/Anatomy of a Telegram Scam

Anatomy of a Telegram Scam

As part of our commitment to keeping customers safe and secure, Coinbase stays on top of emerging and trending digital currency scams and threats. Our top priority is to be the most trusted and secure platform in the industry. Digital currency transactions are irrevocable, and this creates an attractive target for scammers and digital thieves.

Telegram, the group chat and messaging app, is a popular platform for cryptocurrency enthusiasts to discuss news, trends, and prices with fellow members of their community. Unfortunately, Telegram is also a popular platform for scammers and thieves, in part due to the fact that it’s extremely easy to impersonate another person or organization on Telegram.

Coinbase does not provide support through Telegram, nor do we have any authorized groups or channels. The Coinbase Security team has been tracking several threat actors attempting to leverage the Coinbase brand on Telegram for purposes ranging from crypto scams to account takeovers. A few of the more common scam techniques are outlined below. We encourage everyone who uses Telegram to understand the signs that they may be talking to a scammer, whether they’re a Coinbase customer or not, since other exchanges and other cryptoprojects are also targeted.

Employment Scams

Scammers on Telegram impersonate Coinbase recruiters and executives with fake career opportunities. These scams prey on job seekers, soliciting payment for training materials, mining hardware, or in some cases providing stolen financials for the purposes of money laundering. These job offers will appear very legitimate, with forged offer letters and seemingly astute interview questions. Coinbase recruiters will never contact job seekers via Telegram.

All legitimate Coinbase career opportunities are posted on https://www.coinbase.com/careers. If you’re interested in working with world class security professionals or if creating an open financial system for the world sounds exciting, we encourage you to check our career postings. Coinbase recruiters will never ask you to send digital currency to a vendor, pay for training, or use your personal account to submit payments. Coinbase recruiters will only communicate via their official work @coinbase.com email address.

Example of a Telegram job recruitment scam

Giveaway Scams

Impersonations of our executives and brand to perpetuate giveaway scams are becoming increasingly common on Telegram. One channel in particular, titled simply Coinbase, advertises a new giveaway scam almost daily. This Telegram channel has 7,250 members as of this post, a majority of which are paid bots used to hype the giveaway scam.

While we do offer opportunities to earn cryptocurrency at https://www.coinbase.com/earn/, Coinbase is not currently participating in cryptocurrency giveaways. Furthermore, any official announcements will be posted on https://blog.coinbase.com/. We will never host a giveaway on a third party website. Coinbase will never ask you to send digital currency to external addresses for a giveaway under any circumstances. The classic adage, ‘if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.’ is especially true in the digital currency space.

Example of a cryptocurrency giveaway scam

Load-up Scams

Telegram frequently hosts scammers advertising the buying or “loading” of accounts with high limits. These scammers ask to access your Coinbase account, so they can use your verified limits to buy digital currency. While they claim to split profits with the account holder, in actuality, they use stolen credit cards and bank accounts, leaving you responsible for facilitating a financial crime. When the legitimate card or account holder reverses payments, you will be responsible for any account delinquencies caused by the fraudulent bank reversals. In many cases, the scammer will lock you out of your account, use your own payment methods without consent and steal any available digital currency.

Never give your passwords, 2-factor security codes or email access to third parties. Any request to access your Coinbase account is fraudulent. Email is your identity online, you should protect your email with a strong unique password and the strongest 2-factor security available. Coinbase support staff will never ask for your passwords, 2-factor codes or email confirmations.

Example of an account-loading scam

Tech Support Scams

Scams impersonating customer support take many shapes and sizes. The Telegram channel Coinbase Open Chat, run by the users @Leocrypto22 and @CBSupportchat, claim to provide basic account troubleshooting. Stay in the group long enough, however, and members will find themselves being directly messaged by admins and other group members claiming to work for Coinbase or attempting to charge users thousands of dollars to “fix” account security issues.

Scammers will impersonate Coinbase or Coinbase employees, asking you to take action that results in theft of digital currency. Some scams involve fake promo offers. Many of these scams ask for remote access to your computer, something Coinbase personnel will never ask for. They use this remote access to navigate to Coinbase in your browser, often promising funds will be returned after the theft. They will say or do anything to trick you into complying with their scam. In other situations, the scammers pressure you into “upgrading” or securing your Coinbase account by sending digital currency to their external address. We also see these scammers asking for your sensitive login credentials so they can fully takeover your account.

Example of a tech support scam

Coin Listing and ICO Scams

Scammers on Telegram often approach project developers soliciting payment for asset listings on Coinbase and other digital asset exchanges. In addition, scams promising investment bonuses on new ICO listings are prolific. Coinbase’s official listing process is outlined here: https://blog.coinbase.com/new-asset-listing-process-a83ef296a0f3

Currently, Coinbase has no application fees for listing digital assets. The page at https://listing.coinbase.com/ is the only legitimate application process for listing an asset on Coinbase.

Example of an ICO listing scam soliciting a fraudulent “listing fee” and socially engineering the victim into installing malware

As mentioned above, Coinbase will never ask for remote access to your computer. Coinbase staff will also never ask for your sensitive login credentials or ask you to send money to external addresses. Coinbase does not host giveaways, recruit job seekers or list new assets via Telegram. Coinbase has no official presence on Telegram, any usage of the Coinbase logo or brand on Telegram is a scam. Contact with our support teams should only be done via this link or via phone at 1–888–908–7930. Coinbase support will not call you directly, so please be wary of outbound solicitations.

What can I do to keep my account safe?

  • Only communicate with Coinbase support through official support channels.
  • Do not post your private, identifying or sensitive information in public channels.
  • Never send digital currency to external addresses at the direction of “customer support”.
  • Never share your passwords, 2-factor security codes or email access with anyone.
  • Never screen-share with anyone claiming to be a Coinbase employee.
  • Consider storing long term holdings in a Coinbase Vault.
  • Report any scams to Coinbase Security directly via security@coinbase.com
  • Never accept incoming calls from Coinbase. Scammers can spoof phone numbers.
  • Keep your browser, operating system and anti-virus software current with the latest updates.
  • Use a unique and complex password for your email and account. Consider a password manager of your choice for generating and storing passwords.
  • Consider U2F or TOTP 2-factor for best protection of your email and Coinbase account.

Telegram scams and impersonations can also be reported to abuse@telegram.org or within the Telegram interface. Spreading awareness and cautionary diligence are the best defense against these prolific scams.

Matt Muller is part of the Coinbase User Trust team, which leads Coinbase’s anti-abuse and customer protection initiatives.