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The 5 Biggest Crypto Rug Pulls of All Time

Key Takeaways

  • Rug pulls in the cryptocurrency world refer to scams that deceive investors with enticing promises and flashy marketing, only to disappear with their investments, leaving them with worthless tokens and a sense of betrayal.
  • Rug pulls come in different forms, including liquidity stealing, limiting sell orders, and dumping, all of which result in significant losses for unsuspecting investors.
  • Rug pulls are fueled by a combination of greed, anonymity, and the lack of regulations in the cryptocurrency space, making it important for investors to exercise caution, conduct thorough research, and be skeptical of projects that offer unrealistic returns.

There’s a dark side of crypto you need to be aware of. One of the most alarming developments is a “rug pull.” It might sound unusual, but it’s a term used to describe a scam that causes immense pain and disappointment for unsuspecting investors.

So, what exactly is a rug pull?

Understanding Crypto Rug Pulls

A rug pull in cryptocurrеncy happens when you invеst your hard-еarnеd monеy into a new digital currency project, believing that it has great potential and could make you some profit. However, the project developers are scammеrs who never intended to deliver. They entice you and other invеstors with alluring promises, flashy marketing, and the allure of quick richеs. But oncе thеy’vе gathеrеd еnough investments, they disappear like a puff of smoke, leaving you with worthlеss tokеns and a sеnsе of bеtrayal.

Rug Pulls Come in Different Shapes and Sizes

There are various types of rug pulls, including liquidity stealing, limiting sell orders, and dumping:

  • Liquidity stealing is like a group savings pool. People put money in, and the creators suddenly take most or all of it, leaving others with losses.
  • Limiting sell orders is like a game where the rules change suddenly. Creators make it hard to sell your coins, so you lose money while they benefit.
  • Dumping is everyone rushing for the exit at once. Creators sell all their coins quickly, causing the coin’s value to crash and regular investors to lose money.

cybercriminal posing as a bank representative
Image Credit: macrovector/freepik

But why do rug pulls happen? Well, it’s a mix of greed, anonymity, and the lack of regulations in the cryptocurrency space. Many scammers see the booming crypto market as an easy way to make a quick buck without facing the consequences of their actions. They exploit the excitement around new projects to draw in eager investors hoping to catch the next big thing. And because transactions in the crypto world can be anonymous, scammers can easily cover their tracks, making it difficult for you to trace them.

Top 5 Rug Pulls in Crypto History

Let’s check out some of the largest crypto rug pulls; some even raked billions of dollars.

  1. OneCoin (Over $4 Billion): OneCoin, led by Ruja Ignatova, is perhaps one of history’s most notorious cryptocurrency scams. It started in 2014, claiming to be a revolutionary cryptocurrency that would outshine Bitcoin. People were enticed to invest through aggressive marketing and promises of huge returns. However, it was all a mirage. OneCoin didn’t have a real blockchain or cryptocurrency. It was a Ponzi scheme, where early investors were paid with money from new investors. In 2017, Ruja Ignatova vanished, and the scam crumbled. Investors lost over $4 billion, and she remains on the run, making this one of the largest crypto scams ever.
  2. Bitconnect ($2.4 Billion): Bitconnect was a cryptocurrency platform that promised high returns. People invested their Bitcoin, got Bitconnect Coins (BCC), and were told they’d earn daily interest. But it was a scam. Bitconnect, led by the (now) convicted founder Satish Kumbhani, used new investors’ money to pay earlier ones. In early 2018, regulators started investigating, calling it a Ponzi scheme, leaving over 4,000 people from 95 countries with huge losses. According to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, around 800 people received a small share in a $17M restitution case—but millions are still lost.
  3. Thodex (Over $2 Billion): Thodex was a cryptocurrency exchange based in Turkey. It gained attention by offering various cryptocurrencies for trading. But in April 2021, something alarming happened. The founder, Faruk Fatih Özer, suddenly halted withdrawals from the exchange, trapping user funds. Authorities accused him of fraud and fleeing the country with over $2 billion in users’ assets. It left thousands of people in financial distress and raised concerns about the lack of regulation in the crypto industry.
  4. AnubisDAO ($60 Million): AnubisDAO was a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) project on the Ethereum blockchain. It aimed to provide investment opportunities in various assets. Unfortunately, in March 2021, attackers found a vulnerability in the smart contract and drained about $60 million worth of assets. The incident exposed the risks associated with smart contract vulnerabilities and the importance of security audits in DeFi projects.
  5. Uranium Finance ($50 Million): Uranium Finance was a DeFi project operating on the Binance Smart Chain. It offered yield farming and liquidity provision services. In April 2021, a hacker exploited a vulnerability in Uranium Finance’s code, making off with around $50 million in user funds. The incident raised concerns about the security of DeFi projects on various blockchains and the need for thorough code audits.

These rug pulls highlight the importance of exercising caution and conducting thorough research when considering investments in the cryptocurrency space. They also serve as stark reminders of the crypto industry’s potential risks and lack of regulation.

How to Check a Crypto Project Against Crypto Rug Pulls

Crypto rug pulls aren’t easy to spot, but there are signs to watch out for:

  • Research the Team: Thoroughly investigate the background and credibility of the project’s team members. Look for information on their LinkedIn profiles and past projects. Lack of transparency or anonymity should raise red flags.
  • Transparency: Check if the project provides transparent information about its goals, technology, and plans. Be cautious if there’s a lack of clear documentation or a vague or unprofessional whitepaper.
  • Community Engagement: Gauge the level of engagement and communication within the project’s community. Active and responsive developers and a supportive community can be positive indicators.
  • Audit Reports: Ensure that the project’s smart contracts have been audited by reputable third-party auditing firms. Audits can help identify vulnerabilities and potential risks.
  • Liquidity Lock: Check if the project’s liquidity is locked in a decentralized manner through a time-locked smart contract. Liquidity locks reduce the chances of the creators suddenly removing funds from the project.
  • Token Distribution: Investigate the token distribution. If a small group of people holds a large percentage of tokens, it can increase the risk of manipulation. Fair and decentralized distribution is ideal.
  • Tokenomics: Understand the tokenomics of the project. Exercise caution if the project promises unrealistic returns or seems too good to be true. Sustainable projects have well-defined tokenomics and use cases.
  • Community Feedback: Seek feedback from the wider crypto community on forums, social media, and review platforms. Other investors’ experiences and opinions can be valuable in assessing a project’s legitimacy.
  • Rug Pull Scanners: Use rug pull scanner tools or websites to check if the project has any suspicious code or associated behaviors. Some websites track the history of contracts and warn users about potential rug pulls.
  • Diversify Your Portfolio: Avoid putting all your assets into a single project. Diversifying your investments across multiple cryptocurrencies can help mitigate the impact of a rug pull.
  • Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about the latest news and trends in the cryptocurrency space. Staying up-to-date can help you recognize potential red flags early.
  • Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off or too risky, it’s okay to walk away. Don’t succumb to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and invest hastily.

It’s a substantial list, but it could keep you safe.

Avoid Rug Pulls and Keep Hold of Your Crypto

It’s important to remember that not all cryptocurrency projects are scams, and the crypto industry has the potential for positive growth and innovation. However, you must exercise caution and research before investing your money. Don’t let the fear of rug pulls deter you from exploring this space, but also be vigilant and skeptical of any project that promises unrealistically high returns with little effort.


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