Crypto Scams: How to Spot and Avoid Them
April 3, 2024

Mention crypto to any crusty boomer, and you will likely be met with a response like, “It’s all just one big scam!”. It’s no different if you tune in to any of the major news networks that claim crypto is just for criminals and money laundering scallywags.

But do these old timers have a point, or are they just coping with the fact they missed out on the next major asset boom after buying their multi-million dollar properties for a couple of cans of baked beans back in 1972?

Yes, crypto is the wild west of the digital age, the crypto frontier! It's a place where fortunes are made overnight, dreams of Lamborghinis and life-changing gains are standard practice, and, alas, where the not-so-noble art of the scam artist and serial grifter is as rampant as a new Solana shitcoin launch.

In this thrilling journey, we're donning our digital detective hats (think Sherlock Holmes meets Satoshi Nakamoto) to navigate the treacherous waters of cryptocurrency and the scams that come along with it. With a landscape as volatile as a meme coin's value on launch day, it's no wonder that there's a scammer waiting for every legitimate opportunity to pull the rug out on unsuspecting victims.

But fear not! We're here to arm you with the knowledge and tools to ensure you can spot these grimy grifters from a mile away. So, buckle up, secure your wallets, and let's dive into the matrix of crypto scams. Who knows? By the end of this, you might just be the next crypto vigilante, safeguarding the digital realm from the nefarious schemes of the online underworld. Let's get started, shall we?

Common Types of Crypto Scams

Sadly, there is quite a wide range of crypto scams out there, meaning it is not as easy as just looking for one tell-tale sign and avoiding it. The types of scams range from light, yet annoying, all the way to outright malicious and dangerous, but all of them involve you losing money, so they’re all just as terrible in the end.

Crypto Phishing Scams

Phishing is a type of scam that is not strictly limited to crypto. It is a common type of scam across almost every sector imaginable and involves using fake communication tactics to gather the victims' personal information.

In the case of crypto phishing scams, it could involve fake requests sent by email or private message to get you to enter your banking information, private keys, or log-in information for the exchange you use. Once achieved, the scammer has access to your hard-earned money. Phishing scams are the most common form of scam across all sectors and often play on a person's emotional state and lapse of concentration.

These are very malicious attacks and can be avoided by making sure you verify the site you are using and its authenticity, never giving away any personal information via private message or email and by treating every form of contact made as a potential scam.

Next time your wife messages you to ask for some Bitcoin to take her boyfriend shopping you’d better double-check it's her before pushing send!

Fake ICOs

The Initial Coin Offering, or ICO, is a way for new projects to gather funding through crypto investments. This is like a crowdfunding event but with crypto instead, and you would essentially be coerced into depositing some of your crypto as an initial investment into the startup.

In the case of a fake ICO, there would be no real project involved, and the underlying platform would be fabricated in the way of a fake website or social media presence in order to convince people they would be investing in a useful cause or creation.

These scams are not as malicious or as common as phishing attacks, although they are arguably easier to fall for, especially if you are a charitable person and the company you are supposedly investing in seems like an interesting or worthwhile financial decision.

Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes

A Ponzi scheme is a pyramid-structured scheme that involves one figurehead, a con artist, who offers investments that promise a high return with little-to-no risk involved. These are similar to the previous example, although they usually start with just one person and then rely on other people being convinced and then convincing others. This means the initial con artist only has to convince a handful of people, and then the rest is done for them while they reap the rewards.

In the world of crypto this can often be seen by large accounts shilling certain low market cap projects on social media, having bought in early themselves. It could be said this is standard practice in crypto, and there is often money to be made by being early to these pump-and-dump schemes as long as you’re not the last one holding the bag when the music eventually comes to an end.

Fraudulent Wallets

Holding your crypto investments requires a wallet, which is where your crypto information is stored and can then be transferred between other wallets. In essence, a fraudulent wallet would be somewhere that you are tricked into storing your crypto that then ends up being fake, allowing the creator to access your crypto and send it to their own wallet, stealing the money from you and then claiming no involvement.

In order to avoid falling for such a scam, it is important to make sure any wallets you download come from a reputable source and are, in fact, the correct wallet you are after. There are some sneaky developers out there who will launch fake wallets in your favorite app stores and sit back, waiting for you to take the bait.

Wallet Drainers and Malicious Links

You only need to scroll through your Twitter feed and check out the ads to see the prevalence of these kinds of scams; literally 99.9% of ads on Twitter are either malicious links or some form of wallet drainer.

Bad links are activated simply by clicking on them and can insert all kinds of annoying malware onto your device if the scammer is smart enough to build such a thing. Wallet drainers are generally found on fake websites that you will often be directed to when clicking a malicious link. These drainers will pop up like a normal wallet transaction and, when signed, will immediately take you for all your worth.

