The cryptocurrency industry remains a ripe playground for scam artists, according to a new Diar report. In the first two weeks of August alone, an estimated $68 million of investors’ money were lost in initial coin offering (ICO) exit scams.
A China based firm, Shenzhen Puyin Blockchain Group, made off with an estimated $60 million from its triple ICOs—the Puyin Coin, BioLifeChain, and ACChain. The three companies were being investigated by the Chinese State Market Regulatory Administration (SMRA). The remaining $8 million was taken by NVO, a startup that claimed will create a decentralized exchange and wallet.
The two bring the total number of exit scams for 2018 to seven, stealing more than $96 million in the process. In June, BlockBroker conducted what can be considered as a bizarre offering—it sold its ideas as an initiative that would “completely eliminate ICO fraud.” After collecting $3 million, the startup folded.
According to the research by Diar, most of the scams made no effort at all to hide, perhaps as investors are driven by greed to make a quick buck. Some ICOs use Hollywood actors’ headshots in their profiles, while others open plagiarize white papers. And it’s not just investors who are easily duped due to lack of diligence. In 2017, a little known startup Confido exited with $3 million in stolen funds. Confido offered its token through TokenLot, a firm that manages ICOs and collects funds for them. The firm, at the time, believed Confido was a legitimate startup.
“Unsurprisingly, the blatant exit scams continue to plague the largely unregulated ICO sector where the founders have no contractual obligation to deliver a product. After raising millions of dollars with no string attached, the founders’ incentives to actually build a valuable company are very limited,” according to Diar.
The report, however, concluded that despite the figures, exit scams made up a very small percentage of money that go to ICOs with little or no returns at all. Even legitimate ICOs perform dismally with little tangible products to show, resulting in token market prices falling drastically.
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