Canadian antivaxxers try shilling crypto after failing to fund their trucker protest

A group of protesters gathering outdoors. One is holding a Bitcoin flag, several others hold Canadian flags.Canadian protesters with Bitcoin flag (attribution)
A protest in Canada against COVID-19 vaccine requirements for truckers re-entering the country, known as the "Freedom Convoy" has tried to crowdfund in several ways. A GoFundMe campaign that raised over CA$10 million was taken down after terms of service violations. A campaign on the right-wing favorite GiveSendGo raised over CA$8.2 million, but funds were frozen after an injuction by the Ontario Attorney General. The GiveSendGo platform also catastrophically failed to secure sensitive user data, and suffered a huge leak of donor data including scans of passports and drivers licenses, which is being made available to journalists and researchers by the inimitable DDoSecrets.

The protesters eventually turned to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for crowdfunding, even appointing a "Bitcoin team lead" who rambled on in a livestream about not "being shackled by the censorship put in place by our legacy financial system", much to the confusion and annoyance of some viewers. One commenter asked, "Are we at a press conference for Freedom Convoy 2022 or having some guy shove Bitcoin down our throats?" As of February 9, the group claims to have raised $300,000 in Bitcoin, and $500,000 in other cryptocurrencies.

Baby Musk Coin rug pulls after a $2 million January ICO

Illustration of a baby that looks like Elon Musk on a yellow coinBaby Musk Coin illustration (attribution)
The Baby Musk Coin memecoin launched in January, promising to "revolutionize the meme industry". The coin enjoyed a $2 million ICO the previous month, despite warnings from observers who noticed the coin couldn't be sold, and who described it as a honeypot. Sure enough, on February 9, the project developers suddenly transferred 1571 BNB out of the project and quickly mixed it using Tornado Cash, earning a tidy profit of around $653,300. The sudden sell-off crashed the coin value to 0, leaving remaining holders with a worthless coin they were unable to sell. Developers took down the project website, Twitter account, and even their "Baby Musk dance video".

Samsung launches environmental sustainability-themed metaverse scavenger hunt where people plant virtual trees and earn NFTs

A 3D man stands in a virtual forest"Sustainability Forest" in the metaverse (attribution)
Samsung launches a "sustainability-themed quest" on their "Samsung 837X" Decentraland metaverse project, where they invite characters to hunt for "recyclable product boxes", plant trees in the (virtual) forest, and earn NFT badges.

The press release doesn't happen to mention that the Decentraland project is built on Ethereum, a proof-of-work blockchain that currently uses over 100 TWh of electricity per year—around the same amount as countries like the Netherlands or Finland.

The BBC publishes (and then deletes) a puff piece on a "self-made crypto-millionaire giving back" without mentioning his scam coin

Photograph of a man holding a laptop while standing in front of a MercedesHanad Hassan (attribution)
The BBC featured an article on their homepage about Hanad Hassan, "a 20-year-old who made millions trading cryptocurrency [who] is set to open a food bank to give back to his community." They mentioned that "he and his friend ... set up a special cryptocurrency together, donating all the profits to charity." What the BBC failed to note was that the project, Orfano, was apparently a scam—after the project launched and received investments, the duo shut it down and took the money. The BBC took their article down without explanation shortly after publishing, though it is still accessible via the Internet Archive. The BBC had also originally announced that there would be a 30-minute feature on the man on their BBC One channel running later that day, but replaced it with a different segment.

Someone appears to trade on insider knowledge of Coinbase listings

In early February, Coinbase listed the Aventus token ($AVT) on its exchange and added support for Pawtocol ($UPI). Shortly before these announcements, someone created a new crypto wallet and spent more than $350,000 buying AVT. The listing news didn't result in much of a price bump for AVT, so the trader tried again—cashing out the AVT and putting it into UPI in advance of that announcement. They found success with this trade, ultimately making a profit of around $734,000. The timing of the trades, combined with the relatively unknown nature of $AVT prior to the announcement, strongly suggests someone had insider knowledge of the upcoming announcement.

