An Analysis of a Cryptocurrency Giveaway Scam: Use Case


  • Johnny Botha Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Louise Leenen University of Western Cape and CAIR, Cape town, South Africa



Blockchain, Crypto-crime, Cryptocurrency, Crypto-scam, Giveaway-Scam


A giveaway scam is a type of fraud leveraging social media platforms and phishing campaigns. These scams have become increasingly common and are now also prevalent in the crypto community where attackers attempt to gain crypto-enthusiasts’ trust with the promise of high-yield giveaways. Giveaway scams target individuals who lack technical familiarity with the blockchain. They take on various forms, often presenting as genuine cryptocurrency giveaways endorsed by prominent figures or organizations within the blockchain community. Scammers entice victims by promising substantial returns on a nominal investment. Victims are manipulated into sending cryptocurrency under the pretext of paying for "verification" or "processing fees." However, once the funds have been sent, the scammers disappear and leave victims empty-handed. This study employs essential blockchain tools and techniques to explore the mechanics of giveaway scams. A crucial aspect of an investigation is to meticulously trace the movement of funds within the blockchain so that illicit gains resulting from these scams can be tracked. At some point a scammer wants to “cash-out” by transferring the funds to an off-ramp, for example, an exchange. If the investigator can establish a link to such an exchange, the identity of the owner of cryptocurrency address could be revealed. However, in organised scams, criminals make use of mules and do not use their own identities. The authors of this paper select a use case and then illustrate a comprehensive approach to investigate the selected scam. This paper contributes to the understanding and mitigation of giveaway scams in the cryptocurrency realm. By leveraging the mechanics of blockchain technology, dissecting scammer tactics, and utilizing investigative techniques and tools, the paper aims to contribute to the protection of investors, the industry, and the overall integrity of the blockchain ecosystem. This research sheds light on the intricate workings of giveaway scams and proposes effective strategies to counteract them.