How to Spot a Crypto Scam


Last year, a group of influencers started promoting an initiative that seemed altruistic and honorable on its surface. The initiative was a crypto token called Save the Kids, which influencers purported would help children in need while making its investors money. Several of the influencers were connected to FaZe Clan, a community of esports gamers with millions of followers—many of them teenagers. The idea made a lot of sense: to leverage the massive popularity of influencers and the power of cryptonomics to raise money for the less fortunate.

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It didn’t work out that way. The token’s value plummeted within days of launch, with large holders immediately dumping their shares. FaZe Clan supporters who had invested in the project complained of losing their money on Twitter. As of today, Save the Kids is virtually worthless.

Save the Kids is just one example of a crypto project in which influencers wielded their sway over fans to extract thousands of dollars, only for the project to collapse upon launch. Scammers have taken advantage of gray areas, crazed enthusiasm around crypto, and the lack of industry regulation in order to trick gullible followers into investing their money.

To chart this history, TIME spoke to three YouTubers who devote their time to tracking down and exposing these scams: Stephen Findeisen (known on YouTube as CoffeeZilla), Spencer Cornelia, and Mike Winnet. These YouTubers exist somewhere between hard-nosed journalist and pundit: they use tips, inside sources and public records to show how scammers are taking advantage of a “Wild West” in crypto.

Read more about the evolution of the Influencer Scam:
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