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Smart Contract Ponzi Schemes

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Ponzi Schemes have an upgraded version: Smart Contract Ponzi Schemes. It is more challenging for people to identify and pinpoint their operations running under the smart contract code. It is more difficult when the code is open source and immutable, which promotes transparency.

A typical Ponzi Scheme

Ponzi Scheme is an investment fraud that promotes high returns while only a few in the early investment period gain the full investment returns. It highly relies on newcomers to pay off investment gains.

To determine a typical Ponzi scheme event, there are factors to identify from:

– unreasonable high returns with no risk

– short period of consistent returns

– unregistered investments

– over-complicated investment strategies

– investment cheerleaders to push you

– unlicensed sellers to promote investments

– secrecy opportunities to wait for you

– paperwork with errors and false statements

– difficulty receiving payments 

– do not know who managed the money funds

The list can go on and on.

Smart Contract Ponzi Scheme

SEC recently charged Forsage, a crypto platform, with 11 individuals for Ponzi Scheme. It is a global Ponzi Scheme with a $300M crypto Pyramid Scheme.

Instead of the human promoters, Forsage launched a website that allowed investors to enter into transactions through smart contracts operated on Ethereum, Tron, and Binance blockchains.

They promote through YouTube and claim to make money quick:

Forsage claimed you could make and become a millionaire by using their platform:

And the coolest is that they told you they are implementing a Pyramid Scheme with a diagram shown below:

Here is the Pyramid (Ponzi) Scheme smart contract code shown below:

https://gist.github.com/xhliu/859ef64d1605f85cfe8c3cd6e80fad2d

Ref: https://medium.com/coinmonks/smart-contract-based-pyramid-scheme-on-bitcoin-41fc3e0e46a1

How to identify Smart Ponzi Schemes

To onboard new members of the Ponzi Schemes, the Smart Ponzi schemes will require you to join them with your wallet and access your funds to transfer to them.

Since the smart contract is open-source code, it can search through a site like Etherscan.

The logic of the smart contract follows:

Step 1: the contract distributes money among investors

Step 2: the contract receives money only from investors

Step 3: each investor makes a profit if enough investors invest enough money in the contract

Step 4: the new investors join the contract, and the greater risk they will lose their investments

Writing a smart contract goes from step 4 to step 1.

You need to pay to join the scheme:

 // satoshi amount required to enter the scheme

int entryFee;

You need to recruit someone to get paid:

// recruite two members to get double payout

public function recruit(PubKeyHash recruit0, PubKeyHash recruit1, SigHashPreimage txPreimage) {

// use ANYONECANPAY so recruits can deposit

SigHashType sigHashType = SigHash.ANYONECANPAY | SigHash.ALL | SigHash.FORKID;

require(Tx.checkPreimageSigHashType(txPreimage, sigHashType));

// commission payout: double the original entry fee

bytes commissionScript = Utils.buildPublicKeyHashScript(this.schemer);

bytes commissionOutput = Utils.buildOutput(commissionScript, 2 * this.entryFee);

The more you recruit, the more you gain:

 // keep the scheme going from recruit0

this.schemer = recruit0;

bytes recruitScript0 = this.getStateScript();

bytes recruitOutput0 = Utils.buildOutput(recruitScript0, DUST);

// keep the scheme going from recruit1

this.schemer = recruit1;

bytes recruitScript1 = this.getStateScript();

bytes recruitOutput1 = Utils.buildOutput(recruitScript1, DUST);

bytes output = commissionOutput + recruitOutput0 + recruitOutput1;

require(hash256(output) == SigHash.hashOutputs(txPreimage));

Let’s check out the Etherscan of Forsage:

https://gist.github.com/xuanling11/cd9725710ea2243bef6f0ebcfe9202f2

You need to pay 0.05 ETH to join:

function registration(address userAddress, address referrerAddress) private {

require(msg.value == 0.05 ether, “registration cost 0.05”);

require(!isUserExists(userAddress), “user exists”);

require(isUserExists(referrerAddress), “referrer not exists”);

You need to recruit as many as users to gain more earnings.

if ((len == 2) && 

(users[ref].x6Matrix[level].firstLevelReferrals[0] == referrerAddress) &&

(users[ref].x6Matrix[level].firstLevelReferrals[1] == referrerAddress)) {

if (users[referrerAddress].x6Matrix[level].firstLevelReferrals.length == 1) {

emit NewUserPlace(userAddress, ref, 2, level, 5);

