Scammers are luring Discord users to a fake cryptocurrency exchange with the promise of free Bitcoin or Ethereum.
Discord was originally created for gamers, but thanks to its handy system of “servers” (communities), channels, and private messages, it’s brought in all kinds of people, from study groups to common-interest clubs — including fans of cryptocurrency. On their servers, traders discuss the latest on altcoins, investors share predictions, and scammers ponder how to cash in on both. We unpack the latest scheme and explain how not to fall for it.
Beware of exchanges bearing gifts
The scammers seek out victims on Discord cryptocurrency servers and send out private messages that appear to come from an up-and-coming trading platform giving away cryptocurrency. The reasons for such alleged generosity vary from message to message, but whether the exchange is supporting traders in difficult times or trying to attract new users, the thrust is always the same: The lucky addressee has been randomly chosen to receive an impressive payout in Bitcoin or Ethereum.
The message, replete with emoji, contains detailed instructions (and a code) for accepting the gift, as well as a link for registering on the cryptocurrency exchange.
The link opens a site that looks like a cryptocurrency exchange, with an adaptive layout, savvy design, and the exchange rate info, charts, order books, and trading history that cryptocurrency traders would expect to see on a trading platform. Visitors will also find technical support and several language options. Someone clearly went to a lot of trouble to make the site look legit.
The attention to detail even extends to offering victims two-factor authentication to secure their accounts, plus antiphishing protection. Here, of course, the purpose is purely to add plausibility; the site’s true purpose is to transfer money from victim to criminal.
To finish registration, the victim has to either make a small cryptocurrency deposit (now or later) or go through a Know Your Customer (KYC) identity check. The procedure is just like one you might find on a legitimate exchange, requiring contact details, a photo of an identity document, and a selfie taken with both a piece of ID and a sheet of paper with the address of the exchange, registration date, and signature.
The scammers appear to be collecting a database to sell; many legitimate services, including financial ones, use such personal data sets to confirm users’ identities, so they fetch a nice price on the dark web. Also supporting our conjecture is the scammers’ insistence that photo IDs must not be marked in any way.
After registration, it’s time to activate that prize key from the message in Discord and receive the payout. For victims who are still playing along, the system accepts the code, and the promised Bitcoin or Ethereum coins appear in their account. When the victim tries to move the coins from the exchange to their own wallet, however, they find only roadblocks.
The scammers claim to need a top-up — in our case, 0.02 BTC or an equivalent amount in Ethereum or US dollars. (Any money sent to the scammers is gone for good, of course, and the prize was never real.)
The Internet is home to several such fake cryptocurrency exchanges, and forums and review sites already list warnings about them.
How to guard against scammers
Here are some simple rules:
Never trust strangers, especially ones offering free money;
Never share personal information with websites that you don’t trust 100%;
Take particular care with official documents, and never send photos of them to anyone;
Configure Discord’s privacy settings to avoid such offers;
Use a reliable security solution. For example, Kaspersky Internet Security not only warns users about scam and phishing sites, but also protects their computers from malware.
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