Crypto space loves Telegram. Launched in 2013, the messaging platform has gained over 500 million active users and became one of the 10 most downloaded apps in the world.
At GoCrypto, security is our top priority. Not only the security of our payment network but the security of our community as well. Therefore, we decided to prepare a general overview of possible malicious attacks that Telegram users need to look out for.
Why did crypto choose Telegram?
In the past, Telegram has been praised for its privacy. It was said that it offers total anonymity, protecting its users from content screening by oppressive governments, regulators, or other entities. Since crypto still has a bad rep in several countries around the world, the privacy aspect plays an important role in crypto communication. All Telegram private messages are supposed to be secured with end-to-end encryption, which means even if someone was listening in on your conversation, they wouldn’t be able to read it.
Automated bots are another crypto-friendly feature, streamlining real-time information distribution, content sharing, first-level support for customer service, FAQs, and others. According to Telegram, “bots are simply Telegram accounts operated by software — not people — and they will often have AI features. They can do anything — teach, play, search, broadcast, remind, connect, integrate with other services, or even pass commands to the Internet of Things.”
Telegram groups can accommodate over 200,000 users simultaneously. Members are assigned a specific role which gives them the ability to perform different actions, like pinning messages to the top of the chat or kicking out spam bots and malicious users.
As the Telegram platform offers privacy and flexibility to the crypto community — mostly talking money investments — the popular communication tool became very appealing to numerous scam artists. If you are a member of a Telegram group, the chances are that you have already encountered one of the many scams circling the messaging app.
Social engineering tactics
Social engineering attacks define a broad range of malicious human activities. Their tactics are based on psychological manipulation where scam artists try to trick users into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive information.
Attacks are usually performed in an extremely calculated way. Perpetrators try to gather as much information as possible about their victims beforehand and select the most suitable attack method. Once they discover potential weak points and weak security protocols, they engage with unsuspecting users, trying to gain their trust. They spin the story to make the victim reveal confidential or sensitive information. Attackers always rely on human error. Some of the most common social engineering tactics are baiting, scareware, pretexting, and phishing.
Have you ever fallen for one of these scams?
Every Telegram user has probably experienced at least one Telegram scam in his lifetime. One thing is for sure — if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Now, let’s count how many scams you have fallen for so far…
1. Fake Telegram channels and groups
Scammers will often create almost identical versions of genuine Telegram channels to lure in victims thinking they are participating in a genuine crypto project channel. Channels might have similar names and profile pictures, include the same pinned messages, and have admins with usernames nearly identical to the legitimate ones. They are often set up as “broadcast only” so users cannot write messages in the chat. These accounts are often promoting giveaways, prizes, flash sales of pre-launch tokens, etc.
When you are added to such channels, users or admins start contacting you to try and get you to click on a link or give up personal information that they can use for identity theft or hack into your accounts.
2. Phishing with Telegram bots
Telegram bots use natural language processing and AI to engage in realistic conversations. They can be so convincing that it is hard to tell if you are being scammed. Hackers use bots to call and convince users to give up personal information, bank account logins, passwords, and even two-factor authentication (2FA) codes.
These bot attacks usually display a false sense of urgency, strange phone numbers, and grammatical and spelling errors, and they request sensitive information.
3. Crypto giveaways
Giveaways are a popular method of scamming Telegram users. Scam artists set up pretend giveaways from crypto exchanges and ask users to provide banking information, and personal data, or a fee. Remember that all giveaways require some initial action on your part. If you did not enter a giveaway, it is most likely fake.
4. Impersonification — fake admin accounts
Scammers cannot copy Telegram usernames because they are unique by default. They bypass this by creating account names that mimic legitimate usernames. Fake usernames often contain misspellings and letter swaps in an admin’s name, for example, scam artists replace the letter “O” with the number zero “0”, or the letter “I” with the lower letter “L”.
Lookalike accounts will often reach out to “help” you after you ask a question in a public group. They try to access your account or lure you off-platform where they can scam you with a phishing site. You should also be cautious of admins or users who send you direct messages rather than posting publicly in the group because DMs make it harder to verify with whom you’re actually communicating.
5. “Pump and dump” crypto channels
“Pump and dump” scams are all about manipulating cryptocurrency by coordinating the price with a large group of members. The admins may claim to have insider knowledge. In reality, they’re trying to pump the value of an asset they own and then sell it off before it crashes.
How to recognize a scam
The above-mentioned descriptions are based on scams that have already happened. But scammers tend to always be a few steps ahead of the users. They continuously find new tactics on how to get users to reveal sensitive information. Even though they always find new ways of scamming people, recognizing certain signals can help you protect yourself from potential new scams.
- Never trust strangers sending you any kind of offers or links. Even if you’re dealing with a friend, make sure that you are not replying to a hacked or lookalike account.
- Nothing you receive on Telegram is ever critically urgent. Accounts that are creating a sense of urgency don’t want to give you time to think clearly about the matter at hand. Always take your time and do your research.
- Never share your login credentials. Even if the account claims to be from Telegram, a bank, crypto wallets, etc.
- Be suspicious of any username or message containing a lot of spelling mistakes. Take a special look at the way that well-known products or companies in the message are spelled. If a name of a brand is misspelled, it’s probably some sort of a scam.
- If you suspect that you have been contacted by a scam artist, you can always verify their username in public groups or in special Telegram scammers chats — these groups are specially designed to list all known scammers so that users can go and check if the suspicious username is on the list or not (https://t.me/Scammer; https://t.me/scammerz).
- If you are contacted by a copycat pretending to be a group admin, open the public group, find the admin in question and DM him a message. When a private chat appears, you’ll see if your conversation history includes the original message that the imposter sent you or not. If the admin message was genuine, you’ll be able to see it in the DM.
How to protect yourself
Privacy settings: Once you create your Telegram account, you should immediately adjust your privacy and security settings. Make sure you only allow your contacts to see your personal information. If you prefer even more security, you can turn on a passcode or finger ID, and add two-step verification (2FA).
Create a strong password: Strong passwords are still a simple but sure way to protect yourself from scam artists. Don’t use the same one for all your accounts. And if you’re afraid, you won’t remember complex passwords, several apps already exist that help you store your passwords in a secure way, so you don’t need to remember them by heart.
Updated information: Make sure to update your personal information, e.g., email and phone number associated with your account. If you ever lose access to your account, you will need to provide this information to prove your ownership.
You got scammed. What now?
Humans make mistakes. If you only engaged in a conversation and didn’t click on any suspicious links or provide any sensitive information, you should be in the clear. In any case, Telegram gives you the option to block a Telegram scammer’s account. Just go to the user’s profile, click on the three dots in the corner of your screen, and select “Block User.”
You can also report a Telegram scam account or channel by sending a screenshot of the scam account and any other information to @notoscam on Telegram, via the firstname.lastname@example.org email, or through the Telegram website.
If you revealed personal information, sent money, or clicked on a malicious link, you should look for warning signs of identity theft. If your bank account is involved, contact your bank to alert them of potential fraud.
We live in a time of globalization where anyone can find information about anything. It can be tricky to filter out what is true and what is not. But internet users need to educate themselves on how to participate in the world wide web in a secure way.
Since Telegram is home to all serious crypto projects, it’s an appealing platform for scam artists. We hope that you have learned a few tricks in our article which will help you recognize potential malicious attacks.
Please remember — GoCrypto employees will never DM users first. If a GoCrypto admin account initiates a private conversation with you, it’s probably a scam.
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