Are free airdrops really free? The hidden cost of airdrops.

Are free airdrops really free? The hidden cost of airdrops.

By liquidsteel | CryptoCoinChat | 31 Mar 2019


Nothing in life is free, except lemons and airdrops. But are airdrops really free?

If you frequent any cryptocurrency subreddits, forums or any blogging platform filled with crypto bloggers (Steemit, Medium, Publish0x etc), you'll see many many posts talking about free airdrops. Usual titles look like this:

  • Claim xx free tokens!
  • Get free xx tokens doing easy tasks!
  • Earn passive income with xx airdrop!
  • Free US$x worth of tokens!
  • Top 10 platforms to get free tokens!
  • Quit your job and be a full time airdrop claimer! (ok I made this one up)

They all look very tempting (and I have been tempted before), but before you click and go through the steps, did you ever stop and think what the catch is? Is it really free?

Free Airdrops

The most common steps to claiming a free airdrop are:

  • Join a newsletter
  • Sign up with email
  • Do KYC - submit photo, address, etc
  • Connect social networks - Facebook, Twitter etc
  • Refer friends - connect to address book and send to friends
  • Refer strangers - use referral link and write posts to advertise
  • Buy and hodl ABC coin for x days
  • Download/install certain applications
  • Do some easy tasks daily - watch videos etc

with various combinations of the above.

Here's how each of them are not "free" in the common sense of the word.

"Free" Airdrops

Join the newsletter

It looks free because: Just registering my email, just like any other website right?

Not actually free because: It may be harvesting email addresses to send targetted ads to crypto-enthusiasts. You may end up with spam or worse, phishing attempts!

Sign in with email

It looks free because: Just signing up with my email, just like any other website right?

Not actually free because: Again, it may be harvesting email addresses to send targetted ads to crypto-enthusiasts. Or worse, harvesting your login information. Remember, they have access to the password you signed up with, and could potentially sell it.

Do KYC - submit photo, address, etc

It looks free because: Just taking a selfie and uploading my phone bill right?

Not actually free because: You're essentially selling your personal identifiable data for some coins! How is that free!

Connect social networks - Facebook, Twitter etc

It looks free because: It costs me nothing to click the connect or "log in with" button!

Not actually free because: You're selling your profile and personal network information (your "social graph") and even worse, depending on the permissions you've allowed, maybe even more of your profile!

Refer friends - connect to address book and send to friends

It looks free because: My friends should know this deal I found right?

Not actually free because: Same as connecting to you social network, but worse. This is like the chain-mails from the past and you've spread it to your friends who may be less careful since it is coming from you!

Refer strangers - use referral link and write posts to advertise

It looks free because: Only strangers, right? I don't care about them at all!

Not actually free because: Your referral link is an identifier to you. Depending on where you post it, it could be tracked and your browsing/posting habits could be harvested too! Besides, you're essentially doing free marketing for them! People get paid for that!

Buy and hodl other ABC coin for x days

It looks free because: It's just a few days, I will sell right after I get those airdropped coins!

Not actually free because: Firstly, you pay to buy the ABC coins. Then, maybe in those few days the price of those coins drop, or get such low volumn that you can't sell. Besides, it could just be a way for ABC coin to pump their price/volume!

Download/install certain applications

It looks free because: I install so many things, what's one more right?

Not actually free because: Wut? Please don't install random applications! You don't know what they do to your computer!

Do some easy tasks daily - watch videos etc

It looks free because: Just clicking the video and waiting right?

Not actually free because: Time is money, and you're spending time on these tasks - whatever they are. Is it really free after considering the minutes or hours you spend on them? Aside from that, "watching videos" probably means "watching ads" which benefits them.

Free "Airdrops"

Ok, so you've convinced yourself that you're willing to take all the risks and went ahead to sign up. Now what? Usually, airdrops don't distribute tokens immediately and may take days or up to months to distribute. And guess what? Most of these tokens end up in 4 states:

  • They get cancelled
  • They take forever to distribute or end up not distributing for some reason 
  • They do get distributed but don't get listed
  • They do get distributed and listed, but only on some small, shady exchanges

In each of these cases, you end up with no coins, or no way to convert the coins to something more valuable (eg, by selling to ETH). After doing so much work for them and lots of waiting, you may end up with nothing!

Epilogue

Ok, I may be paranoid. Some of the reasons above sounds pretty far-fetched. But just remember, in this time and age, personal data is very valuable and companies will stop at nothing to get it (see Facebook's Project Atlas). Data is harvested, packaged and sold like a fish market. And once your data is given out, it is never going to be erased again, so even though you may not see the repercussions now, it may happen months, or even years later!

Some methods are better (or, less bad?) than others, so you may be ok with it. I’m not saying that ALL airdrops are out to harvest your data, some are good and some are bad. So the most important point is, before jumping in and clicking the "Sign Me Up!" buttons, be aware what is it that you are actually giving up to get those free magic internet money!

Note: I'm talking about those dubious-looking new coins that appeared few days ago and started being advertised everywhere. If it's an airdrop or referral from a more reputable place, the above still applies but it would be a lot better. In the past, I used to do all these airdrops and even blog about them, but after some time I have come to realise it's a huge waste of time, not to mention all the personal data I have inadvertably sold.

Stay safe out there!

(Ironically, after posting this article on reddit, I get this warning. Yes, there is really no such thing as free)

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