$36 million taken from retirement accounts of IRA Financial customers investing in crypto

IRA Financial, a platform for managing retirement investments, boasts of being "the first self-directed IRA company to allow their clients to invest in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, directly via a cryptocurrency exchange". Unfortunately, they were probably also the first to have that feature exploited, when an administrator account was apparently compromised and users' funds were transferred out of their connected Gemini accounts. Two days later, IRA Financial publicly acknowledged "suspicious activity that has affected a limited subset of our customers with accounts on the Gemini cryptocurrency exchange". The stolen funds, taken in a mix of Ethereum and Bitcoin, amounted to around $36 million.

Exploit of Superfluid vesting contract nets attacker $8.7 million

A vulnerability in the Superfluid crypto streaming protocol allowed an attacker to drain $8.7 million, affecting projects including Mai Finance, Stacker Ventures, Stake DAO, and the Museum of Crypto Art.

Longstanding British photography institution baits-and-switches investors with NFTs

Twitter account for Art3.io. Description reads, "We are ART3. A better way to discover, collect, buy and sell NFT photographic art."ART3.io Twitter account, formerly the account for the BJP (attribution)
The British Journal of Photography is a magazine and institution within the fine art and documentary photography world dating to 1854. In June 2021, they asked for investments, but were optimistic about the organization's performance, saying that they projected 6x returns over the next four years. They were successful in raising £1.8 million (about $2.4M) in shareholder investment. In November, the organization emailed investors announcing the launch of ART3.io, "our foray into the fast-growing NFT space", but still seemed optimistic about the "game changing opportunity for the business" that it would present.

On February 2, some Twitter users were confused to find themselves suddenly following the Twitter account of an NFT operation, as BJP had taken its existing 250,000-follower Twitter account and rebranded it to "ART3.io" and begun promoting various NFTs with posts of "gm". The primary BJP organization started a new Twitter account, @bjp1854, which had a total of around 1,500 followers. On February 8, investors received an email from BJP announcing the company had been sold, and that they would be paying back shareholders £50,000 of the £1.8 million, a 92% loss.

U.S. Department of Justice arrests duo for trying to launder billions stolen from Bitfinex in 2016

A woman in round sunglasses wearing a shiny gold jacket and a baseball cap that says "#0FCKS" sings with her hands in the airHeather Morgan, aka "Razzlekhan" (attribution)
The U.S. Department of Justice announced that they had arrested a New York couple and seized more than $3.6 billion in Bitcoin that they were allegedly trying to launder. The fortune was a portion of what was stolen in the 2016 Bitfinex breach, which saw the exchange lose around 120,000 BTC—then valued at around $71 million but worth around $4.5 billion at today's BTC prices. The husband and wife pair, Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan, both describe themselves as tech entrepreneurs; Morgan also describes herself as a "surrealist rapper", and her work sure is surreal.

News of the arrest came only a week after 20,000 BTC from the Bitfinex hack was observed being moved. Although the DOJ didn't explicitly say that this movement led to the arrest, it seems like a safe bet.

LooksRare team cashes out $30 million in wETH, panicking their community

The team behind LooksRare, an NFT platform known for its enormous proportion of wash trading, cashed out around 10,500 wETH worth around $30 million. They had earned the wETH by staking $LOOKS tokens, the platform's native token. A LooksRare team member explained that "The fact that the team earns WETH has never been a secret", though it certainly seemed to come as a surprise to many in the community.

The discovery of the withdrawal caused panic, with some community members believing it was a sign that the team was rug pulling. Some also questioned the team members' choice to send the funds to a cryptocurrency tumbler, believing this meant they were trying to hide the cash-out from community members. One might understand why they would try to hide it: after the withdrawals became public, the value of the native $LOOKS token crashed around 15%.

More broadly, the fear around the team cashing out illustrates a common belief among some crypto project communities: that if you cash out even some of your holdings, you're not a true believer. A LooksRare team member explained that the team behind the project had "been grinding night and day for 6+ months" without payment and had collectively fronted "more than 7 figures in costs" before the platform launch (reassuring!), and the withdrawal was simply 10+ team members finally receiving payment. Apparently unsatisfied with this explanation, the community tried to demand the team use their wETH to repurchase $LOOKS, though it doesn't appear this has happened.

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