Crypto and NFT scammers take advantage of the invasion of Ukraine to boost their grifts

Engr. 馃嚭馃嚘馃嚭馃嚘@MRchildofGod路1hCan anyone help me please I鈥檓 stranded in Ukraine with my family2Engr. 馃嚭馃嚘馃嚭馃嚘@MRchildofGod路1hBTC 

17rd6cGoopC7vH71S5fgLDpDfW1M3PRtRdPerson claiming to be stranded in Ukraine requests Bitcoin (attribution)
Cryptocurrency scammers have turned to the crisis in Ukraine to provide fodder for their scams. Some have taken the tactic of pretending to be a person trying to escape the country and asking people via private message to send cryptocurrency; others have set up sketchy crowdfunding projects that claim they will send the money to various Ukrainian causes. One scam project tried to get people to buy "UkraineToken", with vague promises of "regular donations and support".

Ukraine-themed NFT projects have also sprung up all over the place, promising to donate portions of proceeds, with very few avenues to distinguish the legitimate from the scams. Some existing NFT projects have created Ukraine-themed items to add to their collections. Other NFT projects that have nothing to do with Ukraine have tried to tempt buyers by claiming they will donate a portion of proceeds (5%, in one case) to Ukrainian war relief funds. Individual sellers have also tried to use the crisis to increase the sales of NFTs they own, promising to donate their profits.

Needless to say, my advice if you're hoping to donate to relief would be to skip the cryptocurrency and NFTs altogether and pick any of the many verified relief funds out there.

Pixelmon raises $70 million only to reveal hilariously bad NFTs

A poorly 3D-rendered approximation of a Squirtle, with both eyes pointing in different directionsSquirtle is looking rough these days (attribution)
The Pixelmon project promised an ambitious roadmap including a Pok茅mon-like game where the pixelized Pok茅mon could be caught and traded, a land project, and rewards to buyers of their "Generation 1" Pixelmon. The 3D pixelized Pok茅mon on their flashy website and on social media certainly looked promising to the buyers who sunk a total of $70 million into the project. Those buyers, who spent 3ETH per mint (~$9,300), were excited to unveil their "fully modeled 3D character[s] that you can interact with". However, when they "hatched" their Pixelmon, buyers were greeted with some truly terrible models, if they were lucky enough to have a model at all 鈥 some unveiled just an empty patch of grass, and others found their models appearing partway in the ground.

Although the project lead wrote on the Discord that they had "made a horrible mistake" but that they would "completely revamp and redesign" the NFTs, the project appeared to be a cash grab. On the night of the reveal, 1,000 ETH ($2.8 million) had already been transferred out of the project and split among various addresses. One of the recipients who received 400 ETH ($1.1 million) immediately went on a shopping spree, buying various big-ticket NFTs with their windfall.

Bitconnect founder indicted by federal grand jury on charges of orchestrating a global Ponzi scheme

BitConnect founder, Satish Kumbhani, founded the Bitconnect "investment program" in 2016, which attracted investors with its impossibly high payouts. From then until its dramatic 2018 shutdown, Kumbhani and his team drew in around $2.4 billion from investors. The whole thing turned out to be a Ponzi scheme, as many had suspected, and Kumbhani now faces a long list of charges: "conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit commodity price manipulation, operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business, and conspiracy to commit international money laundering". If convicted of all charges, Kumbhani faces up to 70 years in prison.

The Associated Press continues to mishandle its NFT fiasco with mass Discord bans and scrubbing of messages

Dwayne 鈥 Today at 11:00 AM
What are your thoughts on the adoption by finance? We see networks like Pyth seeking to replicate traditional financial pricing awareness on chain.
Dwayne 鈥 Today at 11:02 AM
Seems they also have an existential driver to move transactions on chain.
Dwayne 鈥 Today at 11:03 AM
So, what's the technology's future? Do you think there's no turning back?
Dwayne 鈥 Today at 11:04 AM
Alas. I, too, shunned Bitcoin and my wife has not let me forget it.Gaps in conversation where most messages were removed (attribution)
After the fiasco the previous day in which some group of people at the Associated Press apparently decided turning an image of human suffering into an NFT was a brilliant idea, some at the Associated Press seem to be intent on tarnishing the organization's reputation even further. Horrified individuals took to the project's Discord, as the AP had previously invited people to use that as a way to give feedback and ask questions. The AP's "Director of Blockchain" Dwayne Desaulniers spent a while trying (but not really succeeding) to explain why the AP has decided to turn some of its photojournalism into NFTs. However, around 24 hours after the initial NFT tweet had been made, he apparently decided enough was enough and nearly everyone who'd asked a question was banned from the Discord, with their messages were removed. Some of Desaulniers' replies were also removed, such as where he had replied "Fucking right" to a user who said, "Dwayne wants a world without adblock, without archive.is, without a possibility that someone somewhere might wring a tiny bit of the AP's journalistic output out of them without paying for the privilege."

Nelson Mandela's paintings from prison to be sold as NFTs

A pencil and watercolor illustration of the interior of a prison cell, viewed through the open doorThe Cell by Nelson Mandela (attribution)
The Guardian reported that five watercolor paintings created by former South African president Nelson Mandela depicting scenes from his years of incarceration will be sold as NFTs next month, as well as a handwritten description of why he created the artwork. His daughter is the one behind the project, and she says that "My dad was all about creating an accessible society. This is a way of democratising his art." She does not explain why there is a need to sell them as NFTs in order to accomplish this, or why this makes them more accessible than them already being available to view online. She also doesn't explain how pricing them at $3,500 for a set including one of each, or $700 apiece, can be considered "accessible".

