Social Media Crypto Scams: A Guide

Jake Aquilina
July 27, 2022

With the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies, it's no surprise that scammers are taking advantage of people looking to invest in them. There are a variety of investment opportunities being promoted on social media platforms, and it can be difficult to tell which ones are legitimate and which ones are not. In this article, we will discuss the different types of social media crypto scams and how to avoid them.

As we indicated in a previously published article, an FTC report showed that Instagram (32%), Facebook (26%), WhatsApp (9%) and Telegram (7%) were the scammers’ and hackers’ preferred channels. We’ll be going through these social media channels to highlight how these scams occur and what types of scams they include. 

List of Social Media Scams

It’s important to note that there are various common elements that can be found across all social media platforms. Hackers and scammers usually use common techniques which can be used on all platforms. The FTC produced a list of what you can do in order to avoid crypto scams. Here is also a list of scams that are present in pretty much every social media channel:

  • Impersonation: Scammers would copy the profile usernames or handles accurately and impersonate a crypto influencer. This would be done in a way where it would have one or a few letters different than that found in the original profile, as well as replicating the influencer’s profile picture. These people would work so well at copying another user’s profile that it would be extremely difficult to tell which is which. One of the most followed crypto enthusiasts, going by the handle of Plan B, has been increasingly calling out for people to be more vigilant as there are people impersonating his profile on Instagram, Twitter, and pretty much every social media platform. Whether you agree with his analysis or not is not the main issue, but the fact that impersonation is leading to people investing in scam projects.
  • Hacking: Hacking social media accounts has become a popular way for criminals to obtain cryptocurrency. The most common method involves using phishing scams to trick victims into handing over their login credentials. Once the hacker has access to the account, they can use it to post links to fake crypto give-aways or send direct messages asking for crypto payments. The end goal is always the same: to steal crypto from unsuspecting victims. While crypto scams are nothing new, the use of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook has made them easier to carry out on a larger scale.
  • Phishing: This is the king of all scams, phishing scams. Up until this day, these are one of the most used types of scams. They are messages that claim to be from a legitimate company or organization, but they're actually from scammers. These messages will often ask you to click on a link or provide personal information such as wallet address or login credentials, especially in a deceiving way where you wouldn’t notice. 
  • Fake ads: Fake ads are also very popular. These are ads that claim that you can make a lot of money by investing in a certain cryptocurrency. They are often from fake companies that don't actually have any products or services. In some cases, they would purport that celebrities or highly influential people have vowed for that type of cryptocurrency, even though it would not be true.
  • Giveaways: You should always be aware of fake giveaways. These are posts that claim that you can win a certain amount of cryptocurrency if you send a smaller amount of cryptocurrency to the address provided. These posts often look like they're from legitimate companies or organizations, but they're actually just scams. If you see one of these posts, do not send any cryptocurrency to the address!

Instagram Crypto Scams

Instagram Crypto Scams

Scammers have been targeting some very specific methods when it comes to Instagram. One of the worrying trends has been the impersonation of content creators who post on personal finance, crypto, and investing. Again, as noted before, impersonation is one of the most common types of scams across all platforms. 

Hacking and impersonation prove to be the most popular. The former would include hacking a user’s profile, changing his or her password, and locking him out of his own account. They then proceed to post about crypto investment opportunities as well as messaging followers on their social media account. For sneakier hackers, they would not hint at any investment opportunities first, but try to impersonate your friend as much as possible. 

Meanwhile, with impersonation, there would be cases where someone impersonates a highly popular crypto influencer, starts posting photos like they do – sometimes even personal ones – to make the account seem as the real one. They would then proceed to message individuals, some of whom unfortunately fall for the trap. 

People between the ages of 20 and 49 were more than three times as likely to report losing money to a crypto scam when compared to older counterparts. This relates to why Instagram had such a high degree of scammed people since it is used by younger generations. This also coincides with the fact that people under the age of 50 hold a rather strong belief that cryptocurrencies will become a strong economic factor in the future. Advertisements of pump and dump schemes have also been cited on Instagram.

Facebook Crypto Scams

Facebook Crypto Scams

One of the most popular social media platforms, Facebook is also a hotbed for cryptocurrency scams. There are a few different types of scams that have been happening on Facebook, so it's important to be aware of them. 

In a recent case, Meta was being sued for publishing “scam celebrity crypto ads”, in which celebrities were allegedly featured in the ads that they "had never approved or endorsed" according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). 

There were a number of different cases of these types of crypto advertisements, including one promoting a scam token ‘Meta’ (which was not endorsed by Facebook). Another case was the Squid Game token, which was fueled by Social Engineering of the then-popular Squid Game Netflix series. This ended in a massive rugpull, going from a high of $90 to $0.006 within three hours on November 11, 2021.

