Telegram Crypto Scams: Unveiling Fraudulent Schemes and How to Stay Safe
September 11, 2023
Telegram has gained widespread recognition as one of the most popular messaging apps in the crypto space. Every major blockchain project and cryptocurrency community has a Telegram account, establishing groups and channels to build a community and foster discussions and engagement.
While Telegram's popularity has transformed it into an invaluable resource for crypto enthusiasts seeking to deepen their understanding and converse about their preferred projects, it has also attracted unwelcome attention from fraudulent actors.
Many Telegram scams operate on the private messenger app, and nearly every regular user has encountered some form of Telegram scam account on the platform. In most cases, these Telegram scammers share a common trait — they tend to prey upon individuals new to the crypto realm or just embarking on their crypto journey.
The good news is that armed with some fundamental knowledge and a few adjustments to your settings, you can effectively ward off most scams. This will allow you to engage in learning, discussions, and content creation in discovering and avoiding fake Telegram groups confidently and securely. Here's a guide to help you not fall victim to a Telegram scam.
What is a Telegram Scam Account and How Do They Work?
Telegram scams encompass a range of fraud schemes that occur either within the Telegram app itself or entice users to venture onto precarious third-party websites.
The allure of Telegram for scammers is undeniable, given its widespread popularity and user-friendly nature. All it takes to create an account is a phone number. The scams run the range from conventional phishing endeavors to intricate Telegram bot based assaults that pose as legitimate customers or tech support representatives.
Here's a glimpse Into the Typical Scenarios of Telegram Scams
In this scenario, a Telegram user assumes the identity of someone you typically trust, be it a friend, colleague, seemingly genuine customer, or tech support agent. They aim to deceive you into divulging your personal information by sending a link to a phishing site to steal personal information.
Scammers coax you into clicking on suspicious links or sending direct messages to coax you from the Telegram platform to a less secure website. This site may then serve as a conduit to gather sensitive information or introduce malware to your device.
Telegram Bot Attacks
The Telegram app permits the creation of bot accounts, which scammers exploit to rapidly target vulnerable, legitimate accounts. However, Telegram bot scams do occur. For instance, Intel 471's research in July 2022 highlighted a bot named X-Files, capable of siphoning passwords, session cookies creating account names, bank account logins, and other personally identifiable information.
As the messaging app has emerged as the hub for cryptocurrency and blockchain aficionados, many scam artists have set their sights on Telegram users. They aim to gain access to crypto wallets, allowing them to drain Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum, and other digital currencies.
These examples provide a mere glimpse into the multifaceted landscape of Telegram scams. What's more concerning is that Telegram scammers continually devise fresh tactics to perpetrate fraud and extract personal information from unsuspecting Telegram users.
Fake Telegram Channels and Scams to Watch Out For
Fake Telegram Channels and Groups
Telegram groups and channels serve as congregations for like-minded individuals to engage in discussions and exchange ideas. Unfortunately, scam artists have taken advantage of this by crafting deceptive "copycat" versions of popular channels, creating a false sense of security for unsuspecting victims to commit fraud.
These fake channels resemble their legitimate counterparts, like crypto exchanges, adopting similar account names, profile pictures, and even the same pinned messages sometimes. The admins behind these channels often have usernames almost indistinguishable from the real ones.
Initially, these counterfeit channels appear active, with "users" engaging in conversations about promotions, get-rich-quick schemes, or alleged freebies, frequently targeting cryptocurrency enthusiasts with tempting pre-launch token offers.
However, before long, users or administrators will approach you, attempting to coax you into clicking on a link or revealing personal information, which can be exploited for identity theft or account hacking.
How to Detect the Scam
When joining a new Telegram channel, check if you can send messages or if it's a "broadcast only" channel, indicated by a loudspeaker icon next to its name.
In one instance, a scammer created a Telegram group named "Coinbase," amassing thousands of users. Posing as a Coinbase representative, the scammer promoted daily giveaways while scheming to compromise users' accounts.
What to Do
- Report any fraudulent Telegram channels or impostors by clicking the three dots in the corner and selecting "Report." Specify the reason.
- Enhance your security settings to allow your account to be added to new groups and channels exclusively by contacts. Access this option through "Settings," "Privacy and Security," and then "Groups & Channels," changing the settings from "Everyone" to "My Contacts."
