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For a much-maligned product, cryptocurrency has grown to hold its own. As of January 2021, CoinMarketCap estimated around 20000 cryptos in circulation. Their proliferation is affording users options in both payments and investments. Whereas this growth is welcome, it has its fair share of risks. Chief among them is the rise of scam projects. The number of coins on offer is taxing to pick the authentic projects from the dubious ones.
Luckily, there are telltale signs that help separate the solid from the uncertain projects. This article will focus on 24 red flags highlighting risky assets for a more painless evaluation process. It’s important to note that not all coins exhibiting these signs are a scam. However, their presence creates uncertainty pointing to the possibility of losing one’s funds.
Several glaring anomalies continue to plague the cryptosphere. But, unfortunately, their obviousness makes them easy to avoid.
1. No Public Code Repository
The prevalence of scams in crypto makes a case for public code repositories. The repository provides proof that the product’s code does exist. Additionally, they assure the public of a development team and product presence. It follows, therefore, that any authentic project would have one. Conversely, an absence of one is a solid cue to give a coin a wide berth.
2. Low to No Activity
Cryptocurrencies promise to transform the financial sector enormously. While this is welcome, many coins do not inspire confidence that they’ll see their visions to fruition. For a currency to achieve success, it must continually develop. Coins that take ages before pushing updates to their repositories dampen users’ confidence in them.
The team is the project’s face. Their reputation precedes that of the coin they’re championing.
3. Lean Team
Any project worth its salt will have adequate staff. However, imprinting in any industry requires a brigade of dedicated people. As such, look for projects composed of more than two members.
4. No Advisers
The presence of advisers assures the team’s commitment to the project. On the flip side, a lack of advisers shows the inability to convince market influencers of the project’s viability. The same goes for single adviser teams.
5. No Diversity in Positions
For any firm to succeed, it needs highly specialized staff. In the crypto space, successful projects are more than the engineering teams. It also employs individuals with other specializations, including business people, marketers, designers, community coordinators, and many others.
6. Anonymous Team
Days when anonymous teams would front cryptos are long gone. Back then, the mystery surrounding Bitcoin made that possible and even standard. However, the increased incidences of scam ventures and ineptitude have changed this.
Today, an anonymous team is a massive red flag. Anonymity implies that the team is uncomfortable with its qualifications. They hope to keep the public in the dark by staying in the shadows. It would help if you didn’t accept their anonymity reasons outside of overwhelming proof, no matter how plausible they may seem.
7. Low Team Engagement
Developers ought to engage the public through other fora besides their repository activity. Active blogging and tweeting connect the founders with the market. The developers must attend conferences, and the team needs to interact with the crypto community. A lack of engagement signifies a team’s waning momentum. They may have run out of the impetus to drive their venture.
8. Public Team Infighting
It’s a given that teams may disagree. However, the team should amicably resolve these internally. Pursuing internal issues in public doesn’t augur well for all involved with the venture. The spillage of internal struggles to the open indicates a worsening of relationships. Small startups rarely weather such storms. Often public spats lead to the separation of teams and the death of their vision.
Funding is critical to any project’s health. It follows that any serious project will have stable funding.
9. No Funding
Projects that demonstrate long-term team dedication exempt them from the requirement to have substantial financial backing. Examples include Bitcoin and Litecoin. However, away from these exceptional cases, the more significant majority of coins need adequate funding for their development. Inadequate funding discourages growth leading to team exits.
10. Who are The Backers?
At times coins claim to have the backing of famed venture capitalists or significant funds. Unfortunately, it isn’t tricky to verify these claims. Therefore it should be disconcerting if investors don’t conduct their due diligence.
Besides announcing fictional investors, dubious ICOs would pronounce colossal investments from shady groups. Overdoing themselves to gain public trust could indicate falsification of their funding history. Every team should be able to account for its funding.
The white paper is an essential document in the crypto space. It details the team’s mission. It opens our understanding of the team’s objectives and their means of achieving them.
11. Absent WhitePaper
The absence of a WhitePaper denies investors the opportunity to share in the coin’s vision. Cryptocurrencies are inherently disruptive. You’d therefore expect that such projects would let their investors in on what they’re about. It would be unsettling to think that a project wouldn’t know its intentions.
A missing white paper depicts a rudderless project. As a result, the team could be pursuing goals detached from its target market.
