Common Crypto Scams: Confidence Tricks and Social Engineering

Common Crypto Scams: Confidence Tricks and Social Engineering

By Mark Anstead | Tech stuff | 20 Sep 2021

Scams and confidence tricks, they’re not a new thing and, irrespective of what the media suggest, they are certainly not just a problem for crypto. In fact they have been around for thousands of years in many different forms. It’s just that crypto (and social media) has given scammers a new way to part unsuspecting marks from their hard earned money on a global scale.

In part 2 of this Numio Scam advisor post we look at some of the confidence tricks and social engineering scams that plague the crypto world.



The send one, get two free, scam.

One of the oldest and most common scams in crypto. This one relies on social media, household names and the victim’s greed.

How does it work?

You’ve seen it before. A tweet from a famous celebrity. Usually someone who is rich and a face in crypto. Usually Elon Musk.

So, they tweet that they are giving away 1,000 Bitcoin to give back to the crypto community and all you have to do is send 0.1BTC and they will send you 0.5BTC in return. How nice of them.

It looks legitimate. The username looks right, it’s the same profile photo, and there are other people tweeting their thanks for the free money.

How to protect yourself?

Look closer. A small amount of research could save you a lot of pain.

  • Check the username – It might be totally wrong, or it may be more subtle like the lowercase L in the username @elonmusk actually being an uppercase I, or some other character.
  • Check the profile – the account age is wrong, the followers are wrong, find the real account and look at their tweets.

Most of all remember nobody got rich by giving away money for nothing – if it seems too good to be true it probably is.


Fake Exchange Listings

There are two common scams that target crypto projects. If you have an upcoming project then watch out for these.

How does it Work?

  • The fake listing – A project is approached, usually via Telegram or email, by a ‘representative’ of a crypto exchange who promises a listing for xBTC.The project takes up the offer only to find the account later deleted and the money missing.
  • The bait and switch – An unscrupulous exchange offers a listing for a certain amount of BTC. They progress the listing, the project markets the listing and gets the community hyped and then, shortly before going live, the exchange demands more BTC for the listing.

How to protect yourself?

  • The fake listing – Do your due diligence.
    • Check that the email is actually from the exchange’s domain.-
    • Check via the official exchange support channel that the listing is real.
    • Ask the representative to contact you from a domain account.
    • Check for the exchange listing guidelines as they will have specific rules, listing requirements, or may even sign all messages with a PGP Key (e.g. binance).
  • The bait and switch – This is hard to avoid. Make sure you are dealing with reputable exchanges and be prepared to drop the listing if you aren’t happy – if the exchange is doing this now are they really a company you want to be dealing with?


Fake Airdrops

Amazing, free money, I can’t lose.

How does it Work?

Scammers drop links to airdrop sites on Twitter, Telegram and forums. When victims visit the website they are asked to enter their Private Key or Seed Phrase (mnunomic) to have the airdrop added to their wallet.

How to protect yourself?

Never enter your Private Key or Seed Phrase (mnunomic) on any website.


Fake NFTs

Woah, this is cheap. I can’t believe I’m getting an original ‘insert famous artist’ NFT for so cheap.

How does it Work?

A thief will copy an artist’s work, and mint their own NFT, before selling on a marketplace.

How to protect yourself?

Make sure you check the original artist’s wallet address and that they have minted the work themselves.

Use a service like Twitter or Instagram to get links to the artist account. You can also check that the artist/seller is verified on that particular NFT platform (e.g. Rarible and OpenSea).

If in doubt you can always ask the artist – they are usually more than happy to help a fan of their work


Stay safe out there everyone…

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Mark Anstead
Mark Anstead Verified Member

Co-Founder of Numio

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