} else {

emit NewUserPlace(userAddress, ref, 2, level, 6);

}

} else if ((len == 1 || len == 2) &&

users[ref].x6Matrix[level].firstLevelReferrals[0] == referrerAddress) {

if (users[referrerAddress].x6Matrix[level].firstLevelReferrals.length == 1) {

emit NewUserPlace(userAddress, ref, 2, level, 3);

} else {

emit NewUserPlace(userAddress, ref, 2, level, 4);

}

} else if (len == 2 && users[ref].x6Matrix[level].firstLevelReferrals[1] == referrerAddress) {

if (users[referrerAddress].x6Matrix[level].firstLevelReferrals.length == 1) {

emit NewUserPlace(userAddress, ref, 2, level, 5);

} else {

emit NewUserPlace(userAddress, ref, 2, level, 6);

}

Only 5 winners of the entire operations:

Ower of the contract: https://etherscan.io/address/0x81ca1e4de24136ebcf34ca518af87f18fd39d45e

Earlier founder #1: https://etherscan.io/address/0x44fc2e52243cf20ecc91f61ffa33e59fc7e1c148

Earlier founder #2: https://etherscan.io/address/0xdedba197cb186e6d129110e71138ef6c6ca153d8

Earlier founder #3: https://etherscan.io/address/0x4aaa7083535965d1cdd44d1407dcb11eec3f576d

Earlier founder #4: https://etherscan.io/address/0x59b312f6cfe5b1864654d1942c8c979ad830777e

Here is their promotional video to detail the Pyramind scheme:

Don’t be a fool in the trap!

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Crypto Research

Deglobalization is happening

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Deglobalization is happening. Whether or not you believe it.

Since the beginning of 2000, manufacturing power has awakened in Asia, and economists believed that globalization would benefit the whole world. 

I am not sure if that is totally accurate, but some countries did better than others. 

For example, China has been successfully becoming the world’s second most significant economic zone. 

Not until COVID-19 hit and the war between Russia and Ukraine, did the deglobalization accelerate. 

However, deglobalization will make currency fluctuate more than ever. 

Due to geopolitical concerns, some countries’ currencies would not be tradable globally, making cryptocurrencies more attractive than ever.

Blockchain and crypto may become an alternative to help citizens whose countries with weaker currency to preserve the value of their assets. 

Despite political differences, citizens are innocent of political conflicts, and they have options to use cryptocurrencies to buy necessities.

Of course, there will be political disputes such as financial sanction avoidance resulting from the banning of blockchain technology such as tornado cash, and the technology will improve through different ways to achieve the same alternative.

Deglobalization will also result in many countries becoming more isolated than ever. Cryptocurrencies can help citizens to avoid the drag of the nation.

Deglobalization may be a part of political conflict, but you can become apolitical and help yourself.

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Crypto Research

Kim Kardashian’s $1.26 million crypto ticket

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The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged $1.26M to Kim Kardashian for social media promotion of a cryptocurrency offered by EthereumMax (EMAX).

Kim Kardashian failed to disclose the payment she received for promoting EMAX.

Ryan Huegerich and many other claimants filed a class-action lawsuit against Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather Jr, and Paul Pierce in a California district court, for promoting an Ethereum knockoff, Ethereum Max (EMAX), according to a lawsuit filed on January 7.

At least, “not financial advice” is not a disclaimer of promoting crypto of any kind.

Kim’s influence did make the unknown token become an investment asset as a result:

A striking 19% of respondents who said they heard about the post invested in EthereumMax as a result.

And she claimed to make more money than an entire season of her reality television show that further demonstrating her involvement in the promotion marking:

While it is unclear what the precise terms of the financial compensation that Defendant Kardashian was given by the Executive Defendants, Defendant Kardashian routinely gets paid between $300,000 and $1 million for most promotional posts.

What is EMAX?

According to the filed lawsuit,

EthereumMax has no connection to the second largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum. This name association appears to be an effort by the Company and the Executive Defendants to mislead investors into believing that the EMAX Tokens were a part of the Ethereum network (when they are not). It would be akin to marketing a restaurant as “McDonald’sMax” when it had no affiliation with McDonald’s other than the name similarity and the fact that both companies sell food products.

