You’ve definitely seen them: YouTube and Twitter posts from Elon Musk, President Donald Trump and Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse promising free cryptocurrency. These posts include branding and profile pictures that look exactly like the imagery that the company or individual uses. Is this your lucky day? No.
These posts are scams. They exploit high-profile social media accounts to trick followers into enriching scammers at their own expense. In a time where misinformation is prevalent, it’s important to be aware of what is real and what is not.
“Giveaway scam” is an industry term that describes attempts to convince unassuming consumers that if they send money, they will receive more funds in return—typically through an “airdrop.” These scams impersonate companies and individuals, and are often spread through fake social media profiles across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more.
Since Ripple’s founding, we have requested the removal of countless fake ads and posts that promise the giveaway of free XRP—an open-source, decentralized digital asset built for cross-border payments. To date, these scams have defrauded victims out of hundreds of thousands of XRP, valued at tens of thousands of dollars.
We want to make it known that neither Ripple, nor any executive of our company, has offered—or ever will offer—free giveaways of digital assets. Any XRP giveaway is not endorsed by, affiliated with, maintained, authorized or sponsored by our company.
Hundreds of consumers have been hurt by these entirely preventable imposter scams. In a nascent industry where trust is paramount, these scams only impede the industry’s progress and reputation.
In an effort to shine a light on this dark shadow that is strangling the utility and adoption of cryptocurrencies, we outline advice for spotting and reporting these harmful giveaway scams.
How to Spot Giveaway Scams
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, company executive social handles, profile images and graphics or branding that match real corporate imagery. The key here is personal due diligence.
If a giveaway looks real, we suggest first visiting the company’s main website and verified social channels to confirm if the ad is readily viewable. If an ad is real, more than likely the sweepstakes are also featured on the main pages of legitimate company sites. Also, you can contact the company directly and inquire about the contest.
Additionally, scammers will leverage legitimate accounts to falsify a sense of proof by commenting on top of social posts with fake accounts. Some quick visual signs that a commenting account is a scam is the lack of a profile picture, odd account names, or terminology in the comment that “loves” or “thanks” the company for the giveaway winnings.
Take Action Against Scams
Reporting suspicious behavior is a game of cat and mouse. As soon as one scam is reported and removed, a new scam quickly replaces it. Reporting of these scams largely relies on the company involved, i.e. Ripple, and social platform users to identify and request removals of fake accounts and harmful giveaway scams.
In response to the numerous XRP giveaway scams and impersonations, Ripple has hired an external cybersecurity and digital threat intelligence vendor to help with reporting and takedown efforts. Additionally, we have built our own submission form for the community to report unusual activity.
Where there is money, there will always be people looking to steal it. Be mindful of what you see on social media, check for signs of scam posts and protect yourself. No more of our community or global consumers need to fall victim to these harmful scams. In this uncertain environment, trust and security are critical. We’re in this together.