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Since the inception of time, there have been nefarious individuals looking to take advantage of their fellow humans: pickpockets, conmen, hustlers, etc. So, the rise of digital and crypto scammers is no real big shocker.
We’ve all received bogus emails claiming that we won the lottery, or a huge endowment from a distant country, asking us to send over bank details and sensitive information in order to be furnished with the alleged rewards. Our email spam filters have gotten used to identifying and blocking a good percentage of these unwanted echelons of the digital landscape, but now with the rise of new markets and technologies such as Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain and NFTs, the scammers have a new supply of fresh blood, and a strong current of unaware and uneducated victims to attack.
Scammers have become more sophisticated with the rise of technology, finding ways to conceal their identities — even cloning profiles of credible players in the market and professing to be helping whilst sucking their victim dry. I myself have been the victim of a digital wallet hack. Supposedly I am an industry expert, a technologist who is mentoring, consulting and leading the way for others. Well, it happened to me, and I did my checks and balances, but clearly not well enough.
Simply clicking a nefarious link can be a disaster waiting to happen. Any simple URL can cause you to grant access to your digital vault, your computer, and your crypto wallet. My scammer was a little more sophisticated. They had cloned the entire team an NFT project and I was certain I had checked their identities carefully. I was scammed into sharing my screen at which point they gained access to my MetaMask wallet via my on-screen QR code. (A feature that MetaMask has now disabled.) Luckily, I wasn’t holding many resources in my wallet at the time. They escaped with 0.12 ETH of my hard-earned money.
There are a few tips and tricks to operating successfully in the crypto space. These are fairly straightforward tactics that will keep you and your assets safe.
Never ever share your seed phrase (or QR code)
The 12- or 24-word key phrase that acts as your master key to your account. Never share this, never let anyone else see or access it, never save it on your computer or digitally. Write it down offline, keep a couple of copies, and keep that paper in a fireproof box and away from the elements of nature.
Get a cold wallet
MetaMask is a hot wallet — it’s ready to fire, transact, etc. A cold wallet is an offline hardware device, such as a Trezor or Ledger, that provides encrypted access to your wallet and transactions, and is the safest way to operate. Make sure to buy directly from the manufacturer’s website: Trezor.io or Ledger.com. Scammers have been known to hack into the supply chain from Amazon and other retailers and send out hacked cold wallets.
Never click unknown links
As difficult as this sounds, you can’t really get robbed unless you open the front door and let the robbers in. This can happen in multiple ways, but the easiest is to get you to click a link that enables the hacker access to your machine or device. Only click authorized and original links when searching. Double-check everything before clicking on it. I had a friend who lost 10ETH plus many assets when he was told a new client wanted custom artwork. They sent a link with the supposed picture of what they wanted and the software automatically hacked his wallet and stole everything. You are the gatekeeper of your wallet, there are no banks to protect you here. Don’t let the scammers in!
Don’t keep all your digital eggs in one basket
MetaMask is free, why not take advantage of that? Create more wallets and spread out your digital assets. Remember to save all the Seed phrases, maybe even use different browsers or a different device to access these. Ring-fence your belongings for maximum safety.
Keep your ear to the ground
It pays to be active in the community so that you can be warned and notified of any new scams or dangers. The NFT and crypto spaces are a warm close-knit community, and it is highly valuable to be active and abreast of the latest market developments.
Most people only learn how to protect themselves and their assets when it’s too late and they have been burnt, try to take heed now and take some simple actions to avoid this heartache in the future.