FBI warns of fraudulent crypto apps that have stolen an estimated $42.7 million

The FBI's Cyber Division issued a notification about fraudulent cryptocurrency investment apps that are successfully being used to defraud American investors. The scammers typically claim to offer cryptocurrency investment services to their targets, then convince them to download mobile apps that resemble genuine crypto trading apps (sometimes mimicking actual exchanges). The apps typically show the users' accounts increasing in value, but when users try to withdraw funds they find they're unable. Sometimes the apps defraud their victims even further by claiming they need to pay an additional "tax" before they can withdraw.

The FBI stated they had identified 244 victims, and estimated the total loss associated with these fraudulent apps to be around $42.7 million.

Bexplus crypto exchange closes, gives users only 24 hours to withdraw funds

The cryptocurrency exchange Bexplus announced that "due to force majeure, Bexplus will stop service from now on". Users were told to close their open positions and withdraw any funds within only a 24-hour period, before positions would be automatically closed and the withdrawal service would become unavailable.

Only four days prior, on July 14, Bexplus had published a press release offering "rewards worth up to $5,000 to new users who sign up and make their first deposit". The project also promised its users up to 21% interest on bitcoin kept with the exchange. Bexplus had also promised a 100% match on deposits to the platform, up to 10 BTC (currently priced at $235,550).

BlockFi offers employee buyouts to further reduce headcount one month after cutting 20% of staff

The cryptocurrency lender BlockFi is reportedly offering employees buyouts—sorry, a "voluntary separation program"—in an effort to reduce their headcount even further. Those employees receive 10 weeks of paid leave, 10 weeks of continued health insurance, and unemployment eligibility if they resign.

The move came only a month after BlockFi laid off 20% of their employees, or around 170 people. The company appears to be struggling to stay afloat, soliciting $400 million in loans from Sam Bankman-Fried's FTX crypto exchange and signing a deal with FTX that gives the exchange the opportunity to acquire them.

Gemini lays off second round of employees in less than two months

After laying off 10% of its workforce in the first week of June, Gemini has performed a second round of layoffs. The layoffs have not been announced externally, nor were they widely communicated internally, according to employees who spoke to TechCrunch. One employee said that 68 members, or 7% of the employee base, were no longer in the company Slack channel on Monday morning.

The week prior, an internal operating plan document was shared to the anonymous employee platform Blind, which outlined a plan that would reduce company headcount to around 800—a 15% reduction. The plan was taken down shortly after. Gemini co-founder Cameron Winklevoss wrote in a Slack message that the leak was "super lame", and wrote that "friendly reminder that Karma is the blockchain of the universe — an immutable ledger that keeps track of positive and negative behavior."

Anthony Scaramucci's SkyBridge Capital suspends redemptions from crypto-exposed fund

SkyBridge Capital, an investment firm founded by Anthony Scaramucci, reportedly suspended redemptions from its "Legion Strategies" fund. Around 18% of the $230 million fund is allocated to crypto-related investments, including Bitcoin and Sam Bankman-Fried's private FTX crypto exchange.

The fund is down 30% YTD. According to Scaramucci, the suspension was to avoid "damag[ing] investors that want to stay in the funds" if many investors decide to exit in a less than "orderly" fashion.

Binance faces €3.3 million fine for operating in the Netherlands without registering

Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, was fined €3.3 million ($3.35 million) by De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) for operating in the Netherlands without the required registration. According to NOS, the fine was higher than most fines imposed for this type of infraction, partly due to Binance's enormous size. The regulators had issued a public warning about Binance operating without registration in August 2021.

The fine was imposed on April 25, 2022, and Binance filed an appeal in June. This is not Binance's first time playing fast and loose with regulatory bodies—in February, Binance halted activities in Israel due to being unlicensed. In December 2021, the Ontario Securities Commission released a statement to say that Binance wasn't registered in the province, but Binance continued to operate there anyway for several more months.

