The YouTube Influencer Scam that’s Targeting the Cryptocurrency Community. Beware!
Where’s the Sheriff!? It’s still the wild, wild west out there!
Kingdom Token was the victim of a scam recently. We’re going to blow the whistle for the good for of the community. We’ll share every naive mistake we made and let you in on all the embarrassing details. During the story we will most importantly highlight every red flag so that you can avoid similar mistakes.
My name is David Haynes, I’m the Founder of Kingdom Token. Kingdom Token is a digital collectable built on Ethereum using the ERC721 Standard (the same as Cryptokitties). The unique feature of Kingdom Token is that each unique collectable token represents an endangered species. The scarcity is mapped to how endangered that species is in the real world. These tokens/animals can be collected and traded on the open market potentially for profit.
The driving force behind this project is that I will be giving away 25% of initial sales and 7.5% of every subsequent sale to wildlife conservation charities.
There’s a fantastic feeling around the project. We’ve received wonderful support and the hype has been building. Our focus on the past few weeks has been to get the word out there, to share our mission and purpose.
As it’s 2019 we understand the importance of social media. A social media presence is an essential component in the marketing strategy of any digital product. To accelerate growth and get the message out many start-ups look to partner with content creators. We say partner with but what we actually mean pay them to promote a particular brand. But hey, that’s marketing in 2019 and it’s very effective when done well.
I personally researched, and took the time to compile a list of suitable YouTubers that would be a good fit for Kingdom Token. I was familiar with a few names and was excited for them to potentially endorse Kingdom Token. Most of the big names didn’t respond. Typical. Regardless, I had a long list of suitable content creators to reach out to!
Replies started to flood in. It was exciting time.
That excitement soon dissipated when I got to the quote section…
The first asked for $1,300.
The second $495 for a short segment.
The third 0.2 BTC ($1,700).
and so on…
One channel that stood out to me was Crypto Complex, the videos were detailed project reviews, solid production, with a well spoken, likable guy called Jack. (Screen recordings only, you only heard Jack). Crypto Complex had 217k subscribers!
RED FLAG #1- 217,000 SUBSCRIBERS. This is HUGE. Sure, Rihanna has 33 million, but in the crypto space anything above 50,000 is market leading. What’s more, for a YouTuber to reach those numbers they would have been creating content for so long it’ll mean that you will probably recognize them. Crypto Daily, Boxmining, Sunny Decree and Crypto Kirby for example are all shining personalities, they are amazing and work hard to create regular content. Thinking back, I had never heard Jack before that moment. If you see a channel with a huge subscriber count, think about how they’ve achieved that. I said, “Jack was well spoken, likeable and the content was solid”. That’s not enough to reach 217k subs on YouTube.
LESSON: Reality check the numbers. Ask yourself, do they deserve to be that big? if the answer is no, it’s probably fake.
I got a swift reply from Crypto Complex, unsurprisingly asking me for a fee worthy of their subscriber count.
0.3 BTC ($2,500).
Five emails later I managed to negotiate the ‘Crypto Complex Team’ down from 0.3 BTC for a 10–16 minute video to a mere $75 worth of ETH for a short introduction video. Even though it was just an introduction, I was delighted!
RED FLAG #2 – THE SIGN OFF NAME: This is a small detail that bugged me from the start. The email signed off from ‘Crypto Complex Team’. There are a number of issues with this. The first is that it’s difficult to build a personal rapport. I’m unable to say ‘Hi Jack!’ in my reply. I don’t actually know who I’m talking to. The second is that 99% of YouTube Channels are not made up of teams. They are typically built by one very hard working, motivated and dedicated individual. Anyway, I thought, 217k subs, it could be a team…
LESSON: Take the time to someone prove who you’re speaking to is real.
RED FLAG #3 -NEGOTIATION:
I’m very strong at negotiating, I have a unique set of skills developed in a sales based role from a previous life. Also, Kingdom Token has socially good narrative that’s trying to make a positive impact on the world. Strong ammunition for a negotiation. However, from £2,500 to £75. I’m not that good. LESSON: A scammer would rather take something than nothing.
