In recent months, we’ve seen crypto, DeFi and NFTs growing substantially. The term ‘crypto’ is growing in popularity amongst beginners and newcomers who are just starting out in the space.
We’ve recently seen El Salvador announcing Bitcoin as a legal tender, we’ve seen Elon Musk announce at the B-Word conference he personally holds Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin, and also claiming that ‘I might pump, but I don’t dump … I would like to see Bitcoin succeed.”, and now we’re seeing a new digital currency, ‘Britcoin’, that may be established by the UK government to cover fewer costs and to introduce financial stability in the country.
So, crypto is becoming more mainstream in various ways, and indubitably within the news and in the social media sector. The adoption has increased with more young adults joining in and being part of the crypto community. With Bitcoin itself only being 12 years old, it really has come a long way, in such a short space of time.
As digital currencies and the world of ‘Crypto, Blockchain, DeFi, Gamification and NFTs’ come to light to many inexperienced people around the world, more and more of us are joining in for the ride.
Nonetheless, beginners are joining this wave and now we’re seeing many of them fall for the notorious crypto scams.
Crypto scams are infamous and are often seen almost everywhere you go online. They are prevalent and are always seeking the least-experienced individuals as their next prey.
This article will serve as an informative guide for helping those who are new, and to raise awareness of the ever-growing crypto scams. Ultimately, we want everyone to be safe, to join this community, and to help others — most importantly, to have fun whilst doing so.
So, what exactly is a Crypto Scam & how do they work?
A crypto scam has a different approach to what we may be used to seeing as a regular scam. Crypto scams are apparent within all crypto communities and channels.
A few characteristics include:
- Asking for your all-in-important Recovery Phrase/Private Key/Seed Phrase;
- Asking for your personal information and details;
- Phishing attempts;
- Cloned websites;
- Fake wallet applications and exchanges;
- Fake ICO’s;
- Impersonation of Customer Support;
- Direct messages through popular social media apps such as Twitter, Telegram, Discord etc.
Crypto scams are increasingly becoming an issue and are becoming more common because of the amount of newcomers that are getting involved. They’re an easy target by many scammers and bots.
Due to their nature, bots and scammers can instantly create a new account and set their eyes on anyone who may need some ‘assistance’. They’re often impersonating admins, team members, and so-called ‘Customer Support’ or ‘Technical Support’.
These scams are more widespread amongst new users joining communities, hence why it’s so incredibly important to consistently raise awareness about these types of scams to those that may not be too familiar.
When working in the Customer Support field, more and more of us notice how these scams affect our users and affect the communities that we’re part of. It hurts. And it even deters users away. We can do a lot more by advising users, creating posts, and simply by spreading the word to keep others safe.
The stories of people losing their own, hard-earned funds to these scams are heart-breaking, and no one should be a victim of any scam, in whichever industry.
I’m someone new to crypto, what are the best tips and advice to stay safe?
The best tips to staying safe in the crypto world come with understanding how certain crypto scams work, and understanding how and when you could be targeted.
The majority, and if not all, crypto scams out there will entail in some shape or form where the scammer is asking for your Recovery Phrase (your Seed phrase, Passphrase, 12 words etc) of your wallet.
What is a Recovery Phrase?
If you are new, a Recovery Phrase, (often referred to as your 12 words, your Private Key or your Seed Phrase) is the key to your portfolio/wallet. It provides access to your wallet and funds, hence, why this passphrase should only be accessed by you.
This Recovery Phrase should never be shared online. It’s imperative that it’s written down, on paper, somewhere safe where only you have access to it.
This is often coined as the ‘Pen and Paper’ approach, to always ensure your passphrase is written down on paper, versus storing it on a digital device, such as your laptop or PC where it can easily be accessed. A Recovery Phrase is unique to you and to the wallet(s) that are generated.
📌 A full list of all generated English words can be found here.
It’s important to always keep your passphrase safe, where only you have access to it. Never send your passphrase to anyone.
Telegram Crypto Scams & Tips
Telegram is the world of crypto, it’s where most crypto-related communities are created, and it’s also where the majority of scammers and impersonators are located.
Telegram has a vast amount of scammers, bots, fake channels/groups and also impersonators. It’s easy for anyone to create an account, set a fake name and/or profile picture and go into any crypto channel to scout out vulnerable people.
To easily identify this, “Customer Support”, ‘Technical Support agents”, or “Troubleshooting agents” as imposters and bots are extremely common amongst all crypto scams. As you join your favourite crypto community, you may get several Direct Messages (DM’s) from these so-called “Technical Support” or “Customer Service Team” from that particular project.
You should always know, official admins, mods or community managers will never direct message you first.
So, how do you identify someone as a scammer or a bot on Telegram?
- The account has ‘Technical Support Team’ or any kind like it, as their username;
- The account is asking if you need any support with any crypto-related products/services;
- The account asks for your personal information, such as your Recovery Phrase.
What should you do if you’ve been approached by a scammer?
- Block and Report the account;
- On Telegram, there is the button “BLOCK USER”.
