A token airdrop from the popular Arbitrum Ethereum L2 illustrated many of the challenges with airdrops: events where tokens are automatically distributed to a group of crypto wallets, in this case based on how much they had used the platform. The tokens will ultimately be used for community voting on protocol changes, but also have value on the secondary market. Users were eager to snap them up, particularly as users speculated that the price could reach $10/token (as yet it has not, remaining around $1.38).
However, the airdrop had a bumpy start, with scammers latching on to the event to proliferate fake airdrop websites. Phishers reportedly scammed more than 10,000 people using these schemes. At one point, Twitter even suspended the real Arbitrum Twitter account after mistaking it for one of the many phishing accounts. Attackers also compromised a Discord account belonging to an Arbitrum developer, using it to post a phishing link to the official Arbitrum Discord server.
Then, when the time for the airdrop came, the token claiming website crashed on the traffic, as did the Arbitrum block explorer. Those who were able to claim their tokens paid exorbitant gas fees, and some wallets attempting to estimate required gas fees malfunctioned, showing estimates in the billions of dollars.
Finally, the airdrop was widely gamed by people commandeering hacked vanity addresses to receive the airdrop tokens allocated to them, with at least $500,000 worth of tokens reportedly claimed by one attacker. Other attackers scrambled to compete with one another to claim tokens allocated to compromised wallets whose private keys had been shared publicly on Github and elsewhere, trying to be the first to siphon the funds. Two additional exploiters siphoned a combined total of more than 1 million ARB tokens from other wallets. One sold them for 713 ETH ($1.27 million); the other transferred the ARB tokens to other wallets.