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Crypto investors spent $4.6B buying ‘pump and dump’ tokens last year

Cryptocurrency investors funneled as much as $4.6 billion into crypto tokens suspected to be part of “pump and dump” schemes in 2022.

A Feb. 16 report from blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis “analyzed all tokens launched” in 2022 on the BNB and Ethereum blockchains and found just over 9,900 bore characteristics of a “pump and dump” scheme.

A pump-and-dump scheme typically involves the creators orchestrating a campaign of misleading statements, hype, and Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) to persuade investors into purchasing tokens while secretly selling their stake in the scheme at inflated prices.

Chainalysis estimated investors spent $4.6 billion worth of crypto buying the nearly more than 9,900 different suspected fraudulent tokens it identified.

The most prolific purported pump and dump creator Chainalysis identified — who was not named — is suspected of single-handedly launching 264 such tokens last year, with the firm explaining:

“Teams launching new projects and tokens can remain anonymous, which makes it possible for serial offenders to carry out multiple pump and dump schemes.”

Chainalysis classified a token as being “worth analyzing” as a potential “pump and dump” if it had a minimum of 10 swaps and four back-to-back days of trading on decentralized exchanges (DEXs) in the week after its launch. Of the 1.1 million new tokens launched last year, only over 40,500 fit the criteria.

If a token from this group saw a price decline in the first week of 90% or greater Chainalysis deemed it likely the token was a “pump and dump.” The firm found that 24% of the 40,500 tokens analyzed fit the secondary criterion.

A table showing the analytic breakdown and number of tokens purported to be fraudulent. Source: Chainalysis

Chainalysis estimated that only 445 individuals or groups are behind the suspected pump-and-dump tokens — suggesting creators often launch multiple projects — and made $30 million in total profits from selling their holdings.

Related: Navigating the world of crypto: Tips for avoiding scams

“It’s possible, of course, that in some cases, teams involved with token launches did their best to form a healthy offering, and the subsequent drop in price was simply due to market forces,” the firm added.

Despite the concerning statistics, in a separate report, the firm noted revenues from crypto scams were cut almost half in 2022 largely due to depressed crypto prices.