- Don’t engage in the conversation;
- Check the account and see if they are an admin in the project/community that you are in. If you do not see that they are an admin, they’re most likely fake;
- Always remain vigilant and wary of anyone contacting you on Telegram;
- Raise awareness and if you see anyone else falling in the trap of being scammed, help them and inform them of these popular crypto scams.
Another common way for crypto scams to appear on Telegram, is through fake channels and mimicking genuine projects. Once in a while, you may find yourself being randomly added to crypto group channels, where bots will bulk-add as many accounts as possible.
The aim of this technique is to get you to stay in these channels to participate in fake giveaways or fake ICO’s.
What should you do if you are added to these fake channels?
- Block and Report as Spam;
- Remain vigilant and wary of any groups you are being added to;
- Scam group channels will often have a bot bulk-adding accounts and messages claiming that you can earn ‘free crypto’ and promoting fake ICO’s;
- In the Telegram settings, you can prevent bots from adding you to fake channels. Go to “Settings” → “Privacy and Security” → Groups and Channels → and set to “My Contacts”.
- This will allow only your contacts can add you to group channels and will prevent any other account from adding you to fake group channels;
- Another way to verify channels is the recently added ‘Telegram Verified Icon”. 🌟
- A channel with the verified star is genuine, and only verified channels have been approved by Telegram themselves.
Fake Customer Support/Technical Support
On different social media platforms, commonly on Telegram, fake customer support or technical support are likely to message. To summarise; Customer Support of any genuine crypto project will never provide you support or assistance on Telegram via a Direct Message.
It’s very easy to fall into this trap as they will instantly message you as you join a new project or group channel. Additionally, these so-called ‘Technical Support’ will imitate genuine admins or community mods, with the aim of appearing exactly just like them (username, bio and profile picture).
It should be custom to get into the mindset of never responding to these messages. You should assume if you need assistance with a particular crypto project, to always do your own research (DYOR) and opt to finding the most appropriate and safest way of contacting their support team.
A few of the safest ways of reaching out to a support team is via:
- Email Address;
- Support Ticket;
- Live chat on official website;
- Tweeting @ the project;
- Help Center/Knowledge base.
Summary & Notes
- Telegram is hugely popular for joining crypto communities. It’s also prone to many crypto scams and impersonators direct messaging users to get them to send their personal information and crypto funds.
- A Recovery Phrase (your essential passphrase) is key and show never be posted or shared online with anyone! Your Recovery Phrase should only be written down on paper.
- Anyone asking for your Recovery Phrase is a scam. Block and report the account.
- There are many fake group channels on Telegram, if you are added to one of them, simply block and report as spam to Telegram. Don’t engage in the conversation(s).
- You can prevent yourself from being added to fake groups by changing your privacy group preferences in the settings.
Phishing And Fake Websites
Phishing and fake websites are amongst other ways crypto scammers will try to trick you into giving them your funds. Phishing is common as it’s easy to imitate and fake a website URL. You should always do your own research, and never click any link that is provided to you.
Scammers will also often provide a link to a Google Form, where you need to enter bits of information about yourself. In all cases, anywhere that asks for your seed phrase/recovery phrase, should never be entered. These phishing links will look very similar to the project that you’re working with, however, there’s always a catch. A way to identify if they are fake or genuine is by looking closely at the website URL.
It’s easy to spot a typo, which will indicate that it’s fake or a hyphen (-) will display, which is another indicator that the website you’re viewing is a scam.
A way to identify this, if the website asks for you to enter your Recovery Phrase/Seed Phrase, you should immediately leave. Any website asking for your personal information and/or seed phrase is a scam. No project will ask for your sensitive information, additionally, any website asking you to download any software or files is fake.
Keeping Your Crypto Funds Safe
It’s also important to know the differences between cold storage and hot storage wallets so you can determine how you want to keep your funds safe and secure.
Keeping your funds safe and secure is extremely important in this space, whether you use a wallet or an exchange, doing your research and understanding what fits well for you and your needs will be beneficial. Every option, service or product will provide different functionalities to your needs.
Cold Storage wallets are typically referred by this because they’re types of wallets that are not connected to the internet and thus don’t function online. Cold storage wallets are also Desktop Wallets, where users can download a Wallet client software, and create/import their wallets to store and hold their tokens.
As cold storage wallets are offline-based, this is regarded as being more secure, thus, keeping your funds in a secure spot where no one can gain access to it. A few examples of cold storage wallets are hardware wallets such as the Ledger devices and Trezor.
However, with extra security comes with the price. Not all hardware wallets will be cheap, and it’s always best to research the one that fits your needs as each one is different.
Hot Storage wallets are the opposite, typically referred to as wallets connected online, where it allows you, as the owner of your wallet and funds, to interact with them via an internet connection. This could be via a mobile wallet application, or through a Chrome extension.
Hot wallets run on mobile/tablet applications, that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and App Store. Your Private Key/Seed Phrase is automatically generated on the device you use to store and hold your tokens.
Hot wallets are great to store a few tokens here and there to make your payments, albeit, hot storage wallets can often be forgotten about and you may lose your crypto funds.