There’s No Free Lunch, Even Using Bitcoin: Tracking the Popularity and Profits of Virtual Currency Scams

  • Marie VasekEmail author
  • Tyler Moore
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8975)


We present the first empirical analysis of Bitcoin-based scams: operations established with fraudulent intent. By amalgamating reports gathered by voluntary vigilantes and tracked in online forums, we identify 192 scams and categorize them into four groups: Ponzi schemes, mining scams, scam wallets and fraudulent exchanges. In 21 % of the cases, we also found the associated Bitcoin addresses, which enables us to track payments into and out of the scams. We find that at least $11 million has been contributed to the scams from 13 000 distinct victims. Furthermore, we present evidence that the most successful scams depend on large contributions from a very small number of victims. Finally, we discuss ways in which the scams could be countered.


Lorenz Curve Source Address Virtual Currency Block Chain Gold Coder 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was partially funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, Cyber Security Division (DHS S&T/CSD) Broad Agency Announcement 11.02, the Government of Australia and SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific via contract number N66001-13-C-0131. This paper represents the position of the authors and not that of the aforementioned agencies.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computer Science and Engineering DepartmentSouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA

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