How to spot a fake ICO

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Dummies guide to picking ICO scams

January 13, 2018 9:00 am Published by

2017 saw the introduction of many new cryptocurrencies join the market. We have no doubt that 2018 will be the same. We’ve put a quick guide together to help you avoid the scams.

The recent craze of Initial coin offerings(ICOs) promising exponential returns on top of great blockchain solutions have proven hard to resist for investors and crypto-enthusiasts, alike.

However as this method of crowdfunding is yet to be regulated, it comes as no surprise that it’s also becoming popular amongst scammers and con-men.

Let’s take a look at some common alarm bells of questionable coin offerings.

What does the white paper say?

If an ICO completely lacks a white paper or business plan, run for the hills.

There ARE plenty of questionable projects which include a white paper….

But you should be asking yourself…

Does it make sense or does it sound like complete gibberish?

Many whitepapers are blasted with the same language and buzzwords that other reputable companies use..

… Sometimes copying word-for-word, parts of their white paper and replacing the plagiarised ICO’s name with their own.

Only the most vigilant and experienced researchers may spot this.

Inexperienced or anonymous team

Unless its 2008 and you are Satoshi Nakamoto, about to release the first crypto-currency into a world which wasn’t ready, there is no real reason to be anonymous.

Good projects are generally lead by experienced people, or advised by strong industry names and ICOs will typically list this information. If the information is too brief and no history can be found of their claimed experience, you should steer clear.

This has prompted ICO scammers to take subtler approaches like fudging their experience and credentials to sound like they know what they are talking about.

Onecoin’s CEO Ruja Ignatova claimed to be part of Bitcoins core development team, having worked closely with Satoshi Nakamoto, himself… #nocomment

Confido’s CEO, Joost van Doorn claimed to have worked for PepsiCo, EBay or Zalando – however no substantial evidence can be found to back such claims. Investors soon found out that Joost was not a real person.

ToTheMoon’s ICO team, listed real people with valid credentials.. but these people had no idea they were part of the project. Sheesh that’s identity fraud.

With the internet at our finger tips, it’s not hard to do a bit of digging.

Verify the integrity of the team behind an ICO (if one is listed) by punching their name on google or searching for them on LinkedIn.

  • Do the exist? Are they who they say they are?
  • Are they actively involved in the project?
  • Do they have the relevant experience?

Monetisation schemes

As with most ICOs, many will typically ask potential investors to contribute a large sum of Ethereum or Bitcoin. And some of them will entice these investors even further by promising token buyers that their investment will yield a guaranteed return.

Although it’s not uncommon for legitimate ICO’s to request large minimum investments to support their platform, alarm bells should be ringing when they promise to provide a definite return on your investment.

Other unethical monetisation practices adopted by scammers is to use the tried and tested pyramid scheme.

By selling educational packages, Onecoin, at first glance, sounded legit.

Upon further investigation, you realise that the only way investors can redeem more tokens, is to buy the more expensive educational package or sign a successful referral to one of their educational packages.

Hmm… another alarm bell.

What’s on the roadmap?

Every legitimate ICO project will have a road map to outline their plans for the future. The roadmap should include clear goals and a rough timeline for investors to measure the team’s success and gauge their ambitions.

In short, avoid any ICO that has no goals or roadmap..

Avoid ICOs that has a sketchy or vague plans.

Definitely steer clear from ones with overly ambitious plans filled with buzzwords.

A well thought-out roadmap, considers realistic targets within their capacity.

Bells and whistles are nice, but without any substance it’s never going to get there.

Spotting a scam can now be fairly simple.

However, as investors are becoming more and more aware, so too are the scammers.

In time, they’ll find more complex ways to dupe investors, so never be too complacent. Exercise caution and DYOR – Do Your Own Research.

Remember to run a diligent eye through their white paper, team/advisors, monetisation schemes and roadmap. Most importantly, also consider the problem they are trying to solve.

Is it a real problem? AND.. are they proposing a real solution?

Stay vigilant and be aware of all the risks involved when investing into crypto.

Pay even more attention when investing in ICO’s or unregulated crowd funds.

Just remember as a general rule, if it’s too good to be true, it often is.

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