Police shut down the AEX crypto exchange

The AEX crypto exchange paused all withdrawals on June 16, estimating a 36-hour outage "to avoid unnecessary panic withdrawal". Then, instead of re-enabling all withdrawals, they re-enabled them in a piecemeal fashion, with several announcements each day that withdrawals were enabled for some extremely minor altcoins, but never for the more popular cryptocurrencies.

Then, on July 17, the exchange released a new announcement: "Due to cooperation with the police investigation, the platform has suspended related services... Please wait for the police announcement." They also wrote in the post, "AEX reserves the right of final interpretation of this announcement", and below the signature wrote, "The closer you look, the further you see."

PREMINT NFT tool hacked, user wallets drained

PREMINT is an NFT service intended to help project creators build access lists for new NFT projects based on various qualifications. The project was compromised on July 17, and users were asked to sign transactions that allowed hackers to drain all assets from their wallets. 314 NFTs were stolen, including from pricey collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, Otherside, Moonbirds Oddities, and Goblintown. The thiefs were able to flip the stolen NFTs for 270 ETH ($375,000), which they then tumbled through Tornado Cash.

On July 20, PREMINT's CEO announced they would be compensating all users affected by the hack by sending them ETH equivalent to the floor price of the stolen NFTs. "I realize that the NFTs stolen were not all floor NFTs... You might feel like this compensation isn’t enough. But I don’t think there’s any other scalable and objective way to do this," he said. The total repayment will amount to about 340 ETH ($525,000). PREMINT also bought the two most expensive stolen NFTs from their new owners for the prices they had paid to buy them from the hacker—92 ETH ($138,000) for a Bored Ape and 12 ETH ($17,800) for an Azuki. Those NFTs were returned to their original owners.

NFTs valued at $150,000 stolen via phishing link posted to the hacked Twitter account of NFT artist DeeKay

A colorful illustration of a conveyer belt ziz-zagging upwards. On the bottom level is a small boy with a butterfly over his head, amidst houses and trees. The second level has a larger town. The third level has an illustration of New York, with skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty. The fourth level has San Francisco, with the Golden Gate Bridge. The fifth and final level has hills and a gravestone, with a ghostly angel next to it.Frame from the animated "Life and Death" NFT sold to Snoop Dogg (attribution)
On July 16, hackers compromised the Twitter account belonging to the well-known NFT artist DeeKay, who sold an NFT for 310 ETH (then $1 million) to Snoop Dogg in April. The 180,000 followers of DeeKay's compromised Twitter account saw it post a link announcing a new limited quantity airdrop, which directed them to a website mimicking DeeKay's real site. Some people fell for the scam, and in trying to claim their NFTs, actually approved transactions that allowed the scammers to empty their wallets. One victim lost four Cool Cat NFTs and three Azuki NFTs, which have floor prices of around 4 ETH (~$5,350) and 12 ETH (~$16,200) respectively.

Altogether, the stolen NFTs were valued at around $150,000. DeeKay reported that he wasn't sure how his Twitter account had been compromised, but that "my guess is that [two-factor authentication] was off for that specific time". DeeKay wrote that he was considering compensating his followers who were victim to the scam, but that "[a] few are pretending to be affected and looking for opportunities", and "this also encourages hackers to keep doing their thing". "There were some kind souls who were affected and have shown me great flexibility for me to compensate in different ways. Some are asking for high demands as if I was the hacker...😪", he wrote in the thread.

Coinbase plans to shut down its affiliate-marketing program, sparking rumors of an impending crisis

A leaked email revealed that Coinbase is planning to temporarily end its affiliate-marketing program, which pays influencers to convince their followers to sign up. Some influencers were earning $40 for each person they pulled on to the platform in early 2022, though the rewards had reportedly dwindled to as low as $2/person more recently. In the leaked email, Coinbase stated that they would be shutting down the program on July 19 "due to crypto market conditions and the outlook for the remainder of 2022". They also said they planned to re-enable the program at some point in 2023.

The news sparked rumors about Coinbase, including that they might be facing a liquidity crisis or insolvency. Others dismissed those rumors as unfounded, and normal behavior for a company facing a market downturn. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong tweeted that Coinbase was "well capitalized".

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