5 Cryptocurrency Scams and Frauds You Can Avoid

Image Credit: @chrispanas

How does one avoid cryptocurrency scams? The easiest way is just to stay offline and forget cryptocurrencies exist. But if you’re determined to invest in the risky world of cryptocurrency, you need to be aware of the more common scams that keep popping up.

As with any scam, being caught out is going to hit you hard. We don’t want that. Here are five common scams to watch out for.

1. Shady or Insecure Exchanges

The popularity of crypto has seen a huge rise in cryptocurrency exchanges. They all want your attention and, more significantly, the transaction fees that come with handling your purchases.

However, there aren’t many completely trustworthy cryptocurrency exchanges. Popular exchanges have been known to completely disappear overnight, taking all the cryptocurrency with them.

If you’re entirely new to cryptocurrency, you might not have heard of Mt. Gox. This was an early cryptocurrency exchange that at one point accounted for over 70 percent of all Bitcoin transactions worldwide. One morning in February 2014, Mt. Gox suspended trading. It later surfaced that 850,000 Bitcoins had been stolen (valued at $450 million at the time) and remains one of the world’s worst cryptocurrency hacks.

A Short List of Somewhat Trusted Exchanges

Thankfully, some excellent crypto exchanges do exist. It’s all a bit subjective, but we’ve never had any serious issues with the following seven apps:

  • Coinbase (Sign up using this link and get $10 of free Bitcoin after buying or selling your first $100 in Bitcoin.)
  • Binance
  • Bitfinex
  • LocalBitcoins
  • Changelly
  • ByBit
  • CoinMama

Remember, do your own due diligence before placing any amount of Bitcoin or altcoins on an exchange.

Our final tip is a common one: do not keep your cryptocurrency stored on an exchange. Transfer those coins to an offline wallet at the end of the trading day—it only takes a short amount of time to send them back to an exchange for trading. If you’re going to really get into cryptocurrency, consider upgrading to one of the best cryptocurrency hardware wallets.

2. Pyramid and Ponzi Schemes

bitcoin multiplier scam

In the spring of 2017, a Mumbai-based company called OneCoin was delivering a sales pitch to a room of investors. Indian financial enforcement officers raided the meeting, ultimately jailing 18 OneCoin representatives for operating a cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme. At the time of their arrest, OneCoin had already moved over $350 million through a payment processor.

Investors had been duped through a combination of enthusiastic upselling, lack of knowledge of the technology in front of them, and a lot of positive media coverage (of both the project and booming cryptocurrency prices). A lot of people lost a lot of money.

We like to think we’re clever enough to spot a scam when it’s in front of us. But cryptocurrency is creating new scams, using jargon and technology most people have never heard of, let alone truly understand. Even grasping the basics of blockchain technology and smart contracts is difficult for the layman.

3. Pump and Dump Schemes

Many prominent financial experts have also dismissed cryptocurrency as a scam. While some compare Bitcoin to other safe haven investments, such as gold, others believe it is merely a speculator’s heaven, ripe for pumping and dumping.

Bitcoin has a market capitalization of over $115 billion at the time of writing. It would be very difficult to directly manipulate the price. But smaller altcoins are extremely vulnerable to a standard pump and dump.

In many ways, the thousands of smaller altcoins have taken the place of penny stocks, albeit with a technological edge. Furthermore, there are several groups dedicated to this exact practice. They hold a monthly vote to choose an altcoin with a tiny market capitalization, and descend.

4. Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)

ICO: Crypto Scam or Future of Fundraising?

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are the IPOs of the cryptocurrency world. Cryptocurrency startups create initial coin offerings to raise substantial amounts of money. However, many of them vastly overestimate the value of their startup. Others are simply elaborate pump and dump schemes.

The Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) is extremely wary of ICOs. It offers the following warnings:

  • There is often a lack of accurate or current information about a coin.
  • Questions often arise concerning the accuracy of publicly available information, including press releases and media coverage.
  • There are questionable trading practices, such as insider trading, market manipulation, and more.

Of course, this doesn’t actually always protect potential investors from scam ICOs, as we saw earlier with OneCoin. Due to the market hysteria surrounding ICOs, and the potential for large short-term profits, many scammers are attempting to profit. Alternatively, companies announce their ICO before the technology is truly ready.

Note: Learn more about the SEC’s stance on ICOs by reading our article.


Gavin Wood on how $60M hack of DAO happened and what to do next | Dutch Blockchain Conference #dbc16

When The DAO (a decentralized autonomous organization named for the acronym) completed their 2016 ICO, raising over $34 million, experts hailed it as a success. That was until some users exploited a vulnerability in the DAO code, and siphoned one-third of The DAO’s funds to another account. To return the funds to the original account, the Ethereum community had to agree to a hard fork, tearing the cryptocurrency in half.

DAO is now delisted from major exchanges and is seen as a major factor in the (much needed) close scrutiny of the SEC in cryptocurrency ICOs.