EthereumMax is to build a robust and scalable ecosystem that fully maximizes the power of DeFi, creating a wide range of products for our community that encompasses everything from a deflationary token and a core stablecoin for processing payments to curing edge NFTs and exclusive events for our community, according to its whitepaper.

Of course, it sounds just like BS. This type of token puts every buzz words together that means nothing.

The court document further approved this assumption:

In plain terms, EthereumMax’s entire business model relies on using constant marketing and promotional activities, often from “trusted” celebrities, to dupe potential investors into trusting the financial opportunities available with EMAX Tokens.

If you check their source code, no devs are working, and codes are forked from open-source codes as usual.

And after dumping and rug-pulling investors, the token majority still controlled by creator(s).

https://etherscan.io/token/tokenholderchart/0x15874d65e649880c2614e7a480cb7c9a55787ff6

Pump and Dump

Following the EMAX Token’s launch and Defendants’ promotional activities in May 2021, the trading volume and price of EthereumMax surged. By May 30, EMAX already had a transaction volume of over $100 million, up 632% in just two weeks. The day before, it reached its maximum price of $0.000000863, which represents a rise of 1,370% more than its initial price of $0.00000005875.

However, this meteoric rise did not last long, and EthereumMax began to deflate immediately after Defendant Kardashian’s post. On July 15, the price of the EMAX Token hit its all-time low: $0.000000017 per unit, a 98% drop from which it has not been able to recover. On August 1, its transaction volume plummeted to $157,423, which is less than a hundredth of its initial capital.

https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/ethereummax/

The result is the price will never get recover.

Celebrities’ promotion of crypto in the future

This is to set a precedence for the SCE to prohibit celebrities and social influencers promote unsecured cryptocurrencies.

“This case is a reminder that, when celebrities or influencers endorse investment opportunities, including crypto asset securities, it doesn’t mean that those investment products are right for all investors,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “We encourage investors to consider an investment’s potential risks and opportunities in light of their own financial goals.”

“Ms. Kardashian’s case also serves as a reminder to celebrities and others that the law requires them to disclose to the public when and how much they are paid to promote investing in securities,” Chair Gensler added.

“The federal securities laws are clear that any celebrity or other individual who promotes a crypto asset security must disclose the nature, source, and amount of compensation they received in exchange for the promotion,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Investors are entitled to know whether the publicity of a security is unbiased, and Ms. Kardashian failed to disclose this information.”

Moral hazard or not, the SCE does make crypto space a better space.

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Crypto Research

Not an expert

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Web3 is the weird place ever. A bunch of people got together to build something that may or may not work.

So why is Web3 the future?

Death of an expert

Who claimed to be an expert? Unfortunately, there are more and more experts on the internet. Watching YouTube for 10 minutes can boost your confident 100%, and watching a week of YouTube has prepared you to teach the rest of the internet how things work. 

What makes an expert, then? If you can tell everything that the internet is searchable may not make you the one. 

You probably will consider an expert is someone who can provide answers precisely and quickly. 

It is not. An expert is a person who can question precisely such field and research depths to provide plausible solutions and make solutions workable.

Precision Matters

The problem of the internet, particularly with YouTube guru channels, is that they present them as experts on some kind and get very general solutions to the problem that sound precise. However, because many of us do not have a background in such subject matters, it makes us fall within the expert trap and believe them to sound correct. 

Because we did not spend time around the subject, we had no specific expectations about what will happen rather than believing someone told us what would happen.

Scientific Inquiry vs. Guesstimate

There are usually 6 steps to discovering the truth through:

1. Observe and Ask Question: in this stage, we think about a question because of our observations  

2. Research: we research our question  

3. Formulate a Hypothesis: we come up with a theory  

4. Test your Hypothesis: we test our theory in a fair and unbiased way  

5. Conclude: we conclude a result of our research  

6. Share Results: we share our idea with other people

However, many of the internet shares guesstimate results and skip step 4.

They offer solutions without possible persistence and observe the conclusion they make. 

When the internet was doing guesstimate, we made fun of them.

When the government started doing guesstimate, we should be worried.

And that is precisely we are heading into serious trouble when the government is guesstimating our economy.

Why Web3 then? Maybe it is just a guesstimate?!

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