Common forms of these types of scams come in the way of airdrop collection sites that are set up with the sole purpose of draining unsuspecting victim's funds in a flash.

Once again you should verify every website you connect your wallet to by accessing it from the official social media account and bookmarking them for future reference. It goes without saying that if you are ever sent a link by someone in a private message or chat group, ALWAYS treat it as malicious until proven otherwise!

Major Red Flags

Red flags are the easiest factors to spot when you are heading towards being crypto scammed. These are some of the most common red flags to look out for.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

The saying "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!" is particularly relevant when it comes to avoiding crypto scams. This old adage serves as a warning to be cautious of offers or opportunities that promise exceptional results with little to no risk, which are often too alluring to resist. Here's how this principle applies in the context of avoiding crypto scams:

  • One of the most common lures in crypto scams is the promise of incredibly high or guaranteed returns on your investment. In the world of finance, and especially in the volatile crypto market, there are no guaranteed returns and high returns typically come with high risk. If a crypto investment scheme promises steady, high returns that seem too good compared to standard market rates, it's a red flag.
  • Be wary of schemes that claim to have a secret formula or an exclusive strategy for success in the crypto market. The crypto market is complex and unpredictable, and there are no secret formulas for guaranteed success. These claims are often used to create a sense of exclusivity and allure.
  • Platforms that offer exceptionally high yield for their products are often built like ponzi schemes. Remember, if you don’t know where the yield is coming from, it’s coming from you!

What EXACTLY are you offering me?

Legitimate crypto projects are typically transparent about their operations, goals, and progress. They have clear, detailed whitepapers and open lines of communication. If an investment opportunity is shrouded in secrecy, with little verifiable information about the company, its team, or how it operates, it's a sign that it might be a scam. A lack of transparency is a huge red flag in anything that involves your money or time.


Scammers often create a sense of urgency, claiming you must act fast to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This tactic is designed to rush you into making a decision without the time to think critically or do proper research.

Genuine investment opportunities are rarely so time-sensitive that they don't allow for thorough consideration. Always do your own research before aping into the next shiny shitcoin.

Right… So, How Do I Protect Myself?

Protecting yourself in the world of cryptocurrency is crucial, as it's a field ripe with potential but also fraught with risks. The decentralized and often unregulated nature of cryptocurrencies makes them a target for scammers and hackers. By taking proactive steps and being vigilant, you can significantly reduce your risk and navigate this space safely enough to walk away with a profit.

Do plenty of research before buying

Before investing in any cryptocurrency, thorough research is essential. Start by understanding the basics of blockchain and how cryptocurrencies work. Investigate the specific currency or ICO you're interested in, read the whitepaper, research the team behind the project, and look for independent analysis and reviews.

Be wary of projects with anonymous teams or those lacking clear, comprehensive documentation. Remember, informed decisions are the best defense against scams and poor investments.

Make sure your wallets are secure

Always keep your software up-to-date to protect against vulnerabilities. Be cautious about where and how you store your private keys, and always use a hardware wallet for storing significant amounts of cryptocurrency. This physical device stores your private keys offline, making them immune to online hacking attempts.

Your cryptocurrency wallet is where you store your digital assets, so its security is paramount. Choose a reputable wallet provider with a strong track record of security. Use wallets that offer robust security features like two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-signature options.

It also pays to use a “burner” wallet for signing transactions and a second wallet for storing your longer-term holds so that you only risk a small amount in the chance you sign a malicious contract.

Luckily, these days, there are a number of solid protection apps available that will simulate the signing of a contract before you actually sign it. This will show you the outcome before going ahead with the transaction. Some wallets have this feature built-in, so if possible, use one that does!

Only use reputable exchanges

When buying, selling, or trading cryptocurrencies, use exchanges that are well-established and have a good reputation in the community. Check for an exchange’s compliance with regulatory requirements, its security history, and the measures it takes to protect users' funds. Look for features like insurance on deposits and internal risk management practices.

Be wary of exchanges with limited information about their operations or those offering unusually high discounts or rewards. Remember, an exchange's reputation and security measures are as crucial as the range of currencies it offers.

In the past cycles, we have seen many exchanges blow up, and user funds get stuck in turmoil. If you are someone who has the independent nature to hold your own coins and feel safer doing so, then in some cases, this can be the better option.

Free Crypto, scam-free?

Who doesn’t like free stuff? In this case, the “free stuff” is cryptocurrency, and that is even better. You never know how much these little tricks and tips could amount to in the future!

Whether you are new to this whole thing and want a completely risk-free way to get your hands on some crypto, or you have already taken too much out of the joint savings account and your partner is on your back about where all the money has gone… We have something for everyone.

Let’s look at some of the top ways you can earn free cryptocurrency with no strings attached.