The agreement was made. They gave an ETH address. I sent them $75.00 worth of ETH. I was immensely satisfied about how smoothly this had gone and was looking forward to the content.
One week passed and I didn’t chase. Then a second week passed by. I was busy working on different parts of the Kingdom Token project and thought little of it. In fact, I appreciate the hard work that goes into making a video and I know it can take time. Then the third week passed and I decided to check in on the Crypto Complex Team.
Within the contact section of YouTube there was a Telegram account. Excellent, perhaps I’ll be able to reach them there.
I sent a polite message.
They had been online multiple times and the messages were eventually marked as read. I was still being ignored.
RED FLAG #4 -Silence. If you’ve got this stage it’s probably already too late. The scammers have what they wanted therefore there is little to no benefit in speaking you anymore.
or is there…
A few days later, out of the blue I received an email stating only ‘Check telegram please’
I had hope that perhaps I hadn’t been scammed, perhaps they have just been very busy all along.
This is what they had to say:
Firstly, there now seems to be some sort of elaborate structure to their team and my point of contact appears to be a mere affiliate or sales bod.
Moreover believe it or not, the team was now asking me for a further $125.00 before they would complete my video and publish it.
RED FLAG #5 GREED. They knew I had played along until this stage so they decided to try their luck in asking for more.
Enough red flags, by now all I could see was red. I was both angry and embarrassed that I had been taken for a fool. I knew that something was amiss with this whole saga and ‘Option B’ was the only option worth taking.
Despite the option, I knew my ETH had long vanished and that it will never be returned. Nonetheless, I patiently waited the 14 days.
I chased on the 15th day asking how the refund was coming along.
To my surprised I received a reply stating:
‘just 21 more days. finance is super busy right now’
That, frankly, is just hilarious. I’m not going to patronize you with more red flags on this one.
The next day the Telegram account was deleted or I was blocked.
That ended my contact with them however here is the most fascinating twist to the entire story; the YouTube account was re-branded and is now:
The channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC12quLagSQ0pnd7Afkq1uQg
I had taken some screenshots of the comment section before the account was re-branded and the crypto related videos removed. This is an easy red flag to spot, I can’t quite believe that I didn’t from the start however I want to ensure that nobody else makes the same mistakes going forward.
RED FLAG #5 – Comments.
The comment section was filled with duplicate comments. There were a number of key features that stood out about these comments: Every comment was one sentence long. They were all posted on the same day. An interesting observation, although not depicted; there was a high proportion of Turkish names.
These are clearly bots.
LESSON: Social proof is incredibly important. Check to see if real people enjoy the content. However be careful, this can also be faked.
Rather fascinatingly, there seems to be another account called Crypto Complex lurking on YouTube. Interestingly it also has Southern Asian content. Given the channel has the exact same name it is highly likely they are related. My advice, AVOID.
This channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGpgbcXBdlsxEzamAbsrhVA
There are other YouTube Channels out there that I have my doubts about. I will not list them in case I am wrong, however if you ever have any contact with anyone across any social media platform then ensure you do the utmost due diligence before parting with any money.
I won’t be taking any further action against these scammers. Mostly due to the fact that I was lucky to only lose $75.00 (it could have been much, much worse). It happened, it sucks, but let’s move on ay?
This whole saga reminds me of a lyric in the song Float On by Modest Mouse. It goes as follows:
‘A fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam
It was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand
… Well, we’ll float on, good news is on the way”
I will see the positive in this situation, as with any. I am privileged to share this story with you and hopefully it will serve to educate those against some of the shadier characters that live in the wild, wild west of cryptoville.
The best way to fight these bastards is through awareness. Share this story.
If you have found this useful, please do take a look at Kingdom Token, it’s a revolutionary take on collectables that will have a huge positive impact on the world. Make an investment, make a difference with Kingdom Token.