Earlier this week, Emin Gün Sirer, associate professor and co-director for the “Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts” at the Computer Science Department of the Cornell University, was impersonated by an amateur scammer who tried to trick people into sending funds to his bitcoin wallet. However, the scamming attempt failed.
The scammer impersonated Gün Sirer in a Slack channel dedicated to Tezos, a new blockchain-based platform that is planning to launch an initial coin offering (ICO), where people discuss technology. The scammer used Gün Sirer’s identity to trick people in the channel into sending funds to him. He promised – after the potential victims had sent funds to him – he would give them a stake in the Tezos platform.
ICO is more similar to a crowdfunding campaign than to venture capital financing. Critics say ICOs attract large investments and small claims. Francis Pouliot, who operates Bitcoin Embassy in Montreal, said there are risks associated with ICOs, including that the coins can be regulated as investments. He also added that companies can choose to reduce the value of future tokens to improve the product’s attractiveness. However, such opinions did not stop the investments into ICOs. According to Smith & Crown’s data, in the first half of May, companies raised $27.6 million from ICOs, compared to all of May 2016’s $3.5 million.
Here are some of the messages between the scammer and a user in the Tezos Slack channel:
On Monday, Gün Sirer spotted the scammer and immediately notified the owner of the Slack channel and Tezos founder Arthur Breitman. With Breitman’s help, the professor uncovered that the scammer used his real, personal Gmail account to sign up to the Slack channel. Gün Sirer took advantage of the situation and sent messages to the individual both on Gmail and on Instagram, which was created with the same email and alias.
Gün Sirer told Motherboard he sent the scammer this message:
“Why are you impersonating me? And what on Earth made you think that you could impersonate a guy whose handle is El33thx0r, and get away with it?”
Gün Sirer told Motherboard he thinks that the scammer registered with his personal email since he thought if regular users can’t see the emails in Slack, no one can. However, according to the professor, the channel owner “sees it all”.
At first, the scammer pretended he knew nothing, however, later on, he “capitulated very quickly”, Gün Sirer wrote. The professor said, since no one lost money due to the scammer’s activity, the story is over for him. Looking at the bitcoin address, the individual posted into the chat room, confirms Gün Sirer’s statement. The last transactions sent to the wallet was from earlier on in May, meaning there were no victims from the Tezos Slack channel.
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