Simple Steps to Uncover Online Scammers

With the emergence of Web3, decentralisation and the idea that as web users, we will start to take control of our data, we have to ask the question: “Just what does that mean for our online safety and security?”

For many who venture into the decentralised web and the world of applications built on blockchain, it can feel like the wild west compared to the internet we all “grew up with.”

Decentralisation and controlling your own data do not always equate to good. Whilst Web3 is built on self-regulation, data privacy can also mean identity anonymity and that’s where people looking to do murky things and hide in the shadows can find safe places to operate in this brave new world.

I recently decided to investigate Discord, the messaging and community platform preferred by Web3 technologists. I joined a few Web3 communities and within a few days, I received this very enticing message from a Discord user called “Serthy”, a person or maybe bot whom I do not know. I assume they found my Discord details in a group that I had joined.

According to Serthy, I had been randomly selected to receive some Bitcoin. $25,000 US dollars’ worth!

All I had to do was click on the link to a crypto exchange, sign up for an account type in my winning code and the money (cryptocurrency) would be transferred to my account.

The crypto exchange in question was called click-crypto.com – this really did all sound like a fantastic welcome into the Web3 world.

However, I have lived by the mantra that when something seems too good to be true, most times it’s because it isn’t true. It was time to do some quick digging.

The first thing I did was a “who is” search on the crypto exchange domain “click-cypto.com.” This gave the first big warning – the domain had been registered less than a month before I received my “big win”. I don’t know about you but given the news we read about crypto exchanges going bankrupt and people losing their funds, putting my finances into an exchange on a website that has been in existence less than a month doesn’t fill me with confidence!

But then I noticed the owner of the site (or at least the contact for the site) was a company called “Privacy Protect LLC”. So now that made me wonder, this sounds like it could be a genuine company that’s concerned about my online privacy. That’s a good thing, right? So, I thought I better check who Privacy Protect is.

Not so good after all. Privacy Protect is an organisation that allows you to hide behind them when you register a domain for a website. So, what this means is that whoever owns click-cypto.com doesn’t want you to know who they are. Not a good sign where money is concerned.

So now my scam radar was back up and I ran the final quick test to see how trusted the click-crypto domain was. There are several sites you can use. I chose scam advisor, where (for me anyway) click-crypto got the final nail in the coffin of trust – scam advisors’ verdict: “Click-Crypto has a very low trust score,” you can look at the screenshots to see how and why they gave this warning.

About 5 minutes of digging on the old web was enough to give plenty of warnings that my fast-found Discord luck was indeed a scam and $25,000 worth of Bitcoin wasn’t waiting for me.

I didn’t go to the click-crypto.com page and attempt to claim my prize but had I done so, the kind of nasty surprises that could have been waiting for me could have been as simple as stealing my password as I entered it (most people still use similar user names and passwords across different applications) through to something more sophisticated, where it may have looked like I had a balance, and perhaps encouraged me to connect a wallet and add funds to “my account” on their site before it lets me withdraw the likely fictitious funds showing.

Web3 and crypto are of course inextricably linked but the promise of large amounts of crypto for free usually comes under the heading of a scam, and even tech-savvy veterans can come unstuck. Recently I have come across an ex-colleague who was cold-called by a “crypto financial advisor” who gave him access to a by-invitation-only exchange. It all looked real until he transferred money into the exchange only to find it was a sham website. I suspect a few minutes of research like I walk through above may have spared him the nasty losses he encountered.

I spoke with Manna Sui, Head of Global Marketing from NodeReal, the company that makes blockchain accessible to Web3 developers across the planet. They provide the infrastructure to make blockchain accessible, and they deal with the complicated aspects of linking into blockchains so that developers can build safe, secure and scalable apps. 

She explained, “Every new technology is open to abuse. There will always be bad people attempting to scam us. The good news is that we provide the platform for the world to develop on blockchain and the ecosystem is full of legitimate companies creating applications that are all about transforming how we leverage the web and how we create value in the digital age.”

She continued, “My advice for people new to this technology is to do a few minutes of research on any company you decide to work with. It’s easy to see the legitimate ones. They are visible, have a web presence and you can usually find independent reviews on reputable sites to ratify they are for real.”

Web3, decentralised applications and a world fuelled by electronic value are here to stay. We will all become more familiar with it over time but take care and like every technology you interface with, ask questions, take time to understand things and whenever you feel like you “hit the jackpot”, start from the premise that most likely someone is trying to scam you!


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