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Cryptoqueen: How this woman scammed the world, then vanished
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Ruja Ignatova called herself the Cryptoqueen. She told people she had invented a cryptocurrency to rival Bitcoin, and persuaded them to invest billions. Then, two years ago, she disappeared. Jamie Bartlett spent months investigating how she did it for the Missing Cryptoqueen podcast, and trying to figure out where she’s hiding.
In early June 2020 a 36-year-old businesswoman called Dr Ruja Ignatova walked on stage at Wembley Arena in front of thousands of adoring fans. She was dressed, as usual, in an expensive ballgown, wearing long diamond earrings and bright red lipstick.
She told the cheering crowd that OneCoin was on course to become the world’s biggest cryptocurrency “for everyone to make payments everywhere”.
Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency and is still the biggest and best-known – its rise in value from a few cents to hundreds of dollars per coin by mid-2020 had given rise to a frenzy of excitement among investors. Cryptocurrency as an idea was just entering the mainstream. Lots of people were looking to get involved in this strange new opportunity.
OneCoin, Dr Ruja told the Wembley audience, was the “Bitcoin Killer”. “In two years, nobody will speak about Bitcoin any more!” she shouted.
All over the world, people were already investing their savings into OneCoin, hoping to be part of this new revolution. Documents leaked to the BBC show that British people spent almost €30m on OneCoin in the first six months of 2020, €2m of it in a single week – and the rate of investment could have increased after the Wembley extravaganza. Between August 2020 and March 2020 more than €4bn was invested in dozens of countries. From Pakistan to Brazil, from Hong Kong to Norway, from Canada to Yemen… even Palestine.
But there was something very important these investors didn’t know.
To explain this, I need first to explain briefly how a cryptocurrency actually works. This is notoriously difficult – go online and you’ll find hundreds of different descriptions, some of them utterly baffling to the non-specialist. But this is the first principle to grasp: money is only valuable because other people think it’s valuable. Whether it’s Bank of England notes and coins, shells, precious stones or matchsticks – all of which have historically been used as money – it only works when everyone trusts it.
For a long time, people have tried to create a form of digital money independent of state-backed currencies. But they have always failed because no-one could trust them. They would always need someone in charge who could manipulate the supply, and forgery was too easy.
The reason so many people are excited by Bitcoin is that it solves that problem. It depends upon a special type of database called a blockchain, which is like a huge book – one that Bitcoin owners have independent but identical copies of. Every time a Bitcoin is sent from me to someone else, a record of that transaction goes into everyone’s book. Nobody – not banks, not governments, or the person who invents it – is in charge or can change it. There is some very clever maths behind all this, but this means that Bitcoins can’t be faked, they can’t be hacked and can’t be double-spent.
(I tested this explanation on my mother, the family technophobe, and she told me I’d failed to make it clear enough and should start again. So don’t worry too much if you don’t follow it either.) The key point is that these special blockchain databases are what make cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin work. For its fans this is a revolutionary new form of currency, with the potential to sideline the banks and national currencies, and provide banking for anyone with a mobile phone. And if you get in early, there’s the chance to make a fortune.
Dr Ruja’s genius was to take all of this and sell the idea to the masses.
But there was something wrong. In early October 2020 – four months after Dr Ruja’s London appearance – a blockchain expert called Bjorn Bjercke was called by a recruitment agent, with a curious job offer. A cryptocurrency start-up from Bulgaria was looking for a chief technical officer. Bjercke would get an apartment and a car – and an attractive annual salary of about £250,000.
“I was thinking: ‘What is my job going to be? What are the things that I’m going to have to do for this company?'” he recalls.
“And he said: ‘Well, first of all, they need a blockchain. They don’t have a blockchain today.’
“I said: ‘What? You told me it was a cryptocurrency company.'”
The agent replied that this was correct. It was a cryptocurrency company, and it had been running for a while – but it didn’t have a blockchain. “So we need you to build a blockchain,” he went on.
“What’s the name of the company?” asked Bjercke.
He didn’t take the job.
Jen McAdam’s ‘tycoon’ package
One spring day a few months earlier, Jen McAdam received a message from a friend about an unmissable investment opportunity. Sitting at her computer, the Glaswegian clicked on a link and joined a OneCoin webinar.
