Ethereum Merge Had ‘All the Ingredients of a Scammer’s Dream,’ Chainalysis Exec Says

Eric Jardine discusses how scammers were able to capitalize on the second-biggest blockchain’s transition and how $1.2 million in ether was stolen.

AccessTimeIconNov 2, 2022 at 6:24 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 3, 2022 at 2:39 p.m. UTC
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There were roughly $1.2 million in scams before, during and after Ethereum’s Merge, the blockchain’s transition from a proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS) model, according to Chainalysis’ cybercrimes research lead, Eric Jardine. Of this total, $905,000 was scammed just on the mid-September day the Merge took place.

Jardine told CoinDesk TV’s “First Mover” the Merge, which took place in September, had “all the ingredients” a scammer would need to grab vast amounts of money.

“You had a big change that created uncertainty, a major blockchain that was undergoing the change [and] a lot of publicity surrounding the event itself,” Jardine said. “Those are the right [things] to bring people into the system and see scammers succeed.”

The scammers' efforts closely reflected those of traditional trust trade scams, which falsely promise users a significant amount of money or tokens in exchange for investing a certain amount of crypto.

“It’s a classic scam setup,” Jardine said. “In this case, they [scammers] were capitalizing upon the branding of the Merge.”

According to the crypto compliance platform’s latest report, scammers “were able to take advantage of lack of understanding around the Merge to fleece unsuspecting users.”

Jardine said that one way scammers did this was by telling victims that Ethereum’s upgrade would require its users to send in substantial amounts of money.

On Sept. 15, 2022, the day of the second-biggest blockchain’s long-awaited shift, scammers were able to grift over $905,000 worth of ether (ETH).

Moreover, Merge-related scams appeared to have been tied to specific areas and were focused on clusters of countries with the highest GDP rates. Jardine noted that it is likely scammers targeted users in “wealthier countries under the assumption they’d be more likely to invest more in the scam.”

“We found [that countries] like Finland, Poland, Chile, Panama and Vietnam were among those that most heavily tilted toward Merge-related scams,” Jardine said.

If people “become more familiar with the ins and outs of the crypto environment ... they will learn about the sort of telltale warning signs that would say this is probably a scam [and] you should probably avoid it,” he added.

In short, he said, it's all about “caution in avoiding things that seem too good to be true.”

UPDATE (Nov. 2 19:45 UTC): Corrects spelling of Eric Jardine's last name.

UPDATE (Nov. 3 14:30 UTC): Corrects the dollar amount of scams before, during and after Ethereum’s Merge and breaks out the dollar amount on the day the Merge took place.

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Fran Velasquez

Fran is CoinDesk's TV writer and reporter.


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