Cryptocurrency investments and digital assets are gaining attraction of investors across the board as they offer an alternative to traditional assets. However, in the past two years, investors in the digital asset market have witnessed the most volatile period in the last decade as prices of most coins and tokens shot up over 1000% since launch. The hike in price is still in effect today, totally oblivious, to the longest bear run Bitcoin (BTC) has had in history.

Bitcoin (BTC) daily returns volatility since August 2010

However, the field has not been all rosy. During the massive bull run of 2017, the industry was filled with ICO scams and exit scams which saw many investors lose their investments. Notwithstanding, the number of hacks on cryptocurrency exchanges was on a high as investors lost close to a billion dollars to hackers. Such unfortunate events are pushing potential investors and governments from the field.

Below are some of the red flags that new and existing investors should look out for before making a cryptocurrency investment.


Target Market and Hype

1. FOMO and Multi-level marketing schemes

“Bill Gates is buying coin X” “Gain 100% in less than 24 hours”

The advertisements of most cryptocurrency scams offer false promises to the investor the however that promise to investors is usually not delivered.  Beware of exchanges and other cryptocurrency investments that also ask you to deposit some cryptocurrency in their wallets and gain crazy interest on your investment.

EXP Assets is an example of a Multilevel marketing scheme (Image:Bitcoin Exchange Guide)

This points to a multilevel marketing scheme where the earliest entrants gain hugely and the rest of the members down the pyramid lose out.


2. “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Those familiar with the movie, “The wolf of wall street” understand the analogy of pump and dump schemes. This is a scheme to which certain parties buy in a useless asset and fame it to attract more buyers. Once the price hits the peak, the big early buyers sell off the cryptocurrency leading to a huge crash on the coin and large losses to unsuspecting buyers. These coins are usually pushed with catchy but fake quotes on the platform as shown above.


3. General Market cases

The market is filled with duplicated projects offering a bright future or revolutionary ideas to the global economy. Blockchain is being used as the solution to everything and while I agree the application scaling is important, having a coin for everything is not ideal. People do not want to use a new coin to buy bread, another to pay for a haircut, or pay for subscription. Eliminating the cryptocurrencies that offer similar use cases to what we have in Bitcoin and other better technologies should be key before making your investment.


Initial Coin Offering

4. Team

A simple rules applies when it comes to making a statement on legitimacy of any project – leadership of the project. The team shows the seriousness of the project and the ability to carry the development of the project towards its goals. A lack of a solid team, no advisory or few advisors, no industrial diversity in the team and an anonymous team are all indicators of a failing project.

5. Allocation to Team

Team members are supposed to work on the project’s development and for this they require compensation. However, a common trend for scams in the industry is allocating unreasonable amounts to the team.

Example of a well-balanced allocation of the ICO funding

Having less than 10% is a favorable amount to the team. These projects allocates in excess of 30% share of the total supply which shows greed on part of the team members.


6. No Vesting Period

A lack of holding period once the initial token offering is complete may lead to a selloff before even development of the project takes off. A lack of the vesting period, which ranges from weeks to months, shows venerability of the token. However there are exceptions to the rule but to be on the safer side you will need to check the credibility of the project.


Technical Outlay of the Cryptocurrency

7. Repositories

One of the key indicators of a legitimate public cryptocurrency project is a public repository with active commits on GitHub or GitLab. This shows that there exists a number of engineers working on the project. Furthermore, given that most of the cryptocurrencies are fueled by the vision and goals of the development team, working repositories should be a key factor to look at before investing in cryptocurrencies. This especially affects the long term investors.


8. Funding

One of the key steps to further development of the project is funding bar some exceptions such as Bitcoin. However, with the rise of tokenization, most of the developers require venture capital funding to keep developing the project. If the project runs dry, as witnessed throughout 2018, developers are bound to flee leaving the company at a disadvantage.


9. Whitepaper

One key issue that novice investors leave out when selecting a crypto investment is the whitepaper. Well, it is understandable due to difficulty to understand the technical terms used in whitepapers – even business whitepapers. All the same, there exists projects that lack the whitepaper altogether or have a directly copy pasted whitepaper from another website. Beware of such cryptocurrencies as they are likely to be scam projects.


10. Other scams

The list above is in no way exhaustive of the risks involved in cryptocurrency investment. Other risks include mistakes on the website or whitepaper, listed on no or little exchanges, ability to print more cryptocurrency in the future without community approval etc.

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