcap.com’s intelligence shows that it is only 2 out of the 25 crypto exchanges listed on their site are free of ‘wash trading.’ Some have embellished their volumes by up to 70 percent. Upbit, the largest trading platform in South Korea for example, has executives accused of embellishing orders and records worth $226.2 billion. Others accused of wash trading is BitFinex. Investors who trade with these platforms often face a lack of liquidity when they want to withdraw their assets.
Red Flag #2: Stranger Than Fiction Hack Attacks
An exit scam can be defined as a thievery plot where blockchain startups collect money through ICOs, then vanish into thin air with it. Some of these exit scam thieves shut down their exchanges unceremoniously and use hack attacks as a cover up their nefarious activities.
MapleChange for example, one Sunday Morning in October 2018, took to Twitter making claims that “Due to a bug, some people have managed to withdraw all the funds from our exchange. We are extremely sorry that it has to come to an end like this. Until the investigation is over, we cannot refund anything”. The loss in question was investor’s 913 BTC worth of assets.
The exchange aggravated the situation further by shutting its social media accounts and website “for investigative purposes.” However, with hindsight, the exchange owners always had poor communication strategies and paid little attention to the platform’s security. These are warning for any investor to get out!
Red Flag #3: A High Concentration of Digital Assets in One Wallet
The core idea behind cryptocurrencies is the promotion of decentralization. If an exchange has a massive amount of assets packed in a portfolio there is need to worry. This kind of grouping of assets allows for price manipulation and often is an invitation for hackers looking for a challenge.
Worse still, if there is no multi-sign capacity and exchange’s asset is under the control of one person, and then it’s time to take off.
Red Flag #4: Too Good To Be True Promises
There exist too many Ponzi schemes set up to defraud investors with promises of huge yields. They also scam investors by pushing high commission for every new investor they bring in. Scam artists in the cryptosphere use tricks like giveaways, bounties and airdrops to access funds and accounts belonging to investors.
In the words of Ouriel Ohayon, an expert in cryptocurrencies “”Yes, you are in control of your own assets, but the price to pay is that you are in charge of your own security.” When the deal is too good, withdraw your funds.