By large, cryptocurrency investors, enthusiasts, and observers are aware of the number of “shitcoins” in circulation. But, Wall Street Journal suggests that the number of fraudulent cryptocurrencies available today could be much more than earlier thought, quoting a figure of over 200 as an estimate.
Facing the most heat are Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), a novel fundraising method that gained massive popularity in 2017 after making several overnight millionaires.
Of the 1,450 tokens analyzed, 271 raised distinctive red-flags, and were found with plagiarized documents in addition to having fake team listings or making claims which displayed all characteristics of deceptive ponzi-schemes.
Furthermore, most “whitepapers” – which discuss a project’s technology and applications in detail – were found to be copied verbatim from other projects, laughably copying even team names and mission statements in some cases. Other than this, the projects by large plagiarized marketing plans, security features, and developer notes.
Reportedly, freelancers on popular job sites offer their services for as little as $100, and it is imperative that they might have one small script which they keep regurgitating out with different words.
Bradley Bennett, formerly of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), puts it perfectly:
Copied language, the absence of named employees and promised high returns are warning signs for investors.
Despite the widespread appeal to conduct extensive research before participating in an ICO, naive investors have drained north of $1 billion into these 271 projects, with some of them still raising funds.
So far, only a total of $273 million has been claimed in the form of lawsuits, which goes to show that investors are still ignorant about the true nature of these projects.
The lure of ICOs as a fundraising method is undeniably impressive, with over $9 billion raised in the form of cryptocurrencies since 2017, as per a Satis Group report.
In a bid to prevent major investor losses, the United States’ SEC has sprung intoaction, and recently displayed a rather innovative undertaking – a fake ICO – to apprise investors of common fraud giveaways.
Several official warnings have been released by the SEC in the past, both to investors and cryptocurrency projects, to inform them of displaying caution and breaching regulations respectively. Additionally, the regulatory body has come down on controversial projects making bizarre claims, such as promising a fixed amount of profits after a certain time period.
An example is that of Plexcorps, which raised over $15 million on the premise of returning over 1,300 percent profits to investors in the short period of one month.
Naturally, the SEC was not impressed.
In conclusion, CCN appeals its readers to conduct due-diligence before investing in cryptocurrency projects, and most of all, being alert for clear giveaways like buggy websites, generic stock images, and online reviews on reputed forums.
Not all cryptocurrencies are fraudulent though, as there are certainly great projects in the market which solve real-world problems and are backed with impressive partnerships. Echoing these thoughts is Mr.Bennett, a law partner at Baker Botts LLP, stating:
There are going to be some legitimate players that emerge from this but it’s going to be a handful—a lot of it looks like penny-stock fraud with lower barriers to entry.
Images from Shutterstock.