Over the next hour or so she listened carefully to people talking enthusiastically about this exciting new cryptocurrency – how it could transform her fortunes. All of them were “very up-tempo, full of beans, full of passion”, she remembers. “You are so lucky that you’re seeing this webinar right now,” she was told. “You’re in at such an early stage and it’s just going to go like Bitcoin. It’s going to go bigger.”
The webinar hosts talked about Dr Ruja’s glittering background: Oxford University, a PhD from Konstanz, a stint with the respected management consultancy, McKinsey and Company. A speech Dr Ruja had given at a conference hosted by The Economist magazine was shown – and that’s what clinched it for McAdam. “That ticked a box. The power of the woman – well done! I felt proud of her.”
By the time the webinar had finished she had decided to invest €1,000. It was easy: you purchased OneCoin tokens, and these then generated coins, which went into your account. One day soon, she was told, she would be able to turn these coins back into euros or pounds. It seemed like easy money. Maybe €1,000 wasn’t enough? The promoters said it was the larger packages that were really life-changing. The smallest package cost €140, but they went all the way up to €118,000. One week later McAdam bought a “tycoon” package, for €5,000.
Before long, she had invested €10,000 of her own money – and persuaded friends and family to invest €250,000 of theirs. She watched excitedly on the OneCoin website as the value of her coins steadily rose. Before too long they had passed £100,000 – a 10-fold return. She started planning holidays and shopping trips.
But towards the end of the year Jen McAdam was contacted by a stranger on the internet. He claimed to be a good Samaritan, someone who had studied OneCoin carefully and wanted to speak to people who had invested. Reluctantly, she agreed to a conversation on Skype. It turned out to be a shouting match, but it would send McAdam’s life in a new direction.
The stranger was Timothy Curry, a Bitcoin enthusiast and cryptocurrency advocate. He thought OneCoin would give cryptocurrencies a bad name, and he told McAdam bluntly that it was a scam – “the biggest scam in the [expletive] world”. He said he could prove it, too. “Well then prove it to me!” she replied, sharply.
Over the next several weeks, Curry sent a stream of information about how cryptocurrencies work: links, articles, YouTube videos. He introduced her to Bjorn Bjercke, the blockchain developer who said there was no blockchain.
It took McAdam three months to go through it all, but questions were starting to form. She started asking the leaders of her OneCoin group if there was a blockchain. At first she was told it was something she didn’t need to know, but when she persisted she finally got the truth in a voicemail in April 2020.
“OK Jen… they don’t want to disclose that kind of information, just in case something goes wrong where the blockchain is being held. And plus, as an application, it doesn’t need a server behind it. So it’s our blockchain technology, a SQL server with a database.”
But by this stage, thanks to Curry and Bjercke, she knew that a standard SQL server database was no basis for a genuine cryptocurrency. The manager of the database could go in and change it at will.
“I thought, ‘What. ‘ And literally my legs just went, and I fell on the floor,'” she says.
The inescapable conclusion was that those rising numbers on the OneCoin website were meaningless – they were just numbers typed into a computer by a OneCoin employee. Far from putting an end to their financial worries, she and her friends and family had thrown a quarter of a million euros away.
Dr Ruja disappears
Although Jen McAdam had now seen the light, few other OneCoin investors had. Dr Ruja was still travelling the world to sell her vision – hopping from Macau to Dubai to Singapore, filling out arenas, pulling in new investors. OneCoin was still growing fast, and Dr Ruja was starting to spend her new fortune: buying multi-million-dollar properties in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, and the Black Sea resort of Sozopol. In her downtime she would throw parties on her luxurious yacht The Davina. At one, in July 2020, the American pop star Bebe Rexha performed a private set.
Despite the successful facade, trouble was brewing. The opening of a long-promised exchange that would allow OneCoin to be turned into cash kept being delayed – and investors were growing more and more concerned.
This was to be resolved at a large gathering of European OneCoin promoters in Lisbon, Portugal, in October 2020.
But when the day came, Dr Ruja – who was famously punctual – didn’t show up.