"Crypto Expert" Scams
Telegram has emerged as a prominent platform for cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiasts. Unfortunately, scammers have capitalized on this trend, masquerading as crypto experts to deceive victims into surrendering coins, money, or account credentials.
These scams frequently promise a "guaranteed" return on cryptocurrency investments. Scammers may respond to Twitter comments or contact you directly on Telegram, asserting their ability to provide a 50%+ return on your investment with exclusive financial accounts.
Once engaged, scammers will guide you to create an account on their "exclusive" crypto exchange. They'll showcase charts and graphs suggesting your investment is flourishing. However, when you attempt to withdraw your "earnings," the scammer and your account and funds vanish.
In another example of this, closed Telegram groups promised hefty returns to investors if they sent between $200 to $1, initially with 5x returns. In fact, get-rich-quick scams are among the most popular in Telegram with over 46,000 victims having already lost $1.1bn in crypto scams since the start of 2021. Telegram is among the top 3 platforms where these scams originate with 7% of all victims reporting they lost money on the messaging app.
How to Identify the Scam
Be wary of anyone promising "guaranteed" returns or access to a "special" crypto exchange. These are typical hallmarks of a Telegram crypto investment scam.
What to Do
- Ignore individuals claiming guaranteed returns, especially in cryptocurrency.
- Avoid investing in purported "special" cryptocurrency exchanges, as they are frequently fraudulent.
- Never send money, crypto, or sensitive information to individuals you've only interacted with on Telegram or similar messaging platforms.
Phishing Exploits with Telegram Bots
Telegram's unique feature is its capability to develop and employ bots on the platform. Scammers exploit this feature, using Telegram bots like SMSRanger to impersonate representatives from banks, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and popular mobile carriers to obtain sensitive information.
Upon obtaining a Telegram user's phone number, the bot initiates contact, convincing the user to divulge personal information, banking information and account credentials, passwords, and even two-factor authentication (2FA) codes.
How to Recognize the Scam
Phishing through Telegram bots exhibits typical signs of phishing scams, including a false sense of urgency, spoofed or strange phone numbers, grammatical errors, and requests for sensitive information.
What to Do
- If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to represent your bank or organization, hang up and contact them directly through their official number.
- Be cautious, as companies will never reach out to you via Telegram or third-party messaging platforms, as this can usually be from a Telegram scammer's account.
How To Prevent Telegram Scams
Maintain a vigilant eye on all links, even those seemingly shared by your friends, whose accounts might be compromised, or by deceptive lookalike accounts and profiles. In a widely-used and easily accessible platform like this, it's crucial to recognize your responsibility in safeguarding yourself.
The warning signs of common scams include messages or group descriptions with grammatical and spelling errors, auto-delete messages so it's harder to track the fake bots, etc. Under no circumstances should you divulge your login credentials or banking information to anyone on that or other platforms. Be wary of menacing messages or fake listings that claim to originate from Telegram, crypto-wallets, banks, or any other financial institutions or websites housing your personal data.
Take the initiative to establish a robust password as a deterrent against potential scammers attempting to infiltrate your account. Craft a unique, intricate combination comprising a minimum of 10 characters, encompassing both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid recycling this password for other purposes, and consider employing a password manager to assist in organizing all your accounts and credentials securely.
Fine-tune your privacy and group invite settings from the outset of your Telegram journey. Activate end-to-end encryption for enhanced confidentiality. To bolster security further, enable a passcode or fingerprint/face ID, and incorporate two-step verification (2FA).
It's imperative to keep your email address and phone number, associated with your account, up to date. This proactive measure serves as a means to verify your account ownership should you ever encounter identity theft or difficulties accessing it.
Even if you believe you're immune to the scams outlined below, understanding their inner workings is essential. If you're active on Telegram, chances are some of your friends and family members are too. You might have even encouraged them to join the platform. You can play a vital role in ensuring their safety by staying informed.
It's crucial not to let a false sense of security become your Achilles' heel. A well-crafted scam has the potential to catch anyone off guard, and at least one of the scams we'll delve into can ensnare individuals who've never encountered Telegram.
A Telegram crypto scam presents a unique set of challenges, being both simplistic and deceptively subtle. These scams have caused individuals to lose their investment portfolios, underscoring the importance of learning how to shield yourself from them. At the same time, there are common traits of legitimate Telegram groups you can learn to spot to raise your technical knowledge of the messaging app.