There are a number of crypto scams in the blockchain space. Some of the most common include extortion, fake exchanges, fake gifts, social media scams, copy and paste malware, email scams, Ponzi and pyramid schemes, and ransomware. Let’s briefly discuss each of them so you can learn how to avoid the most common Bitcoin scams and keep your crypto holdings safe and healthy.
As long as new technology is introduced into the world, scammers will continue to look for a place to thrive. Unfortunately, Bitcoin offers crypto scammers an interesting opportunity as it is a borderless digital currency.
The decentralized nature of Bitcoin gives you full control over your investments. However, it also makes it more difficult to identify an appropriate regulatory and law enforcement framework. If scammers try to trick you into making a mistake while using Bitcoin, they will probably steal your BTC and there is almost nothing you can do to recover your crypto.
That said, it’s important to understand how scammers work and learn to identify the potential signs. There are many Bitcoin scams to look out for, but some are more popular than others. For that reason, we will take a look at eight common Bitcoin scams and how you can avoid them.
Common Bitcoin Scams and How to Avoid Them
Blackmail is a well-known method used by scammers to intimidate others by revealing sensitive information unless they are somehow reimbursed. This return usually comes in the form of cryptocurrencies, more notably Bitcoin.
Extortion works by scammers who seek or fabricate sensitive information about you and leverage that information to force you to send them bitcoins or other forms of money.
The best way to avoid scammers extorting you out of bitcoin is to be careful with the choice of your credentials, the sites you visit online, and who you give your information to. You should also use two-factor authentication whenever possible. If the information they are blackmailing you is false and you know it, you can know for sure.
Bitcoin scams: Fake exchanges
As the name suggests, fake exchanges are fraudulent copies of legitimate cryptocurrency exchanges. Usually these scams will be presented as mobile apps, but you can also see them as desktop apps or fake websites. Be careful because some fake exchanges are very similar to the original. At first glance they look legit but their purpose is to steal your money.
Usually, these fake exchanges will attract crypto investors and traders by offering free crypto, competitive prices, low exchange fees, and even giveaways.
To avoid being scammed on a fake exchange, you should bookmark the real URL and always double-check before logging in. You can also use Binance Verify to check the legitimacy of URLs, Twitter accounts, Telegram groups, and more.
When it comes to mobile apps, make sure to verify developer info, download count, rating and comment. Check out popular mobile scams for more details.
Fake gifts are used to trick you out of your crypto by offering something free in exchange for a small deposit. Usually, scammers will ask you to send money to a bitcoin address first so you can get more bitcoins (e.g. “send 0.1 BTC to get 0.5 BTC”). But if you do these bitcoin transactions, you won’t get anything and will never see your money again.
There are many variations of fake gift giving scams. Instead of BTC, some scams will claim other cryptocurrencies, like ETH, BNB, XRP, etc. In some cases, they may ask for your private key or other sensitive information.
Fake giveaways are most commonly found on Twitter and other social media platforms, where scammers latch on to popular tweets, viral news, or announcements (like a protocol upgrade or an upcoming ICO).
The best way to avoid fake gift scams is to never engage in any kind of giveaway where you must first send something of value. Legitimate gifts will never ask for money.
Social networks phishing
Social media scams are a common Bitcoin scam that, like fake gifts, you will most likely find on social media. Scammers will create an account that looks like a high authority in the crypto space (this is also known as impersonation). Next, they will offer fake giveaways via tweet or by direct chat message.
The best way to avoid being scammed through social media is to double check that the person is really who they say they are. There are often indicators of this on certain social media platforms, like the blue check mark on Twitter and Facebook.
Copy and paste malware
Copy and paste malware is a very sophisticated way for scammers to steal your money. This type of malware hijacks your clipboard data and, if you’re not careful, you’ll send money directly to scammers.
For example, you want to send a BTC payment to your friend. He will normally send you his bitcoin address so you can copy and paste it into your bitcoin wallet. However, if your device is infected with copy-and-paste malware, the scammer’s address will automatically replace Bob’s address at the time you paste it. This means that as soon as your bitcoin transaction is sent and confirmed, your BTC payment will be in the hands of the scammer and Bob will receive nothing.
To avoid this, be careful with your computer security. Be wary of suspicious messages or emails that may contain infected attachments or malicious links. Pay attention to the websites you browse and the software you install on your device. You should also consider installing anti-virus software and scanning for threats regularly. It’s important to keep your device’s operating system (OS) up to date.
Bitcoin scams: Phishing emails
One of the most common cases involves the use of phishing emails that try to trick you into downloading an infected file or clicking on a link that leads you to a malicious website that appears to be legitimate. These emails are especially dangerous when they mimic a product or service that you use regularly.
Scammers will typically include a message asking you to take urgent action to secure your account or funds. They may ask you to update your account information, reset your password, or upload documents. In most cases, their goal is to collect your login information to try and hack your account.
The first step to avoiding phishing email scams is to check if the email is coming from the original source. If in doubt, you can also contact the company directly to confirm the email you received is from them. Second, you can hover over email links (without clicking) to check if the URLs have typos, unusual characters, or other irregularities.
Even if you can’t find the red flag, you should avoid clicking on the links. If you need to access your account, you should do so through other means, such as manually entering the URL or using bookmarks.
Ponzi and pyramid scheme
Ponzi and pyramid schemes are the oldest financial scams in history. A Ponzi scheme is an investment strategy that pays returns to old investors with new investors’ money. The money will stop flowing when the scammer can no longer bring in new investors. OneCoin is a good example of a crypto Ponzi scheme.
A pyramid plan is a business model that pays members based on how many new members they sign up for. When it is not possible to register new members, the cash flow will stop.
The best way to avoid either of these schemes is to do your research on the cryptocurrencies you buy – be it an altcoin or Bitcoin. If the value of a cryptocurrency or Bitcoin fund is entirely dependent on new investors or members joining, you may have found yourself a Ponzi scheme or pyramid.
Bitcoin scams: Ransomware
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks down a victim’s mobile device or computer or prevents them from accessing valuable data – unless a ransom is paid (usually in BTC). These attacks can be especially destructive when targeting hospitals, airports and government agencies.
Typically, ransomware will block access to important files or databases and threaten to delete them if payment is not received by the deadline. But unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the attackers will honor their promises.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself against ransomware attacks:
- Install anti-virus software and update your operating system and applications.
- Avoid clicking on suspicious links and ads.
- Be wary of email attachments. You should be very careful with files ending in .exe, .vbs or .scr.
- Regularly back up your files so you can restore them if you get infected.
- You can find helpful ransomware prevention advice and free recovery tools at NoMoreRansom.org.
There are many Bitcoin scams out there for you to watch out for. However, understanding how these scams work is an important first step in avoiding them. If you can avoid the most common Bitcoin scams, you will be able to keep your crypto assets safe and sound.