What the rise of the cryptocurrency market has meant for the world should never be understated. Reinventing the way that the world sees currency and financial transactions, the “Bitcoin boom” has been nothing short of revolutionary. However, during the past decade, for every inch of electric growth that the market has experienced, the world of digital currency has also seen several darker moments.
Some of the brightest minds in the world have used the cryptocurrency platform as a way to bring new and emerging technologies to market. Sadly, others have used the emerging crypto market as means to exploit others. Since 2009, there has been an explosion of ICOs, with likes of Ripple and Ethereum leaving a lasting impact. The problem is that without proper policing, the ICO market has become home to an array of different scams, some of which have been truly devastating.
Catching out many unsuspecting individuals, the following looks at 5 cryptocurrency scams that shook the world and the lessons we have all learned from them.
It might have had an impressive name – after all, OneCoin signifies that it surely is the number one coin, right? Wrong, as this coin proved to be anything but a market leading cryptocurrency. Revealed as a scam that cost people millions, OneCoin was nothing more than one big fraud. During a series of investigations, Indian authorities discovered that OneCoin – despite its supposed honest marketing presence – was a multi-level Ponzi scheme.
It isn’t just in India that OneCoin has been rumbled as one of the biggest cryptocurrency scams in recent memory. Throughout Europe it’s been discovered that – despite OneCoin’s claims – it doesn’t even operate a legitimate decentralized cryptocurrency, nor is it officially licensed. There is no public ledger or are there any foundations for the creation of such either.
Shockingly, OneCoin is still technically operational, but its crimes are now catching it up with it. OneCoin’s Bulgarian offices were recently raided, with the claims and court cases against the ICO mounting. On top of a €2.5 million fine issued by Italian authorities, $30 million dollars was seized by Chinese authorities investigating the OneCoin operation in Asia. It might still be operating in some parts of the world, but it’s pretty clear that OneCoin’s days are numbered.
The harsh reality is that while OneCoin promised to be the powerful and transparent cryptocurrency on the future, it proved to be nothing more than a large-scale crypto scam.
On sheer scale alone, it’s a dual ICO scam that has ripped the world off more than any other. Pincoin and iFan were two ICOs promoted by Modern Tech, a Vietnam-based company. The amount swindled from honest investors seems to grow every month, but at last count it had scammed 32,000 investors out approximately $650 million. These figures alone make it the biggest ICO scam in history, which should tell you that this was no ordinary “get rich quick” operation.
As authorities grew aware of the scam, Modern Tech abandoned its Ho Chi Minh City office, running away with the money in the process. Protesters soon set up camp outside of the building, drawing attention to the company further. Following widespread media coverage, the city’s administration ordered further investigations into Modern Tech and its fraudulent operations.
Both iFan and Pincoin have been labeled as highly-sophisticated marketing scams. For iFan, the ICO was supposedly going to result in a social media service for the rich and famous, which would allow them to interact with fans and promote additional content. Pincoin was supposed to be a coin that promised a truly ridiculous 40% monthly return on investment. Both ICOs made huge product claims, but much like any cryptocurrency scam, it all proved too good to be true.
Hollow and promoted with illicit intentions, Modern Tech is a company that has a huge amount to answer for – should anyone be able to track them down that is.
Bitconnect is probably the most famous cryptocurrency scam – largely because of videos like this. Users were buying up Bitconnect Coin (BCC) thinking that they were investing in a revolutionary new crypto that would deliver record-breaking returns. Like the other scams we’ve already mentioned, it was all built on lies and falsehoods. When Bitconnect introduced a loan program that was based on BCC referrals – a ponzi scheme effectively – the writing was on the wall.
American financial regulators would soon target Bitconnect, with a cease and desist order finally shutting the operation down. It’s safe to say that the crypto community has not been sympathetic to the demise of Bitconnect. Since its doors closed, many of its victims have banded together, with a lawsuit being filed in an attempt to recoup $700,000 in lost funds.
What’s particularly unnerving is that BCC was at one point among the world’s top 20 most successful cryptocurrency tokens. Thankfully, the true intentions of this coin were discovered before it could cause any more harm to its investors.
Plexcoin came charging out of the gate after its initial launch, but it wouldn’t be long before cracks in the operation would start to show. You can always spot a Ponzi scheme early should it carry an unrealistic return on investment. This is exactly what happened here, as Plexcorp’s promise of 1,300% was laughable, with the US authorities seeing right through its claims, ordering the firm to cease operations.
PlexCoin was able to generate more than $15 million during its ICO, as its false promises and claims caught out thousands of investors. Unlike a lot of cases, the SEC was able to freeze the majority of the company’s funds, while Dominic Lacroix – Plecorp founder – was jailed for fraud. Representing a landmark case, it’s the first example of the SEC being able to step in and successfully charge an illegal ICO operator. Hopefully, the SEC’s Cyber Crime Unit can have similar success in the future when it comes to stomping out cryptocurrency scams.
Celebrity endorsements have become a scary part of the cryptocurrency sphere. Nothing symbolizes the reason for this fear more than Centratech. Backed by DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather – among others – Centratech commanded the spotlight. What it was supposed to deliver was a MasterCard and Visa debit card like platform that would be able to exchange cryptocurrencies for fiat in an instant.
Unsurprisingly, this potentially game-changing idea caught the attention of thousands of investors. It raised approximately $32 million before its two investors – Robert Farkas and Sohrab Sharma – were arrested for fraud. The SEC was stunned by the lengths the two men went to promote Centratech and scam investors. With the case on-going, it has been reported that US regulators intend to force Farkas and Sharma to hand back stolen cash, plus any attached interest.
Smarten up and stay safe
The five cryptocurrency scams we’ve mentioned above show the extreme lengths that unscrupulous individuals will go to. These fraudulent operations really do represent a black mark on what should be an innovative form of investing. Scam operations might operate in the shadows, but they ride the cryptocurrency wave, hurting the entire crypto community in the process.
Here at BitStarz, we understand that many of our members are active investors. We only see this as a positive thing, as the cryptocurrency market has a huge amount to offer. But, we feel it’s our duty to make sure that you remain aware of the changing marketplace and the risks that come with it. It’s time for investors to smarten up and learn about what makes for a legitimate ICO.
If you want our advice, it’s important to remain open to the growing ICO market – as there are some extraordinary products being developed – but don’t invest in any coin without carrying out proper due diligence first. Remember, if an ICO sounds too good to be true then it probably is.