What Are Crypto Airdrop Scams and How to Avoid Them

Crypto airdrop scams are making the rounds. Here’s how to spot phishing airdrops and protect your assets from scammers.

Jul 04, 2024
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Key Takeaways:

  • Airdrop scams are fraudulent schemes designed to steal personal information, private keys, or funds by exploiting the allure of free cryptocurrency tokens.
  • Be aware of the various types of airdrop scams, including phishing scams, fake airdrops, malware airdrops, and impersonation scams.
  • To avoid falling victim to airdrop scams, always verify the authenticity of airdrops, avoid sharing private keys, research projects thoroughly, be cautious of unsolicited messages, use security software, check for SSL certificates, and trust your instincts.
  • If you were scammed, report the incident to the relevant authorities, change your passwords, revoke access to your wallet, monitor your accounts for unusual activity, seek professional help, and educate yourself and others about the signs of scams.
  • Continuous education and vigilance are key to safely navigating the cryptocurrency landscape. By staying informed about common scam tactics and sharing knowledge with others, you can help create a safer community for all.

Introduction to Crypto Airdrop Scams

Cryptocurrency airdrop farming is a popular way to increase your crypto holdings. But not all airdrops are legitimate. In this article, we delve into what crypto airdrop scams are, the various types, how to spot them, and what to do if you fall victim to such a scam.

What Are Airdrop Scams?

Airdrop scams are fraudulent schemes where scammers promise free cryptocurrency tokens to participants but have malicious intentions. These scams exploit the popularity and legitimacy of genuine airdrops, which are used by blockchain projects to distribute tokens, raise awareness, or reward loyal users.

In an authentic airdrop, participants might need to perform certain tasks like following a social media account, joining a community, or holding a specific token in order to get airdropped tokens. However, in a scam, the primary objective is to steal personal information, private keys, or even funds from the victims.

Scammers use the allure of free tokens to trick users into providing sensitive information or gaining access to their wallets. The sophistication of these scams can vary, but the core aim remains the same: to defraud the participant.

Types of Crypto Airdrop Scams

Phishing Airdrop Scams

Phishing scams are one of the most common types of airdrop fraud, where scammers create fake websites or social media profiles that mimic legitimate projects. They might send emails or direct messages containing links to these fake sites, prompting users to enter their private keys or other sensitive information. Once the scammers have this information, they can steal the victim’s cryptocurrency.

Below is an example of a phish warning for TON coin.

Advance Payment Airdrop Scams

Fake airdrops involve the creation of a bogus airdrop campaign that mimics a real one. Scammers might use fake social media accounts, websites, and promotional materials to advertise the airdrop. Participants are often asked to send a small amount of cryptocurrency to verify their wallet address or pay for transaction fees. Once the payment is made, the scammers disappear, and the promised tokens are never delivered.

Below is a warning for a NIGI scam that tried to get victims to connect their wallets to a malicious smart contract that could drain their funds.

Malware Airdrop Scams

In this type of scam, participants are tricked into downloading malicious software under the guise of an airdrop application or wallet. The malware can then steal private keys, monitor keystrokes, or take over the victim’s device, leading to significant financial loss.

Below is an official announcement on X by Floki that warns users not to fall for scam airdrop attempts.

Impersonation Airdrop Scams

Scammers may impersonate well-known figures in the cryptocurrency space or legitimate project teams to promote fake airdrops. They might use hacked or fake social media accounts to announce the airdrop, convincing users to participate and hand over sensitive information.

Below is a warning to not engage with a fake TON page.

How to Avoid Airdrop Scams

1. Verify Authenticity

Before participating in any airdrop, verify its authenticity. Check the official website and social media channels of the project. Legitimate projects will have clear information and a track record. If an airdrop is announced, it will usually be mentioned on the official website or reputable cryptocurrency news outlets.

2. Never Share Private Keys

Never share your private keys, seed phrase, or any other authentication factors. Legitimate airdrops will never ask for this information. Your private key is your access to your cryptocurrency wallet, and sharing it can lead to immediate loss of funds.

3. Research the Project

Conduct thorough research on the project offering the airdrop. Look into the team behind the project, its past ventures, and community feedback. Legitimate projects are transparent about their goals and the people involved.

4. Beware of Unsolicited Messages

Be cautious of unsolicited messages, emails, or social media posts about airdrops. Scammers often use these channels to spread phishing links. If you receive such a message, verify its legitimacy by cross-checking with the project’s official communication channels.

5. Use Security Software

Install and regularly update security software on your devices. This can help protect against malware that might be installed through fake airdrop applications or phishing sites.

6. Check for SSL Certificates

When visiting websites related to airdrops, ensure they use HTTPS and have a valid SSL certificate. While this helps ensure that the site is legitimate, even an SSL certificate can’t 100% guarantee that a website is legitimate since sophisticated phishing sites can also use SSL.

7. Trust Your Instincts

If something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts and avoid participating in airdrops that seem suspicious or offer unrealistically high rewards.

What to Do if You Have Been Scammed

1. Report the Scam

If you realise you have been scammed, report it to the relevant authorities. This could include the cryptocurrency project’s official channels, social media platforms, and cybersecurity organisations. Reporting the scam can help prevent others from falling victim.

2. Change Your Passwords

Immediately change the passwords of any accounts that might have been compromised. This includes your email, cryptocurrency exchanges, and wallets. Ensure that your new passwords are strong and unique. Upgrade your password to a Passkey instead.

3. Revoke Access

If you have provided access to your wallet through an airdrop, revoke the permissions. Many wallets and blockchain explorers allow you to manage and revoke permissions for connected sites and applications. Here is a guide by Cointelegraph on how to revoke smart contract access to your cryptocurrency wallet. Additionally, here is how you can revoke token approvals in the Crypto.com DeFi Wallet.

4. Monitor Your Accounts

Keep a close eye on your accounts for any unusual activity. If you notice unauthorised transactions, immediately contact your wallet provider or exchange for assistance.

5. Seek Professional Help

Consider seeking professional help from a cybersecurity expert or the authorities, who can help provide guidance on how to secure your assets and possibly recover lost funds.

6. Educate Yourself and Others

Learn from the experience and educate yourself further about the signs of scams. Share your experience with others to raise awareness and help prevent them from falling victim to similar scams.

Conclusion

Airdrop scams are a growing concern in the cryptocurrency world, preying on the enthusiasm and sometimes naivety of participants eager to earn free tokens. By understanding the types of airdrop scams and adopting best practices to avoid them, you can protect yourself from potential losses.

Always verify the legitimacy of airdrops, avoid sharing sensitive information, and stay informed about common scam tactics. If you do fall victim to a scam, take immediate action to secure your accounts and report the incident. With vigilance and education, you can safely navigate the cryptocurrency landscape and take advantage of legitimate opportunities.

Due Diligence and Do Your Own Research

All examples listed in this article are for informational purposes only. You should not construe any such information or other material as legal, tax, investment, financial, cybersecurity, or other advice. Nothing contained herein shall constitute a solicitation, recommendation, endorsement, or offer by Crypto.com to invest, buy, or sell any coins, tokens, or other crypto assets. Returns on the buying and selling of crypto assets may be subject to tax, including capital gains tax, in your jurisdiction. Any descriptions of Crypto.com products or features are merely for illustrative purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, invitation, or solicitation.

Past performance is not a guarantee or predictor of future performance. The value of crypto assets can increase or decrease, and you could lose all or a substantial amount of your purchase price. When assessing a crypto asset, it’s essential for you to do your research and due diligence to make the best possible judgement, as any purchases shall be your sole responsibility.

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