“She was on her way. Nobody knew why she wasn’t there,” recalls one delegate. Frantic calls and messages went unanswered. The head office in Sofia, where she was such an imposing presence, didn’t know anything either. Dr Ruja had vanished. Some feared she’d been killed or kidnapped by the banks, who – they’d been told – had most to fear from the cryptocurrency revolution.
In fact, she had gone underground. FBI records presented in court documents earlier this year indicate that on 25 October 2020, just two weeks after her Lisbon no-show, she boarded a Ryanair flight from Sofia to Athens. And then went completely off radar. That was the last time anyone saw or heard from Dr Ruja.
MLM’s most successful product
Igor Alberts is wearing black-and-gold everything. Black-and-gold shoes, black-and-gold pleated suit, black-and-gold shirt, black-and-gold sunglasses, and he has a thick black-and-gold ring on. And every item of clothing is Dolce and Gabbana.
“When you look at my clothes, they are disciplined,” he says. His wife, Andreea Cimbala, nods along, adding that if he wakes up and puts on pink underwear, he sticks to pink as he chooses his shirt, trousers and jacket.
They live in an enormous house in an affluent neighbourhood on the outskirts of Amsterdam. At the gated entrance to their mansion is a 10ft-high wrought iron gate with their names and the slogan “What dreams may come”. A Maserati and Aston Martin are parked outside.
Alberts was brought up in a poor neighbourhood. Then he got into network marketing, or multi-level marketing (MLM) as it is often known, and started making money. Lots of money. He claims he has made €100m over the last 30 years.
Here is how multi-level marketing works.
I pay £100 to start selling vitamin tablets directly to people. I sell a box to my friends, Georgia and Phil, and make a small cut. But then I recruit Georgia and Phil to start selling too, and I make a cut on their sales as well. They are now in what’s called my downline. Phil and Georgia both recruit two people, and then all four of them recruit two more, and so on. This mushrooms very rapidly – 25 rounds of recruitment later and everyone in the UK would be selling vitamins. (And I, at the top, would be making a cut on all the sales.)
MLM is not illegal. Big companies like Amway and Herbalife use these techniques. But it is controversial, because usually only a small number of people make all the money. It’s also notorious for exaggerated promises of high earnings and tough sales targets. When there is nothing of value to sell, though, and all the money is made by recruiting other people, it is illegal and goes by another name: a pyramid scheme.
In May 2020, already a very successful MLM seller, Igor Alberts was invited to a OneCoin event in Dubai, where he met lots of people, all apparently making fortunes with this new currency. Dr Ruja herself made a powerful impression too, with her “princess’s dresses” and her vision of a financial revolution. Igor returned with a new mission – and gave new instructions to all the salespeople in his downline: stop whatever you’re doing, and start selling OneCoin. “We gathered the teams together and we started to work like crazy,” he says. “We made in our first month almost €90,000 out of nothing. Bang!”
Dr Ruja’s genius was to recognise that established MLM sellers with huge downlines were the perfect vehicle to market her fake coin – a plan the FBI says she privately referred to as “the bitch of Wall Street, meets MLM”. This was the secret of OneCoin’s success. It wasn’t just a fake cryptocurrency, it was an old-fashioned pyramid scheme, with the fake coin as its “product”. No wonder it spread like wildfire.
Fairly soon Igor Alberts was making more than €1m a month from OneCoin, which quickly became the biggest product in network marketing. “No other company even came close,” Alberts says.
Sixty per cent of the income Igor Alberts and Andreea Cimbala made from OneCoin (in the end, more than €2m per month) was paid in cash, the rest in OneCoin. But they used some of this cash to buy more OneCoin. They, like almost everyone else involved, were convinced they were earning a fortune.
“I did the calculation how many coins we needed to become the richest person on the planet,” Igor says. “I said to Andreea, ‘We need to build it up to 100 million coins, because when this coin goes to €100 and we have 100 million, we are richer than Bill Gates.’ It’s mathematic. It’s easy as that.”
The nature of MLM networks – where people often recruit others who are close to them – creates a blurred sense of responsibility. Blame is not easy to apportion. And if sellers have invested their own money, they are victims too.
