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How To Spot and Report Crypto Giveaway Scams

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This post was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated as of January 2024.

You may have seen them: the social media posts from scammers promoting Elon Musk cryptocurrency giveaway schemes, or President Joe Biden and other public figures promising free cryptocurrency. These posts include branding and profile pictures that look exactly like what the companies, individuals or government authorities use. It’s important to be able to spot which accounts are fake, and which posts are cryptocurrency scams. Scams like these exploit high-profile social media accounts to trick followers, oftentimes in the form of sending funds to the crypto scammer via a digital wallet at the targets’ expense. Crypto scams can manifest in many forms, including: exit scam activities (when funds are pulled and projects are abandoned to profit from investors); crypto giveaway promises; fake job offers; phishing scam tactics like blackmail, emails, or text messages; rug pull scams for investors, and even online dating. These scams are an unfortunate byproduct of the increasing popularity of cryptocurrency and are a very real concern with high-priced repercussions. According to TRM Labs, over $9 billion was sent to various forms of cryptocurrency fraud schemes in 2022 alone. And while cryptocurrency scams and crypto crime more generally remain a small fraction of overall fraud, concerned regulators and law enforcement, industry players and advocates are taking proactive steps to help prevent surges in social media scams and aid in consumer protection, regardless if they use crypto or not.

Since its founding, Ripple and others in the industry have been monitoring and ensuring the removal of countless fake ads and posts that promise ways to earn free XRP—an open-source, decentralized cryptocurrency and the native digital asset of the XRP Ledger. As a trusted resource in a growing industry where trust is paramount, it’s important to Ripple to help educate consumers about these threats and how to avoid them. In support of this, here is a list of authentic social media handles of Ripple corporate accounts and some of Ripple’s executives:

Cryptocurrency Scams: What's Real vs. What's Not

Social media has enabled misinformation to spread quickly, so it’s more important than ever to be aware and vigilant of what’s real and what’s not. Data from 2021 shows $2.3b worth of losses due to imposter scams were reported — a $1.1b increase from the prior year — while social media scams have cost consumers $2.7b between 2021 and 2023

Some scammers impersonate companies and individuals by posting images on social media platforms like X, Facebook, or Instagram. Others use legitimate videos from media interviews or public speaking events and overlay scam content that may link to a fraudulent website or a crypto wallet address asking targets to send money. Recently, there has even been an increase in the number of paid ads on social media pointing to crypto scam websites, as well as cryptocurrency giveaway scams on Discord luring users to fake crypto exchanges - yet another case of fraudsters exploiting legitimate services to create a sense of trust with victims.

There's been an uptick in 2023 of scammers digitally manipulating videos (known as “deepfakes”) to develop convincing hoaxes by using the likeness of a public figure. Because deepfakes can be difficult to identify, they have contributed to the spread of misinformation, crypto scams and other fraudulent acts.

More often than not, these posts will lead to fraudulent web domains with a public “send to” wallet address. There may even be a chat feature on the website to quickly convince you to send over valuable digital currency funds.

Always err on the side of caution when asked to share financial information, even if it seems to be coming from a reputable source or someone you know personally. As the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

How to Spot a Cryptocurrency Scam

Here are some helpful tips for spotting and reporting a cryptocurrency scam:

  • In many cases, the first warning that a giveaway ad is a scam is that

    in order to receive the reward, you must first send money and/or provide your personal financial account information. For any real sweepstakes, winnings are always free and never ask for money or financial account information upfront.

  • Impersonations are more challenging to spot—often because scammers create a sense of legitimacy by using logos, social media verification checks, company executive social handles, profile images, graphics, deepfakes or legitimate video excerpts with branding that match real corporate imagery. Personal due diligence is key here.

  • If a giveaway looks real, visit the company’s website and verified social channels to confirm if the ad exists there as well before agreeing to send or receive money.

  • Additionally, scammers will leverage legitimate accounts to falsify a sense of proof by commenting on top of social posts with fake accounts. Some other quick visual signs that a commenting account might be an impersonation scam include: the lack of a profile picture; odd account names; terminology in the comments that “loves” or “thanks” the company for the giveaway winnings; or comments restricted or turned off altogether to eliminate anyone commenting that this post is a scam.

Taking Action Against Crypto Scams

Reporting suspicious behavior can often turn into a game of Whac-a-mole. As soon as one scam is reported and removed, a new scam quickly replaces it. The reporting of crypto fraud activity largely relies on the company involved as well as social media users (the targets) to identify and request removals of fake accounts and harmful giveaway scams to help ensure others don't fall victim. If you suspect you’ve come across a crypto scam, you can report fraud and other suspicious activity involving cryptocurrency to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). For fraudulent website reporting, use this quick form to submit the URL to Google which may be escalated to a third party for further investigation.

In response to the numerous XRP giveaway scams and impersonations, Ripple has also hired an external cybersecurity and digital threat intelligence vendor to help with reporting and takedown efforts. We also encourage using “Google Safe Browsing” which will warn users of dangerous websites or downloads. Wallet providers such as Metamask and Coinbase also provide browser plugins that operate in a similar fashion, raising notifications when users try to connect to a scam site.

At the end of the day, where there is money, there are always those looking to steal it. So it’s vital to be mindful of what you see on social media, to be on the lookout for signs of crypto scams and, most importantly, to protect yourself. No more crypto community members or global consumers need to fall victim to cryptocurrency fraud. Remember, we’re all in this together.

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