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Top Crypto Projects That Appeared to be Russian Scams

When you hear the word “Russia”, what do you think of? For some, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the European country is its strong military, advanced and sophisticated weaponry, gold reserves, top-notch cuisine, or its energy supply.

While all of these things are true about Russia, some other topics that frequently come up are cyberattacks, Ponzi schemes, and, more recently, cryptocurrency scams.

If you could go back in time, you might see that some of the world’s most fraudulent schemes have originated in Russia. One prominent example is MMM Global, which was launched in 2011 by Russian founder Sergei Mavrodi. 

The scheme had subsidiaries in more than 110 countries and, in 2020, was condemned as the biggest fraud in the history of modern Russia; the fact that its impact was felt around the world makes it a relatable example.

Questra World, which pretended to be a multi-level marketing (MLM) and investment management company, is another well-known example of Russia’s long list of fraudulent schemes. This particular case offered a high yield investment (HYIP) that promised up to 200% returns by the end of the investment period, and was widely embraced by many around the world.

Nevertheless, there has been growing concern in the emerging crypto industry, as perpetrators of fraudulent schemes increasingly turn to the digital asset ecosystem (DAE), which provides investors with access to a pool of cryptocurrency projects, NFTs, and metaverses, to name a few.

The crypto space has seemingly become a level playground for various fraudulent schemes, including pump and dumps, DeFi rug pulls, cloud mining scams, imposter and giveaway scams, phishing scams, blackmail, extortion, and several others. While time may not permit us to explain how each of these schemes work, here is a link to an article that deciphers the various cryptocurrency scams.

Russia has become home to some of the biggest crypto pyramid schemes in recent years, so it is vitally important to be wary of any project that originates within the European country’s borders. For instance, between December 2019 and August 2021, a single pyramid scheme – Finiko – reportedly made away with over $1.5 billion in bitcoin.

Interestingly, Finiko had previously made headlines for stealing $95 million from its victims, which, when totalled, puts the scheme second only to ‘OneCoin’ among the greatest cryptocurrency scams. In the case of OneCoin, the project became infamous when its founder allegedly fled with $4 billion in cryptocurrency belonging to investors and creditors. With that being outlined, below are the top crypto projects that appeared to be Russian scams:

3. Elona Tokens

If you are well acquainted with the crypto space, you will likely be aware of the ELONA tokens which are flooding the crypto market. Reports have identified over 30 Elona scam tokens currently in circulation, largely thanks to the clash between Tesla CEO/founder Elon Musk, and the President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.

So how did it start? Some couple of weeks ago, Kadyrov reportedly cautioned Musk via a tweet to desist from his current approach of interfering in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. 

In his tweet, Kadyrov specifically referred to Elon as “Elona” (a female version of Elon), and proceeded to advise him not to measure his strength against the president of the aggressor nation. “Elon Musk, a word of advice: Don’t measure your strength against that of Putin’s. You’re in two completely different leagues,” Kadyrov stated.

Prior to the warning from the president of the Chechen Republic, Musk had previously tweeted in a way that could be described as provocative, at least for people like Kadyrov. “I hereby challenge Владимир Путин to single combat, Stakes are Україна,” Musk tweeted using a mix of Russian and English. To explain fully in English, Musk challenged Vladimir Putin to single combat, adding that the “stakes are Ukraine.”

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, Musk has clearly outlined his support for the Ukrainians, and has previously demonstrated this by providing the invaded country with his Starlink service in an attempt to keep them connected to the internet.

Following the dispute, and the popularity of the ensuing banter, particularly the part where Elon was mockingly called ‘Elona,’ scammers jumped on the opportunity to create scam coins. Now, barely a week after, there are over 30 ‘Elona’ tokens in circulation. 

A tweet by PeckShieldAlert has since revealed some of the recreations of the Elona-themed tokens including ‘ELONATAMA’, ‘ELONASHIBA’, ‘ELONAC’, ‘SELONA’, ‘DOELONA’, ‘BELONA’ and so on. 

2. Golos Blockchain

Golos is the Russian answer to the STEEM coin, which is arguably the most popular blockchain-based social network. However, unlike STEEM coin, Golos is more prominent among Russians, and happens to be the brainchild of Cyber Fund, a prominent Russian cryptocurrency organisation founded back in 2016.

Although Golos is listed on multiple exchanges, including Binance and Coinbase, it embodies a lot of red flags that could raise concerns among potential investors. 

Notably, the Golos blockchain lacks a lot of crucial information on its website, and on ‘isthiscoinascam’, the project has one of the poorest ratings. This was due to various issues including the lack of a team profile, marketing strategy, roadmap, as well as numerous other missing data points.

As of press time, the Golos blockchain has a total market capital of approximately $794,925, and trades at around $0.00275 with over $3,830 in 24 hour trade volume. In comparison, this is a far cry from its all-time high of $0.054 since it entered the public eye in October 2016.

While it cannot be directly claimed that Golos is a scam, the missing data points and the lack of a visible project team makes it untrustable at best, ultimately making it appear to be a Russian scam.

1. Monero

Although it operates using tried and tested first-generation blockchain technology, and has been listed on some of the most regulated exchanges in the industry, including Binance, DigiFinex, and Gate.io, Monero still feels to many like a Russian scam.

In terms of the asset itself, Monero (XMR) is a private, secure, untraceable cryptocurrency that was launched as a fork of ByteCoin in April, 2014. 

While it is built on an opaque blockchain, the digital asset essentially operates as an open-source digital currency with a particular focus on privacy. According to its Whitepaper, Monero works as a privacy-oriented cryptocurrency by using ring signatures, stealth addresses and ring confidential transactions. 

However, issues arose around the digital asset following a report that crypto scams targeting gamers were typically perpetrated using Monero as a bait. The report notably revealed that “Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K19, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 players are being duped into mining for cryptocurrency — and they may not even know it.”

The report further revealed that the Monero privacy coin was infamous for its use by cyber-criminals due to how much more difficult it is to trace than other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Hence, while in principle its infrastructure is “perfect” and solid, Monero appears to be the perfect tool for cybercriminals.

While the majority of the above crypto projects are still operational, not all of them were created with the intent of defrauding people. In some cases, crypto projects like Monero simply make it easy for cyber-criminals to perpetrate their crimes. 

That said, there are many other crypto projects that appear to be Russian scams; if you think you know of any, please share them in the comments below.

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed to be financial legal or tax advice. Trading Forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs poses a considerable risk of loss

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