5 Memorable ICO Scams

Vlad Costea
  • While ICOs can turn you into a Borgias for a Michelangelo who's going to paint the blockchain equivalent of the Sistine Chapel, there are still plenty of scams that damage both your wallet and the reputation of this way of financing start-ups.
  • Always make sure you're investing in a legitimate project: read the whitepaper and scan for excessive buzzwords, check out the developers, try to envision the purpose and use of the project, look for the opinion of rating websites, and inquire about a trusted escrow company.

So you've finally decided to make use of your hard-earned Ethereum (ETH) coins by converting them into the tokens of a promising initial coin offering (ICO). It's a great way for you to become a patron, somebody who sees potential in a project and helps it reach its goal. You may think that you're some kind of modern-day Borgias who's found his DaVinci, Buonaroti, and Raphael in a crew of software engineers whose vision had been written in a whitepaper.

If the project is truly legitimate and meets your expectations, you might just get rich off of HODLing those sweet tokens. Nevertheless, you must be cautious and completely aware of the fact that the odds are stacked against your idealistic expectations and the number of successful ICOs is disappointingly low.

That's why we thought it would be a good idea to make a short list of scams and big disappointments, just so you know what to expect. The "invest only what you can afford to lose" rule is definitely the Northern Star which must guide all of your moves in the space, and sometimes the difference between the next big top 10 token and the exit scam of the week is given by very elusive details and relative circumstances.

You can't always win, you can't always get what you want, and someone actually has to lose in order to create the next wave of crypto millionaires. And if you've invested in any of these, then you've definitely filled the bags and pockets of a selected elite whom you'll never encounter in your life unless you get exclusive access to some well-hidden luxurious island in the Pacific Ocean.

1. SaveDroid's South Park-Referencing “Gone Not Gone” Scam

The first ICO mentioned is also the latest to cause a buzz among the community, as the German team has pulled a nifty exit scam and ran away with about $50 million.

They promised they would build a savings app which would allow users to use their hard-earned money for AI-handpicked investments. Because really, the future belongs to competing trading bots (or droids) who make rapid financial exchanges based on the same algorithms that don't make mistakes, and thus don't move the markets at all. Sounds totally legit, right?

It was the general "too good to be true" project which also had included a cryptocurrency-funded credit card on the roadmap, but left the moment the ICO ended. Their departure message was as light-hearted as can be, as a South Park meme from the "Margaritaville" episode covered the front page of their website.

But wait, there's more to it and the entire story has a twist: after the company's CEO had hinted on his Twitter account that he did actually pull an exit scam, he returned the following day to provide some explanations.

As detailed in James McQuillan's article on our website, SaveDroid had only tried to show the world how easy it is to raise funds and run away in an unregulated market which doesn't possess the legal means to bring you to justice. To put it plainly, it was a scam about making a point on scams, and the SaveDroid leader promised he would work with authorities to create a fair framework for regulations.

Are they gone or not gone? Is there going to be a double twist to the entire story? It doesn't matter, investors are very upset and it's still unclear whether or not they will ever see their money back. Proving a point can cost $50 million, right?

2. Bitconnect X's Encore

Speaking of memes and occult bots which make trades with the users' savings, it's Carlos Matos' favorite ICO, because we all know he ‘LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVES BITCONNEEEEEEEEEECT!’ Back in January 2018, in spite of all the warnings from reputable cryptocurrency experts and red flags, people still believed that Bitconnect was the perfect way to get rich quickly.

Trevon James did it, a 17-year old named Crypto Nick has become a millionaire, so why shouldn't everyone else get the daily 1 percent returns? There was no way for the system to turn out to be a Ponzi scheme like the hateful venom-spitting critics claimed to, right? They were probably jealous about the gains they didn't make.

Well, Bitconnect did collapse and people lost a lot of Bitcoin (which was the entry ticket into the system) just to keep on holding onto worthless tokens. But there seemed to be a safety net that users hung onto, because there is no way the same company would attempt a second scam: Bitconnect X was announced as an ICO in early 2018 and pretty much promised nothing other than being listed on CoinMarketCap!

