Kaspersky Lab uncovers cryptocurrency pyramid scheme on Telegram

Researchers report an ongoing fraudulent scheme involving the cryptocurrency Toncoin (TON) being offered to people through Telegram. The scheme operates as a pyramid scheme and targets Russian-speaking users.

According to the company, potential victims are first encouraged to invest money in TON, then invited to a special chat in the messenger app where they can earn commissions by inviting friends. However, in reality, individuals are at risk of losing their money.

To entice people, scammers have prepared two detailed video tutorials in Russian and English, as well as textual materials with screenshots.

Initially, the user must set up a special cryptocurrency wallet through an unofficial Telegram bot for storing cryptocurrencies. They must then use a separate Telegram bot, through which they supposedly can start earning, and enter their wallet address there.

Next, they are required to buy cryptocurrency (a minimum of 5.5 TON) and transfer it to their wallet. Legitimate tools are suggested for purchasing: P2P markets, cryptocurrency exchanges, or an official bot in Telegram.

After that, they need to activate the separate Telegram bot for earning, choosing one of the paid “accelerator” tariffs: the cost ranges from 5 to 500 TON. The creators of the pyramid assure that the more expensive the tariff, the faster the person will start “earning.”

Victims are offered a choice of five tariffs: “bicycle,” “car,” “train,” “plane,” and “rocket.” The higher the tariff, the higher the commission percentage – “bicycle” costs 5 TON and gives a 30% commission, while “rocket” costs 500 TON and gives 70%. This means users risk losing over 500 TON if they choose the most expensive tariff.

The user then needs to create a private group on Telegram and invite their friends there. Scammers ask to post two videos in the group – a service presentation and activation instruction, as well as referral links for registering the cryptocurrency wallet and installing the Telegram bot for “earning.”

Additionally, scammers insist that before adding a new person to the group, the crypto investor should personally call them and explain the advantages of the service. Presumably, scammers believe this will create more trust. To earn commissions for inviting friends, activating the bot, and investing in cryptocurrency, a minimum of five people must be involved. Scammers urge users to invite as many friends as possible and monitor their activity.

According to the organizers, the “earnings” will consist of two parts: a fixed fee of 25 TON for each invited friend and a commission for the “accelerator” tariff that friends purchase through referral links. In reality, no one receives any money except the scammers. Researchers suggest that based on the abundance of such videos on video hosting platforms, many people have already fallen victim to the scammers.

“Scammers implement many phishing and scam schemes targeting individuals interested in earning digital assets. In the first quarter alone, our solutions prevented over 430,000 attempts by users in Russia to access fake cryptocurrency-related resources. The described scheme is unique in that it operates as a ‘pyramid,’ encouraging users to involve friends and acquaintances. This makes it easier for scammers to find new victims – users themselves recommend the service, and personal recommendations are more trustworthy,” commented Olga Svistunova, a senior content analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

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