Not All ICOs Are Bad

Introducing Filecoin, a decentralized storage network

Again, we don’t want to spread FUD without giving some positive ICO information.

For example, Filecoin raised over $200 million for their decentralized storage system based on blockchain technology. Filecoin had some seriously impressive backers, too, including Winklevoss Capital (owned by the Winklevoss twins), Sequoia Capital, and Andreessen Horowitz.

There are also a number of very promising ICOs on the horizon—but as we have just seen, it’s difficult to know exactly what to trust without considerable research.

5. Nonexistent Coins

In August 2017, the City of London Police shut down a “cryptocurrency business” that was cold-calling people to sell fake digital currency. Victims were cold-called and persuaded to purchase non-existent cryptocurrencies. Nine victims came forward to the UK firm, Action Fraud, with combined losses exceeding Ā£150,000.

The man who allegedly set up the scam used a central London address, in the financial center, to lend the scam authenticity.

Real investors will not cold-call you to offer an opportunity, cryptocurrency or not. If you receive a call asking for your investment in a project, note the name of the caller, the company name and address, and put the phone down. Your next call should be to the SEC to report potential securities fraud.


A growing threat comes from social media. Prominent cryptocurrency company accounts are being impersonated on Twitter and Facebook. The scam pages directly contact individuals, asking for investment in their project, or to buy discounted Bitcoin or Ethereum. The addresses provided belong to the scammers.

Another worsening scam is SIM swapping, where a thief swaps your SIM card into their phone. Find out how a SIM swap attack works and how you can stay safe.

Should You Avoid Cryptocurrency Altogether?

Not at all. Just understand that any burgeoning technology will attract unscrupulous individuals—especially if said technology can lead to extremely high returns.

The key to staying safe in cryptocurrency is research. There are always unfortunate individuals that take the plunge and will fall victim to fraud. Things that seem too good to be true probably are.

Some cryptocurrency day traders do make vast amounts of money—but they know what they’re doing. And many of them have trading, buying, and selling Bitcoin and other altcoins since the very early days of cryptocurrency. But an Android app that promises untold riches? That’s another cryptocurrency scam to watch out for.

Remember, start small, and only invest what you can afford to lose. Consider these risks of investing cryptocurrency so you know what you’re getting yourself into!

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  1. Dan, šŸ˜

    1 I was about to join Coinbase last week but found out the BBB gives it an F rating:

    2 There are a lot of bad reviews of Coinbase.

    3 Cryptopia was hacked this weekā€”$16+ million in ETH and ERC20 tokens stolen.

    1. Wow … thanks for posting this. I almost thought Blocks Decoded was a trustworthy site. The advertising kickback to push Coinbase must be huge.

  2. I was wondering about a company call NSXCOIN, I can only see that it has a parent company, are you able to tell me if it would be safe to trade through them

    1. Hi Peter. I would personally give it a miss given how little there is about the exchange or indeed the company online. There are other more reputable trading platforms available, don’t expose yourself to risk unnecessarily.

  3. Hi Dan
    I have invested in a company named worldwide energy which later changed the name to they gave us the profit of our investment in their own crypo currency named E2C. would you please let me know if is a scam or not?

    1. I don’t believe it is a scam, no. Although, the EC2 coin is a tiny microcap and can thus be very volatile. I would advise you to exchange it for Bitcoin or fiat on an exchange ASAP.

  4. Hi I have been scammed twice how do I find a good legit crypto currency mining company can someone point me in the right direction please

    1. Which companies did you try? What was the scam?

    2. I have been scammed twice but still in the process of communicating with the individuals. Is there and agency in the US that might want to help me stop these scammers? So far I have been scammed for $80,000.

  5. How about Cpgcrypto

  6. Hi!
    I just question…is anyone use this websites. I lost btc for this sites.
    I don’t know where I can report this webiste.

  7. Hi Dan,do you or have you heard of fivcrypto?
    After investing and supposedly making a profit, they now want 20% of the profit b4 releasing my money!is this a normal practice?

  8. Very interesting details you have mentioned, thank you for putting up.

  9. Unfortunately, with the popularity of cryptocurrency has skyrocketed so much that it has given rise to a lot of crypto scams as well.

  10. Thanks for this, but Bybit does not get good reviews on TrustPilot. I intend to open an account with them because I love their interface. I went over to do some checks on trustpilot and i was so discouraged. Are they really legit? Anyone who uses them can please comment. Thanks

  11. Sorry, I have not nor will I ever subscribe to crypto currency. Sure the premise and idea is sound? But because of the levels of ruthless greed, and wickedness in most humans?…its not something I’m willing to invest in. Will I “miss out” on some great ways to get rich?…most definitely, but the real “wealthy” people know…you don’t get rich quick, or overnight. There IS no golden goose that lays golden eggs that will careen you to the “One Percent” group. Since there is no way to “police” it?…then its not worth risking my nest egg or retirement. But to those who DO get rich off of this concept?….Congratulations and Enjoy!

  12. Are their any legit trading platforms for bitcoin?

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