ICO Scammers: A New Breed of Cybercriminals?




A rise in the number of cryptocurrency projects and hence the ICOs has opened up a lot of opportunities for different kinds of people to make a quick buck. While most of these opportunities are clean and legitimate, there are some which aren’t, and can be classified as “borderline extortion.”

For any crowdsale or an ICO be successful, the promoters of the project have to work hard and even spend a small fortune on marketing and promotional campaigns, so that they can build trust among the community members, who will, in turn, contribute towards the project.  If there are any doubts about the legitimacy of a project, community participation in the crowdsale could be severely impacted, leading to a failure of the ICO and in turn the project itself.

Given the scenario, various reports have emerged where crypto-project promoters and developers were approached by people claiming to help in promoting the project and crowdsale over various platforms for a hefty fee. While one can’t really comment on their efficiency, turning them down could turn detrimental to the project. According to few people in the industry, these “so-called” influencers have threatened to malign the project when their services are turned down. It is claimed in few cases that some of them have attempted to extort money from the project creators, and when their demands aren’t met, the projects were targeted with negative comments and reports on BitcoinTalk, other forums, and social media platforms.

In recent days, one of the projects Zabercoin has claimed that it is being targeted by someone in a similar fashion.  Juan Engelbrecht, the CEO of Zabercoin offering details about the ordeal said,

“We were recently approached by an individual by the name of Alexander Moyo on Facebook (FB). He threatened us with a bad review on our ICO page if we refuse to pay him for a favorable review. Since Zabercoin is a company with integrity and high morals, his request was declined. “

Following the rejection, the person allegedly launched a smear campaign against Zabercoin by repeatedly posting bad reviews on Facebook by using different accounts. These messages posted in every three-minute intervals further escalated beyond the social network to Twitter and BitcoinTalk. The result of such an attack is said to have caused some damage to the company’s reputation.

“According to my knowledge and analysis, we have one of the strongest FB followings for an ICO. For example, Zabercoin has more than 65,000 followers and only had 5-star ratings before him.  We had no other choice but to remove all these negative and harmful reviews on FB, after which he added “SCAM” to all our FB posts. Thereafter this individual by the name of Alexander Moyo was blocked on FB.

Unfortunately, his blatant abuse did not stop with FB. He continued to victimise Zabercoin ICO by inserting the word “SCAM” to several of our posts on Twitter from @tokenspot. Subsequently, this individual was also blocked on Twitter.

As if his victimisation on FB and Twitter was not enough, he continued with this unethical and abusive practice on our BitcoinTalk (BTT) threads only five minutes after he was blocked on Twitter. He claimed that our website has a Trojan which is a very negative post. The user is strangely enough also based in the London area. The Zabercoin management team feels extremely disappointed, victimised and helpless since it was through no fault of them. The team replied with a link to verify that the website is clean:   “https://www.virustotal.com/ – type our URL – all is clean!”

While speaking to NewsBTC, Engelbrecht expressed serious concern about the attack and the damage it could potentially cause not just to Zabercoin but also other projects which could become his next targets. He also urged the community to beware of such scammers who could end up destroying the whole ecosystem. At the same time, using the opportunity to defend his company against these allegations, he offered the following statement.

“As CEO of Zabercoin and a person of integrity and high morals, I strongly believe in our very innovative and good product. Therefore, I have serious concern for such unlawful victimisation not only towards us as a company but also towards other new and upcoming ICOs in the future. The crypto community should make it a priority to address such undeserved abuse and unacceptable behavior towards upcoming ICOs since launching an ICO is a very costly process.

Our website is SSL certified, contract audited by ICOrating, all team and advisor members can be verified on social platforms, our team has a proven strong track record which can be verified as well via other company websites, and then one individual dares call us a “scam”. In order for the success of crypto we need to work together to filter these scammers.”

It is indeed a cause of concern that such actors could easily destroy thousands of dollars’ worth of investment made into projects and their crowdsale with ease and it is up to the cryptocurrency community to decide how they would like to tackle such an issue. It is always advisable for those interested in investing in ICOs to conduct a thorough due diligence of any project. At the same time, they would have to keep their eyes open to spot patterns which could indicate a targeted slander campaign against the very projects they are interested in investing in. After factoring in all the inputs from various sources, it is up to the investor to decide on whether to go ahead and purchase the tokens or not.

Published by

Gautham

Gautham has an eye for anything new. He has been part of multiple startups and his current project focuses towards the social good sector. An entrepreneur, engineer and enthusiast (bitcoin, of course), he has been moonlighting as a writer for multiple publications and currently writes at NewsBTC. Find him on twitter as @gautham_n and on facebook at /gautham.nm

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