Whatsapp Crypto Scams

Whatsapp Crypto Scams

When it comes to Whatsapp, popular types of scams include receiving a message from an unknown person or being included in a group chat within the platform

These scams would discuss crypto-related issues and prices, and also encourage others within the group to invest in a certain cryptocurrency. In certain cases, they would be purporting to be expert analysts of the crypto market.

The FTC said that "investment scammers claim they can quickly and easily get huge returns for investors. But those crypto 'investments' go straight to a scammer’s wallet. People report that investment websites and apps let them track the growth of their crypto, but it’s all fake.

"Some people report making a small 'test' withdrawal – just enough to convince them it’s safe to go all in. When they really try to cash out, they’re told to send more crypto for (fake) fees, and they don’t get any of their money back".

In certain cases, romance scams (also known as pig-butchering scams) also take place on the messaging app. These types of scams are on the rise, with one woman reportedly losing as much as $8 million from it

Interestingly, something to take note of is that the top platforms where crypto scams were prevalent – Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp – are all owned by parent company Meta.

Telegram Crypto Scams

Telegram Crypto Scams

Telegram is also one of the main channels that scammers use in order to find new victims. In the app, you can find a wide range of scams, including large groups which are set up to coordinate price manipulation of a particular cryptocurrency. Sometimes, admins of these groups would charge VIP membership, just to create hype on pump and dump coins through their “analysis”. 

With more elaborate means, crypto scammers are now also using telegram bots in order to con investors into giving up their one-time passwords (OTPs). Once these bots beguile users into giving up their OTPs, they are then used by hackers to log into their accounts, log out the user, and steal their crypto.

You’ve heard of SaaS, now get ready for CaaS (Crime-as–a-Service). CaaS is the “practice of experienced cybercriminals selling access to the tools and knowledge needed to execute cybercrime – in particular, it’s often used to create phishing attacks”. This is proving to be particularly popular with Telegram.

Other common types of scams popular on Telegram, as noted by Coinmarketcap, are fake groups promoting a flash sale on a cryptocurrency (which is anything but), impersonation of admins, and the aforementioned pump and dump groups. 

Twitter Crypto Scams

Twitter Crypto Scams

Twitter is perhaps one of the most popular platforms among crypto enthusiasts. Although the FTC report does not highlight that it received many reports of people being scammed on the platform, make no mistake, they are prevalent. 

In one bizarre and elaborate plan, scammers took control of multiple verified accounts in order to impersonate Elon Musk. This resulted in more than $30,000 being stolen, thanks to the help of Social Engineering through the verified badge.

This is just one scenario. These scammers and fraudsters have been impersonating journalists, crypto apps, and a number of NFT projects, according to cyber security firm Tanable Inc

Fraudsters and scammers try to replicate very minute details so as to make it appear that they are indeed the person who they are impersonating. This presents itself as an “upgrade from a more traditional technique” of mass spamming on social media. 

Discord Crypto Scams

Discord Crypto Scams

When it comes to Discord scams, we have a whole article dedicated to them. We also have an article about how hackers work in order to compromise your account or server. As we explain in these articles, given the open nature of the messaging app, Discord scams and hacks can get creative.

With recent hacks of NFT marketplace OpenSea and Yuga Labs’s Bored Ape Yacht Club Discord servers, it is clear that hackers will not hesitate to target any project they find attractive on this platform. 

On their blog, Discord highlighted the type of scams to look out for on their platform and how you can manually prevent them

If you would like to know more about these types of scams, we suggest that you take a look at the articles we published

How to Avoid Social Media Crypto Scams

After covering the popular social media platforms on which scammers are running riot, other notable mentions worth pointing out are Youtube and Tiktok. Now that you know about some of the most common types of social media crypto scams, here are a few tips on how to avoid them.

  • Be careful about what posts you share and what links you click on. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don't share posts from fake giveaways or click on links from phishing scams. You might save yourself, and someone else from being scammed.
  • Don't invest in any cryptocurrency based on an ad that you saw on social media. These ads are often from fake companies or individuals that are just trying to steal your money. Do your own research.
  • If you're ever unsure about whether a project promoted in a message is the real deal or not, you can always contact the company or organization directly to ask. Don't just rely on messages from social media.

What to do if your Social Media Account is Hacked?

If your social media account is hacked, there are a few things you should do:

  • Report the hack to the social media platform. They may be able to help you recover your account or take action against the person who hacked it.
  • If you can, change your password and enable two-factor authentication. This will help to keep your account secure in the future.
  • Contact any friends or family members who are aware of your social media account and let them know that you've been hacked. Tell them to report the hacked account (this should also take place if your account is being impersonated).
  • If you have any sensitive information on your social media account (such as financial information), make sure to change it. Hackers may try to access this information if they have your password.

In another article, we also explain what you should do if your crypto is stolen. Since crypto is becoming more and more popular, it is best to keep your eyes peeled so that you can keep your investments safe.

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