The findings of a Bolster report, along with real life examples, clearly correlate the rise in crypto scams to the value and popularity of cryptocurrencies as well as the increase in individuals seeking financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With more than 400,000 crypto scams created in 2020, there was a 40 percent increase compared to 2019. An increase of 75 percent is prediced in 2021, based on current levels of suspicious activity that often indicates future scams.
Bitcoin has gone mainstream
As the leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin has gone mainstream, in large part due to support from celebrities and major corporations, such as Tesla, and is gaining the interest of professional investors on Wall Street.
The global market capitalization for all cryptocurrencies reached a peak of $1.7 trillion in January 2021, which is an eight times increase from January 2020. Fraudsters have taken notice of this and launched hundreds of thousands of scams to steal this valuable asset from the unwary, ranging from traditional giveaway scams to attacks targeting crypto wallets directly.
“Among all the different types of scams, crypto scams are the fastest growing category, and we are just at the beginning of this new wave of digital theft campaigns,” said Shashi Prakash, CTO of Bolster.
“We continue to see scammers being opportunistic and designing campaigns focused on real time, surging trends when people are likely not to be on guard because it’s so new.”
The report analyzed more than 300 million websites to identify those related to cryptocurrency scams. The analysis covered Bitcoin, the most well-known cryptocurrency, as well as other lesser-known currencies such as PolkaDot and Tether, with key report findings including:
- The most prolific types of scams in 2020 were fake prizes, giveaways, or sweepstakes, followed by investment related scams, advance fee schemes and celebrity impersonations
- Top three cryptocurrencies used in scams were Bitcoin, ChainLink and Ethereum
- Top crypto wallets/exchanges targeted include Binance, Coinbase and Gemini
- The top three celebrities impersonated were Elon Musk, John McAfee and Yusaku Maezawa