The admission fee was $50 per token, and lots of BCC enthusiasts jumped right in, but the entire project crashed and burned just like its longer-lived predecessor. It's like that old saying "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I LOOOOOOOVE BITCONNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECT!"

3. Prodeum's Phallic Complex

The blockchain can have many revolutionary uses, and a team of Lithuanian programmers thought about involving the industry of fruits and vegetables into such a process.

 It all seemed legitimate and unique: their website contained a detailed whitepaper with a roadmap, the team’s developers had listed their LinkedIn profiles, and people on social media would post pictures of Prodeum's name written on their bodies.How could this go wrong? Well, the moment after the bags got filled with the Ethereum equivalent of $11 million, the website disappeared and left the project’s investors a wise message, which plainly said "penis".

Any link related to the developers had disappeared, and one of the alleged team members who got caught claimed to have been subjected to identity theft. So if it wasn't him, then who pulled out this scheme?Also, what about the Twitter believers who kept on posting pictures of their bodies labeled with the Prodeum brand? It turned out that they were just paid Fiverr users who were fulfilling the assignment for which they were getting paid. Now that's quite a fruitful collaboration.

4. The Obvious PonziCoin

If Dogecoin (DOGE) turned a meme into one of the most successful cryptocurrencies on the market, then why not push the envelope a little farther and pull off an exit scheme without even bothering to hide your intentions?

If Bitcoin and its many clones promised to create a fairer and more transparent world of finances, then why not make scams more obvious too? Some guy named Josh Cincinatti thought about a concept which openly mocks the entire ICO culture, but still demands for money in a serious way. His project isn't a pamphlet of the likes of Voltaire, but a real ICO which has open and brilliant rules: first of all, it never ends. Crypto investors often regret missing deadlines and those who organize exit schemes can't possibly miss their money.

Secondly, the entire pyramid is simplified so that only the selected board of elites gets that fat percentage. It also consists of one person, as Josh Cincinatti does everything in his company. It's ridiculous, it's hilarious, and it's the ICO equivalent of the guy who did a Kickstarter to ask for money just to never work a day in his life - except that it features a profound understanding of Ponzi economics and has an amusing whitepaper.

5. Benebit

If all the other examples were sketchy and contained small clues about the scammy nature of their projects, this one is of a different kind. Ironically, Benebit was all about customer royalty and promised to unite all the cards and programs under one blockchain umbrella.

 Do you go often to have meals at your favorite restaurant which has a benefit card? Do you buy medicines from that pharmacy which offers special discounts during the winter season for customers who want flu pills? Why carry multiple cards and make use of many separate platforms when there could be one to unify them all and provide a fast and reliable payment currency?

The project sounded great and had about 9,000 Telegram members. People seemed to be excited about the upcoming launch and the developers seemed legitimate: they provided LinkedIn profiles, passport pictures, and a whitepaper which seemed both brilliant and feasible.

 Even ICO Bench gave the project a rating of 4.1 out of 5, only to quickly remove it as soon as it turned out to be a scam! And yes, I've spoiled the outcome: Benebit turned out to be a brilliantly-orchestrated scam and the founders had closed down the website and everything in less than a day, leaving behind a Telegram group where people were distributing dank memes and suicide prevention numbers.

Benebit simply proved that you can never be too certain about ICOs and even the self-proclaimed experts and evaluators from the field can get fooled (or bribed). And while the tone of this article had been pretty humorous, losing money is no laughing matter.

Only invest in ICOs if you're ready to have a nasty surprise and simultaneously feel convinced that you've discovered a true gem. Scams have become pretty elaborate these days and people seem to throw their ETH coins irrationally in all directions, hoping that they will find a gold mine. Just buying Bitcoin at a low price and HODLing it for a few months is a much safer investment option in this space, but then again it's your money and you know best how you should be spending it.

