It has now been over 11 years since Bitcoin has become known to the public. Since then, it has gone through so many ups and downs, that to track even its highlights would be an impossible task. In the beginning, it was reserved only to the most technically sophisticated, and the guys who were “in-the-know”.
Before it went mainstream, funny stories like the Bitcoin Pizza Guy were abundant. The truth is, many people had absolutely no idea where Bitcoin would be heading, and the heights it’d be reaching. Albeit the biggest one, Bitcoin is only one piece of the giant Crypto puzzle. As it became more widely-known and relevant, thousands of new cryptocurrencies have followed, forming a gigantic new market, with its whole new applications. Blockchain, the engine upon which Bitcoin is built, has even amassed its own following, to the point where some people are not even largely interested in cryptocurrencies themselves, but the technical opportunities that blockchain technology can offer. Needless to say, the market is very large and diverse, and a lot of people are there for their own different reasons.
With that being said, Bitcoin, by itself, has rocked the whole world when it reached almost $20,000 back in 2017. This has resulted in a lot of people just getting involved in hopes of achieving their rags-to-riches dreams by becoming Bitcoin millionaires. With the number of such stories actually being true, who would blame them?
With such a fast and widespread growth of the industry, and with such a diverse and large groups of different people, it’s only natural that it won’t be all smooth sailing. Cryptocurrencies attract people from all walks of life, so it’s simply impossible for it to be all “clean”.
Throughout the years, as the internet has become more and more prevalent in our lives, scams and financial Ponzi schemes have become more and more common, and much easier to orchestrate. Obviously, this is even more so the case with Cryptocurrencies. After all, cryptos are still a relatively new concept, and there’s not a lot of people with experience and necessary technical sophistication to deeply understand them and how they work. Due to that, we have already seen a lot of crypto scams that have been performed on a very large scale, affecting lots of people.
This is rather sad, as these scams discourage already hesitant non-technical people from getting involved in the first place, resulting in a lot of resistance for the growth of crypto and delaying its spread.
They are also very damaging to the industry itself considering how much innovation is created on a daily basis with blockchain and cryptocurrency. In fact, some of the most innovative companies had to double down on marketing just to prove that they were legit. The clearest example of this would be the Bitcoin Rush app, which is a BTC trading robot. The company had to rely on dozens of crypto sites to make sure their innovation was not considered a cash grab or a scam, simply because there were cases with robot scams in the past.
Some of these scams have been so massive in scale, that they affected millions of people for billions of dollars. Many of them are still ongoing, and some of them went unpunished, with perpetrators still out there free.
In this article, we’ll examine two of the biggest cryptocurrency scams that have occurred to date. These were selected based on multiple different factors such as their value and amount, the number of people affected, international awareness, etc.
Bitconnect will probably go down as the biggest crypto scam of all time. Not because of the amount stolen, but perhaps because of the surrounding drama and attention that it got. More on that later.
Bitconnect first started off as an obscure ICO which wasn’t expected to go as high as it did. However, it steadily started gaining traction, and eventually became one of the leading cryptocurrency projects in 2017. In its prime, it had surpassed a $2.6 billion market cap, with over $400 value.
The scheme guaranteed its investors up to 40% return per month. The promise was a 1% ROI, regardless of the size of your investment. The company claimed to have developed its own personal “trading bot and volatility software” that would bring you profits.
The coin was rapidly gaining in popularity, and beyond the excited users, it also started attracting the attention of skeptics, who were cautioning investors and labeling it a Ponzi scheme, but the warnings were largely ignored.
Bitconnect pursued very aggressive marketing campaigns by affiliating with multi-level marketers and crypto bloggers who would refer their own following to the coin. This attracted all sorts of people, whether that be big fish looking to invest large amounts, or average Joes starting with a small investment.
For the time being, people thought that everything was going as it should, until Bitconnect’s anonymous creators sold their coins for BTC, never to be heard of again. There were a lot of small developments in-between, but the Coup de grâce was when Bitconnect formally announced the closure of its operation, after which, almost immediately, the coin lost 96% of its value, deeming it essentially worthless.
Controversy aside, the whole affair has gotten a lot of attention on the internet due to its entertaining development and memes. A lot of people remember the highlights from the Bitconnect Ceremony where Carlos Matos was hyping it up beyond belief, who later to find himself a victim of the scam too. Although a bit cringy at the times, the ceremony was very funny and entertaining, and it went viral.
Money loss and scams aside, it’s good that people easily came to terms with it, and at least found something funny to laugh at and move on.
In terms of the numbers and actual damage is done, Onecoin is probably the crypto scam to rule them all.
Onecoin started gaining traction in 2016, spearheaded by its creator Dr. Ruja Ignatova, the self-labeled “Cryptoqueen”. The Cryptoqueen made a speech at Wembley in 2016, where she claimed her cryptocurrency was to unite the whole world and serve as a crypto solution for everyone. In her own words, the world needs a global cryptocurrency, as opposed to a “regional one”. According to Ignatova, Onecoin was to rival Bitcoin, and was set to become the world’s biggest crypto “for everyone to make payments everywhere”.
Onecoin quickly started gaining in popularity, and people all over the world started heavily investing in it. Between the years 2014-2017, over $4 billion’s worth of investments was made. The country with the biggest amount of investments into Onecoin was China, where law enforcement recovered $1.7 billion Chinese Yuan and prosecuted over 80 people. Other prominent countries include Pakistan, Brazil, Hong Kong, and Norway.
However, the situation quickly became more and more sketchy. The long-promised exchange where people would’ve been able to turn Onecoin into cash was being more and more delayed with no end in sight. The doubts of many people came true when Ignatova eventually disappeared in 2017, never to be heard from again.