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REVEALED: 10 Biggest ICO Scams Swindled $687.4 million

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Initial Coin Offerings are one of the most tempting investment options for those hoping to profit from the ever-evolving world of cryptocurrency. However, the lack of regulation has allowed ICO investors to become targets of sneaky schemes.

Though ICOs have snowballed, with more than 750 being invested in during 2018 alone, the number of scams has also steadily risen, with more victims of fraud falling prey to cryptocurrency criminals.

Following Satis Group’s revelation that approximately 80 percent of 2017 ICOs were identified scams, new data from Fortune Jack has found that just ten of the most high-profile ICO scams have swindled $687.4 million from unsuspecting investors.

In fact, Pincoin and iFan scam stole $660 million, with an estimated 32,000 investors falling prey to the money-making plot from Modern Tech.

As cryptocurrency continues to dominate headlines, more investors are pouring cash into ICO schemes in the hope of turning a quick profit. And with more than 150 scams listed on popular website Deadcoins, it’s easy to see how inexperienced ISO investors are being suckered.

The losses have become so prevalent that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched its own ISO scam in a bid to show investors how easy it is to set up such schemes.

The top ten most notorious ICO scams to date

Scam name Amount of money scammed ($)
Pincoin and iFan 660,000,000
Plexcoin 15,000,000
Bitcard 5,000,000
Opair and Ebitz 2,900,000
Benebit 2,700,000
Bitconnect 700,000
Confido 375,000
REcoin and DRC 300,000
Ponzicoin 250,000
Karbon 200,000

 

Despite the SEC warning that ICOs “bring an increased risk of fraud and manipulation” due to the lack of regulation, the number of ICOs, as well as the amount invested, has increased over the past year.

biggest ICO scams

In 2017 $6,240,046,555 was raised across 371 ICOs. However, in 2018 a staggering $20,074,423,238 has been raised across 789 ICOs to date.

This reveals a 222% increase in the amount raised in 2018 so far, compared to the full year of 2017. Additionally, there is a 113% increase in the number of ICOs in 2018 so far compared to 2017.

If Satis Group’s suggestion that almost 80% of 2017’s ICOs were identified scams is correct, 297 ICOs in 2017 may have been fraudulent. If this trend was to continue in 2018, 631 ICOs could be fraudulent.

Despite such shocking statistics, ICOs remain a relatively popular investment in 2018, with $20.1 billion being invested into ICOs so far.

The amount invested in ICOs in 2018 to date

Month Money invested ($)
January 1,985,750,821
February 1,660,013,613
March 4,173,112,271
April 1,268,948,460
May 1,985,596,961
June 5,778,213,703
July 809,577,207
August 989,375,043
September 1,423,835,159

 

So, what are the red flags that may alert you to an ISO scam? The following were present in the most high-profile incidents:

  • Silence from companies when contacted by investors
  • Lack of a whitepaper and inconsistencies on the ISO website
  • Fake Linkedin Profiles of “the team” with stock images or stolen photos
  • Any text humourous or otherwise outlining a scam
  • Promise of fixed profit or guaranteed ROI

This guest contribution was provided by Fortune Jack

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Scam Alert! Scammers in Kenya are Now Using Facebook’s Libra to Defraud Crypto Users

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Libra Kenya

Scammers in Kenya are now using Libra to make quick gains from unsuspecting victims through a company called Calibra Kenya.

According to its website, the “company” is promising to increase investors’ money three-fold within six months if they invest amounts from KES 20,000 to KES 950,000. The deadline for this “investment deal” (read scam) is November 31, 2019.

Facebook’s Libra is yet to Launch

Bitcoin Scam“Calibra Kenya” is cashing in on Facebook’s Libra, a cryptocurrency that is not yet rolled-out. Calibra Kenya told Gadgets Africa that they are waiting for the Libra launch in January 2020 for investment to begin. However, it is currently unclear when Libra will launch. Facebook had originally announced 2020 as the launch date but the company has said that it will only launch until it has sorted out regulators’ concerns.

Since Facebook announced the cryptocurrency in June, the embattled crypto project has lost a quarter of its members while Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify before the US House Committee on Financial Services today.

The Kenyan “company” has borrowed the name from Libra’s digital wallet, Calibra.

Scammers That Are Also Self-Proclaimed Philanthropists

“Sir John,” a Twitter account holder promoting Calibra Kenya, claims he is a philanthropist. This is similar to a scam story BitcoinAfrica.io recently covered where the alleged swindler was a self-proclaimed philanthropist on LinkedIn. The aforementioned Twitter account also belongs to the Libra Cryptocurrency Association Kenya.

While scamming and philanthropy have nothing in common, it appears that scammers could have found a way to entice their victims in the name of social good.

Moreover, the fact that Sir John claims he is a nature-lover and a passionate entrepreneur and investor in the fintech industry goes to show how far scammers will go to appear legit.

