According to research conducted by the Wall Street Journal, around 15 percent of initial coin offerings (ICOs) are pure scams, with many others more likely to fail.
The WSJ team came to its conclusion after analyzing 3,300 digital coin offerings, which they found listed on ICOBench.com, Tokendata.io, and ICORating.com. Out of this figure, 513 ICOs were red-flagged on the basis of various parameters, such as “plagiarized investor documents, promises of guaranteed returns and missing or fake executive teams.”
So far, more than $1 billion has been poured into ICOs where the Journal identified red flags, despite the fact that it’s nearly impossible to know which ones will survive.
To do their work, the group of researchers reviewed the startups’ statements and online transaction records. The research shows that several projects can be labeled scams as they claim guaranteed returns on investments, a common fraud tactic and something the SEC prohibits. The risk-free investments, however, lure many ICO investors who are drawn to the idea that their token will post bitcoin-like gains.
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These findings are nothing new in the world of digital token sales, but the number runs deeper than what usually gets reported. The recent analysis states that the SEC has already started taking actions against at least 30 of such sketchy cryptocurrency startups.
Signs of being a scam
As per the WSJ, a great deal of identity theft was revealed by several cryptocurrency websites, who had faked or concealed team members. More specifically, the ICO operators didn’t disclose their listed team members who either didn’t appear to exist or were impersonating identities of other people who told the WSJ that their photos were used without their knowledge.
Other red flags included characteristics that are common to fraudulent offerings, such a white paper with a complex yet vague explanation of the investment opportunity, promises of financial rewards without any risk, and unresponsive websites with only a countdown clock that shows time is running out on the deal of a lifetime.
Of the projects listed on the report, many offerings were sharing a duplicate language with entire sections word-for-word were copied from other white papers. These included copied descriptions of the working product and roadmap, security issues and some technical features.