Then again, this article is purely informative, and doesn't endorse any type of investment. You have to keep in mind that cryptocurrencies are risky and I am not a financial advisor (as a matter of fact, I've had my share of poor choices so I wouldn't tell anyone how to invest their money).

Can ‘Huobi Prime’ Compete With ‘Binance Launchpad'?

It seems that Huobi doesn't want Binance to have all the fun, because on Wednesday (March 20th), it announced that its new token launch platform "Huobi Prime" will go live on March 26th.

Huobi says that this new platform offers "a better way to access cutting-edge crypto projects with a high potential for impact and growth – one designed not just for the deep pocketed and well connected but also for ordinary retail traders."

Huobi, in a press release shared with CryptoGlobe, refers to Huobi Prime as "a Direct Premium Offering (DPO) platform," and says that it offers a number of advantages over its rivals:

  • "All coins purchased through Huobi Prime are immediately deposited into user's accounts and are tradable on Huobi Global against Huobi Token (HT), Huobi Group's native token" with no "need to wait for presales or similar delays."
  • "Rigorous screening and selection processes to ensure only premium projects that have yet to be listed on any major exchange are included."
  • "Early access to coins at below market prices."
  • "Access for both big and small players" (i.e. "open to retail investors, not just professionals or VIPs")
  • "In order to mitigate periods of extreme volatility when the market opens, and to reduce the risk of adverse impacts on investors, a period of tiered price limits has also been added."

Each token launch on Huobi Prime "will involve three rounds of coin offerings, each lasting 30 minutes." Although the price "will be capped," this cap "will rise as time goes on."

Here is an example offered by Huobi that illustrates how this works:

"... if Huobi Prime listed a coin called Huobi Premium Example Token (HPET), HPET tokens might be made available at a discount of 30% off in the first round, 20% off in the second, and a 10% discount in the third."

However, note that "actual discounts will vary by coin offering and may be higher or lower."

The tokens you buy on Huobi Prime are deposited into the your account "with minimal delay and can be traded against Huobi Token," with "no pre-sales, etc. to slow things down." The maximum purchase amount is "the equivalent of $1,000 USD in Huobi Token."

Leon Li, Founder and CEO of Huobi Group, says:

"Customer demand and user needs are at the forefront of everything we do here at Huobi. Huobi Prime is very much an extension of that. We've designed it from the ground up to be a more innovative, direct, and responsive way to access up-and-coming new tokens."

And Robin Zhu, COO of Huobi Group, had this to say:

"Powered by Huobi Token, Huobi Prime will keep our brand at the forefront of the ever-changing digital asset marketplace."

The honor of being the first token to be launched on Huobi Prime belongs to TOP, which is the native coin of TOP Network's public blockchain Top Chain.

Top Network, which was founded in late 2017, says that it offers "full-stack decentralized cloud communication services," i.e. low cost services such as VPN, VoIP, video, IoT data sharing, storage, messaging, CDN, and live streaming. 

The main features of Top Chain (which currently has a testnet but not a mainnet) are:

  • "two-layer lattice"
  • "two-layer sharding"
  • "two-layer VM"
  • "high-speed parallel"
  • "instant transactions, zero fees"
  • "built-in security, privacy protection"
  • "PBFT-DPoS"

Ross Zhang, Head of Marketing for Huobi Group, stated:

"While we had a number of really strong candidates for Huobi Prime's inaugural launch, we were really impressed by TOP Network's ambitious business model, as well as the fact that it will be the first true high performance public chain with a pre-existing userbase in the millions."

Top Network CEO Steve Wei had this to say:

"We've worked closely with Huobi and they won our trust through their professionalism, open-mindedness, and overall friendliness to projects. We were impressed by Huobi's positive reputation and strong branding power and we are happy to launch TOP Network on Huobi Prime."

It is too early to tell how well Huobi Prime will do against the very popular Binance Launchpad, but launching tokens for interesting projects such as this one should give Huobi Prime a decent chance to provide Binance Launchpad with some much needed competition.

Featured Image Courtesy of Huobi Global