Spotting the Red Flags

It might be obvious to most that Calibra Kenya is a scam but to some, this might not be the case. Therefore, here is a list of what is wrong with this “investment opportunity”:

  • Libra has not yet launched. Anyone asking you to invest in a currency that does not exist is a fraud.
  • Any individual or company that is promising a 50 percent return every month on investments is a scammer. Such high returns are unrealistic. Additionally, in a volatile market, returns cannot remain constant and are bound to fluctuate from month to month.
  • Facebook’s Libra only has one association, the Libra Association, which currently has 21 members. These members are well-known international companies like Uber, Spotify, Vodafone, Mercy Corps, Xapo Holdings, PayU, and Coinbase. Libra Cryptocurrency Association Kenya and Calibra Kenya, therefore, have nothing to do with the real Libra Association.
  • Should you consider a website with grammatical errors suspicious? Yes, you should! Calibra Kenya’s website is guilty in this regard.
  • According to Calibra Kenya, investors will get their money back at the end of the contract. This is a cause for alarm as any legit investment platform should allow investors to withdraw their investment plus returns at any time.
  • On their website, Calibra Kenya throws around crypto and blockchain-related terminologies to confuse and mislead their readers. For instance, they claim that they create smart contracts, that they are the official Libra cryptocurrency exchange in Kenya, and that they are a tier two member of the Libra Association. This does not make any sense and is only meant to confuse readers.
  • The website contains a lot of payment information which is another red flag. It indicates they are only focused on making money.
  • Their website is too “salesy.” Words like “investment opportunity,” “invest now,” and “we make your dreams a reality” are obvious red flags.
  • Calibra Kenya does not provide a platform for investors to track their investments. That means that once you send them money, you have no way of finding out how your investment is performing. The only mode of contact is a phone number that they could easily disconnect.

Unfortunately, reports of crypto-related scams are increasing as major developments take place in the industry. Similar fraudulent websites also appeared during Telegram’s token sale, for example.

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Particl Launches Decentralised Marketplace With Zero Commission Fees

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Privacy-focused cryptocurrency project Particl has launched a decentralised marketplace with zero commission fees. The new e-commerce platform is leveraging blockchain technology to compete with the likes of Amazon and OpenBazaar.

Privacy and Zero Commission Fees

ParticlCryptocurrencies can be difficult to spend on a day-to-day basis and Particl wants to solve this through its private coin, PART. On the Particl marketplace, users can put the digital currency to use.

The new decentralised marketplace respects user privacy and does not require personal information from its users. The platform only requires a shipping address. Moreover, the decentralised nature of the Particl marketplace ensures that no commissions are added to sales as is the case on Amazon.

According to an article on Big Commerce, fees for sellers can be as much as 45 percent of a product’s cost on Amazon. Particl’s zero-free model, therefore, enables sellers to significantly increase their revenue and lower their prices to stay ahead of the competition while still making a profit.

“Using a combination of P2P and blockchain technologies, Particl Open Marketplace can provide a verifiable private shopping experience that ensures no user data can be created or collected by any party other than the one you are transacting with. The Particl protocol also brings the cost of buying and selling online to the bare minimum as no central entity can charge fees,” said Particl’s Project Marketing and Strategy Manager Paul Schmitzer.

How Particl’s Decentralised Marketplace Works

Particl is uniquely approaching fraud and trade insurance through the use of a double deposit escrow system without intermediaries and with zero fees. This system is based on MAD game theory where two parties deposit PART coins as collateral into a smart contract. Once the transaction between them is complete, the coins are released back to the parties and no fees are charged. This system allows users to be in control of their transactions and to eliminate fraud.

 

Since the marketplace is decentralised, the protocol generates all listing fees and redistributes them to the global network of users.

Particl is made up of three components: an untraceable multi-purpose privacy coin, a private decentralised marketplace where users can shop with cryptocurrencies, and a platform where developers can build decentralised applications.

Particl allows a wide range of cryptocurrencies and uses atomic swaps and third-party integrations to convert these coins to PART during transactions. The company will soon add more payment options to its marketplace.

In 2018, Bitcoin Africa talked to Particl’s spokesperson Desi-Rae about the project. Read the full interview here.

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South Africans Can Now Buy Ether (ETH) Using Rand on Luno

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Global cryptocurrency exchange Luno has now enabled crypto traders in South Africa to buy ether using rand on its platform.

Trading on Luno

LunoLuno offers users an easy and safe place to buy bitcoin and ether and to learn about cryptocurrencies. The exchange has more than 2.7 million customers across 40 countries.

Luno also has a dedicated Ethereum series on its learning platform to help users make informed investment decisions.

Commenting on the new launch, Luno’s General Manager in Africa, Marius Reitz, said: “The direct Ethereum/Rand pair will make it quicker, simpler, and cheaper for customers to interact with and use Ethereum on the exchange. We are working on a number of enhancements to our platform and this pairing has been introduced in response to demand from our customers. Previously, customers could buy Ethereum through our instant buy option but having this ability directly on the exchange makes it faster and cheaper for traders.”

According to Reitz, Luno makes sure that every coin listed in its exchange has undergone due diligence. “There are over 2000 cryptocurrencies. However, many of these are scams, so customers need to trust that the exchange they use has verified the track records of cryptocurrencies available on their platforms. Luno limits the currencies on offer to those on which we have completed extensive research and due diligence and we are satisfied with their credibility in terms of security and adoption. Luno will be adding additional cryptocurrencies to its platform later this year,” he explained.

Luno Report

A recent report from Luno showed that South Africa and other emerging markets would like to see a change in the current financial system.

“Individuals in these markets cannot afford to, and should no longer need to, pay high exchange rates, accept national currency devaluation or lose out when they simply transfer money. Access to a more inclusive financial system will enable people everywhere to think of new and better ways of exchanging value and technology allows this,” Reitz elaborated.

Luno plans to upgrade its platform, expand its team, and open new offices in expectation of the next surge in the value of cryptoassets.

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