The Associated Press wants to sell you an NFT of migrants adrift at sea

Still frame of an inflatable boat full of people wearing orange life jackets, pictured from aboveStill frame from the video (attribution)
The Associated Press announced they would be dropping a new NFT on the platform they launched in January, which notably doesn't allow users to sell their NFTs off-platform or really do much at all with the image or video associated with their NFT. Most NFTs they've offered to date have been fairly benign, like a photo of a shooting star over a house in a field, or of a person spray-painting "illegal" on a brick wall (edgy!)

However, on February 24 they announced that their newest NFT would show a short, top-down video of around fifty migrants crammed into a small inflatable boat, adrift at sea in the Mediterranean. Any goodwill the AP might have had for their NFT project was likely shattered by their choice to monetize a video of human suffering. The already horrific NFT announcement was particularly ill-timed, given its juxtaposition on many Twitter feeds amongst news of Russian military action against Ukraine. The Associated Press deleted the announcement tweet four hours later.

Founders of BitMEX crypto exchange take guilty plea, pay $10M fine for failing to implement an anti-money laundering program

Arther Hayes and Benjamin Delo, the founders of the BitMEX cryptocurrency exchange, pled guilty to violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, which they violated by ignoring requirements to implement any anti-money laundering (AML) programs, including programs that would verify customer identities (KYC). They also separately agreed to pay a $10 million fine, which represents the monetary gain from their crime. "BitMEX was in effect a money laundering platform", said the U.S. Department of Justice statement, which also described how the platform was reportedly used to launder funds from a hack of another exchange, and how the executives both had direct knowledge that some of their customers were from countries under OFAC sanctions.

In March, the third co-founder, Sam Reed, also pled guilty and agreed to pay a $10 million fine. In August, top BitMex employee Gregory Dwyer entered a guilty plea and agreed to pay a $150,000 fine.

BitMEX had attempted to evade sanctions by claiming they didn't serve customers in the United States, though in reality they served thousands of U.S. customers and marketed in the U.S. At one point, when an early investor inquired as to why an investment in the company hadn't triggered a report to regulatory authorities, Delo responded with a meme of a man smiling, superimposed with the text "Incorporated in Seychelles, come at me bro". Hayes and Delo face a maximum sentence of five years in prison as a result of this plea. The exchange had in August paid $100 million to settle a separate lawsuit from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in an agreement which had also required them to implement proper blocks to prevent U.S. customers from using the service.

Space Crypto game surprises its player base with new, disadvantageous tokenomics

Space Crypto to USD Chart, showing a precipitous drop on February 23Space Crypto to USD chart (attribution)
Space Crypto, a play-to-earn game that launched on February 15, announced on February 23 that users wouldn't be able to withdraw all their reward tokens, as expected. Without previously informing investors, they decided that players won't be able to withdraw the necessary amount of reward tokens ($SPE) to repair all their ships, essentially locking everyone in to artificially extend the game's life. They also decided that the token exchange rate would be 5 in-game tokens = 1 $SPE (also not specified in the whitepaper), essentially hiding the true amount of in-game currency needed for positive return on investment. The community was fairly universally enraged, and the $SPE token price dropped in value by 93% after the announcement.

Utility promising to restore mining performance on Nvidia GPUs actually malware

The popular Tom's Hardware and PC Gamer websites both ran articles about a utility called "Nvidia RTX LHR v2 Unlocker", which claimed to increase the artificially-limited cryptocurrency mining performance of its RTX graphics cards. These graphics cards are shipped with performance-limiting software to reduce the GPUs' attractiveness to cryptocurrency miners, whose thirst for GPUs has made it difficult and expensive for gamers and various others to acquire the hardware. Unfortunately, both publications had to run a second article just a day later to warn their readers away from the software they had just advertised. "Instead of fixing the capped mining performance, the utility infects the host system with malware", wrote Tom's. Though it is now clear that the tool is malware, it's not immediately clear what exactly the malware does 鈥 speculation has ranged from keylogging to, well, cryptocurrency mining.

NBA player De'Aaron Fox ditches his NFT project after raking in $1.5 million

A 3D fox wearing a black ball cap and purple basketball jersey reading "Swipa". His eyes are popping out like in a cartoon.Swipa The Fox #5784 (attribution)
Sacramento Kings player De'Aaron Fox announced his "SwipaTheFox" NFT project in mid-December, and the "high utility NFT collection" went live on January 15. The project roadmap promised a metaverse basketball court, a scholarship to a University of Kentucky student, and chances to win all-star game tickets, as well as "much more to come". The project had over 100,000 people in its Discord, and pulled in about 475 ETH (about $1.5 million at the time).

Suddenly, on February 23, the project deleted its social media accounts and most of its Discord. Fox wrote in the remaining Discord announcements channel that "The time and attention that y'all deserve and that I wanted to give you all/what this project requires, was not known to me and I overstepped and stretched myself too thin, trying to do this project in the middle of an NBA season." He promised to send anyone who bought more than five NFTs (which would have cost ~0.4 ETH, around $1,300, if bought at mint price) a signed jersey (available for purchase online for around $100).

The following day, after some attention was drawn to the rug pull, Fox released a Twitter statement that said basically nothing at all, and made no mention of reimbursing holders. Meanwhile, the floor price of the NFTs dropped to around 0.003 ETH ($8).

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