Learn To Earn

There are a few platforms where you can take mini-courses (a few minutes here and there), and on completing these courses, you will earn small amounts of cryptocurrency, usually in the form of the same coin/token you have just learned about.

The best thing is these are usually projects in their infancy meaning the value you earn could be worth an awful lot more in the near future. It could also be worthless, but who cares? It’s free!

Websites like have a learn portal where you can learn about a vast array of crypto-related stuff and earn $GUAC token by doing so. Coinbase also has a learn to earn platform where you can be rewarded in different cryptocurrencies for learning more about them. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Crypto Cashback

That’s right, there is such a thing as crypto credit and debit cards.

The beauty of these cards is that if you're using them for everyday spending, depending on what level you are on (similar to your regular bank card system), you will receive cryptocurrency rewards as ‘cashback.’

The first of these cards is Swipe who use their token $SXP as a staking mechanism to access the card, while the cashback rewards themselves are paid in Bitcoin.

Swipe has been around for just over one year now and offers four different tiers of Swipe cards for all types of budgets.

Saffron – 1% cashback in Bitcoin. Spotify rebate and no SXP staking required (SXP deposit effectively)

Sky – 2% cashback in Bitcoin. Spotify, Amazon Prime, and Netflix rebate with 300 SXP required staking for 6 months.

Steel – 4% cashback in Bitcoin. Spotify, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Uber, Apple Music and rebates! 3000 SXP required staking for 6 months.

Slate – 8% cashback in Bitcoin. Spotify, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Uber, Apple Music, Hulu, Starbucks, Airbnb and rebates. 30,000 SXP required staking for 6 months.

Another solid option is cards. also has its own native token, $CRO, and has been around for a while, so is definitely a well-established card and product.

Once again, you will need to stake the $CRO token to be eligible for one of these cards, and can earn $25 in CRO when you sign up using a friend’s referral link.

Like with Swipe, you have multiple tiers based on how much of a baller you are.

Midnight Blue – 0% cashback in CRO. No staking required.

Ruby Steel – 1% cashback in CRO. 5000 CRO stake requirement. Spotify rebate.

Jade Green – 2% cashback in CRO. 50,000 CRO stake requirement. Spotify and Netflix rebate.

Icy White – 3% cashback in CRO. 500,000 CRO stake required. Spotify, Netflix, and Prime rebate.

Obsidian – 5% cashback in CRO. 1,000,000 CRO stake required. Spotify, Netflix, and Prime rebate.

Get paid to browse using BRAVE

This one is fascinating. The creator of JavaScript, Mozilla Firefox, and now the Brave browser, Brendan Eich, has created, with the Brave team, a revolutionary way to use the internet.

Instead of being battered with advertisements whilst using your web browser and Google being paid for clicks, the Brave browser flips advertising on its head. Advertisers will list their adverts on the Brave browser and pay you to view them whilst you scroll through the internet.

These tokens are paid in Braves native Basic Attention Token ($BAT).

Stake To Earn

Staking is a way to deposit your crypto to help secure a protocol network. These networks are known as Proof-of-Stake. Basically, you are helping validate transactions on the blockchain by doing this and in return, you earn staking rewards.

Where to stake? Well, that depends on the coin. Usually, the site of the coin directly will have a decentralized app you can interact with to stake your coins and earn staking rewards.

However, remember the saying we learned earlier…. If you don’t know where the yield is coming from, then it sure is coming from you!

Provide Liquidity

Providing liquidity effectively means you put your coins into a smart contract, normally known as a liquidity pool. If other people interact with that smart contract and use the coins you have deposited, you earn rewards usually in the form of transaction fees.

There is a lot more to it than this, and there are certain risks you need to take into account, such as impermanent loss and cyber threats, so make sure you do your research before adding liquidity to a pool.

Lend It Out

Ever wanted to be the bank? Well, here’s your chance!

If your crypto is sitting there gathering dust, you can use a lending platform such as to earn interest by lending it to other users of the platform.

Here, you can deposit your tokens/coins into a smart contract, which will then allow borrowers to borrow it at a fixed or variable rate. You can withdraw at any time, which is also a bonus, and will generally earn more interest than you can ever dream of at your bank!

Closing Thoughts

Crypto is a place of great opportunity and ground-breaking technology. As with any new sector, having a solid knowledge base of the fundamentals will allow you to enjoy it safely and hopefully stack some profit while doing so.

Most of the scams out there can easily be avoided with a little know-how and some basic common sense, so don’t feel like you have to be a super shadowy coder or tech nerd to avoid being rug-pulled and rinsed off your precious pennies.

In a world that has bubble-wrapped everything for us and made us reliant on centralized institutions, it is kind of refreshing to see a place where self-responsibility still exists!

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