12. Plagiarized White Paper
Plagiarism is the height of intellectual dishonesty. It portrays a lack of understanding of the technology’s working and the reasons for using the solutions chosen. Regardless of who does it, it paints the organization badly. It reeks of incompetence through and through.
13. No Technical Details
In addition to illustrating the team’s vision, the white paper should also lay bare some technical assertions demonstrating their capacity to actualize it. Granted, the technical details will change with time; however, cutting out all technical information is unreasonable. The lack of a technical outline implies the absence of technical members on the team during the ICO.
14. No Timeline
Any team without a timeline is directionless. Providing investors with product iterations raises hope for the project. Providing project iterations raises investors’ expectations. These expectations increase the team’s accountability.
The Market & Hype
Crucial as marketing may be to the business, it shouldn’t overshadow the actual product building. Publicity campaigns shilling a coin are an obvious red flag. Such indicates underhand schemes behind the scenes.
The crypto space is crawling with projects that are more of hot air than substance. Over-hyped projects target those with limited technical know-how or are quickly sold on blindly promoting coins. Consequently, the coins skyrocket without a solid reason. Therefore, one must carefully evaluate the basis for a coin’s rise in value. If it’s because of increased hype, then instability is on the horizon.
16. Misleading Features
A common hyping technique involves teams marketing features that don’t exist. This amounts to promoting a hollow product.
17. Grand Vision
The team should show the goods for its word. A grand vision remains just that until there’s substantial proof of its capabilities. The evidence is in the form of technical details on how they’ll accomplish their objectives. Without the technical details, the team could be selling a pipe dream.
18. Publicity Stunts
It’s crucial to look beyond the publicity fanfare. You should ask yourself if there’s substance behind the marketing frenzy. Does the project stand for something gainful, or is it more concerned with announcing new features, marketing campaigns, and partnerships? Avoid getting sucked into such announcements.
19. Market Size
Many underrate market size when evaluating a cryptocurrency’s viability. At the moment, there’s a proliferation of niche coins. Although this isn’t an issue, a more general currency is preferable. The market will readily adopt a coin with a broader application. Such a coin mitigates the need for many coins catering to different needs. Holding niche coins is cumbersome and unsustainable.
The philosophy behind the coin gives insights into its utility. First, it’s important to query the particular need the currency serves. The cryptoverse is lucrative and does attract creators that would build something for the sake of building, not that they’d have a pain point to serve.
A coin needs to justify its existence. Additionally, it doesn’t need a convoluted explanation to justify its usefulness. A Blockchain that doesn’t solve any problem need not host a coin.
A coin should simplify situations. Any coin that complicates transactions lacks a definite purpose. Again cryptocurrencies are moving towards a unified future. One needs to be wary of a coin working to the contrary.
22. Ponzi Schemes
Any whiff of a Ponzi scheme always turns out to be so. There are no guarantees in the crypto space. Again there’re no freebies; everything has an attached cost. Flee from projects that portray their coins to be only appreciating.
Airdrops and forks are the closest you’d get to a freebie in crypto. But, despite that fact, they’re also susceptible to different risks and sets of scams.
A good grasp of the ICO/IEO/STO offering is central to selecting the coins to purchase.
23. No Hard Cap
Apart from the few exceptions to this rule, for example, Tether, you should be wary of projects without hard caps. Given free reign to mint coins, teams could do so, resulting in a decline in the coin’s value. Consequently, there will be a dilution of every coin holder’s value.
24. Distribution of Funds
It is the norm for teams to allocate themselves a portion of the coins or tokens arising from the ICO. Be that as it may, it’s unacceptable for the team to give itself the lion’s share. A 10% allocation is fair to contextualize this, but not for 40-50% of the total supply. Huge team allocations centralize the project running counter to the fundamental principles of crypto development. Concentrating the coin’s ownership within a small clique turns off would-be investors.
The ballooning of cryptos has provided a fertile breeding ground for scam projects. As such, it is navigating the cryptosphere is a daunting task. One needs discernment to avoid the many pitfalls that dot this space. This article has identified 24 red flags that point to potentially risky projects. While acknowledging that not all coins exhibiting these characteristics are a scam, it nevertheless shows the uncertainty that comes with them. Approaching crypto investments with this knowledge helps save time and investors’ funds.