After Dr Ruja’s non-appearance in Lisbon, a point came when Igor Alberts, like Jen McAdam, asked to see evidence of the blockchain. He didn’t get it, and in December 2020 he quit.
I ask if he felt guilty, for having sold so many people a coin that didn’t exist, and for having made so much money in the process.
“I felt responsibility. Not guilt,” he replies. “You can never be blamed for believing in something. I had no clue that it could be false. I didn’t even know what is a blockchain… What doubt can I have?”
He points out that he spent millions buying OneCoin, possibly more than anyone else.
By contrast, Jen McAdam says she bears a heavy burden of guilt. I ask her how much she earned from selling OneCoin and she says it was €3,000 – €1,800 of which she received in cash, and which she used to buy more OneCoin.
She feels guilty towards those who she introduced to OneCoin, she says, but also towards her late father, a miner, who worked hard all his life in horrible conditions, and left her the money that she then gave away.
Following the money
It’s hard to know how much money has been put into OneCoin. Documents leaked to the BBC say €4bn between August 2020 and March 2020. I’ve also been told by more than one person that it could be as much as €15bn.
There’s a famous saying in journalism, “Follow the money.” So with Georgia Catt, producer of The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast, I went to see Oliver Bullough, an expert on what he calls Moneyland – the shadowy parallel world where criminals and the super-rich hide their wealth. The problem, he explains, is that following the money isn’t as easy as it sounds, because criminals structure their companies and bank accounts in such a way that their assets seem to disappear. “They still exist”, he says, in his garden near the village of Hay-on-Wye. “You can still use them to buy things, you can still use them to buy political influence and nice houses and yachts. But when it comes to someone trying to find them – whether that’s a journalist or a police officer – they are invisible.”
It’s no surprise, then, that OneCoin’s corporate structure is incredibly complicated. Here’s an example: Ruja bought a very large property in central Sofia. Technically it was owned by a company called One Property. One Property was owned by another company called Risk Ltd. Risk Ltd was owned by Ruja, but was then transferred to some unnamed Panamanians, but it was still managed by another company called Peragon. And Peragon was owned by another company called Artefix, which was owned by Ruja’s mother, Veska. And then in 2020, the ownership of Artefix was sold to an unknown man in his 20s.
Oliver describes this kind of dizzying arrangement as “improbably standard”.
For several months, a French journalist called Maxime Grimbert tried to unpick OneCoin’s corporate workings, collecting as many company names and bank account details as he could. I show his results to Bullough, who immediately notices how many British companies there are. “British companies are the companies of choice,” he comments. “They’re very easy to set up and they look legitimate.”
He takes the first one on the list and looks it up on the Companies House website. Everything is meant to be transparent – the website contains the details of every company in the UK. It’s thought to be a key anti-corruption tool. “We are very proud of this in this country,” he says. “The problem is that when you create this company, no-one checks any of the information provided.” He clicks to see the company’s filing history, but where you should see company accounts, there is nothing. “This is classic,” he exclaims. “Look, nothing has happened. They have filed no financial information at all.” Then he tries checking the company’s owners. The UK began to insist recently that companies must enter the name of the person with “significant control” – the real owner.
“This is supposed to mean that you can no longer use a British company to hide behind,” he says, as he scrolls down the page. “Oh, hey presto, they haven’t filed a person with significant control. That’s illegal… That is an anonymous shell company, as anonymous as anything that you can buy anywhere in the Seychelles or Nevis or the Marshall Islands or Vanuatu.”
So much for following the money. In an interconnected global economy, assets can simply vanish, and you end up chasing shadows.
Find out more
When you’re dealing with a scam worth billions of euros, it’s not unusual for shadowy groups to get involved. Several of the people Georgia and I interviewed spoke darkly about mysterious people and connections they didn’t want to name.
“When you talk about the amount of money that’s been put into OneCoin of course there’s people out there who are pissed off and would do anything to shut anyone like me up,” says Bjorn Bjercke, the blockchain expert who discovered there was no blockchain, and started talking about it publicly.
He tells me he’s received death threats as a result of speaking out. “If I knew what I would have to go through, I would have never blown the whistle. I would have just turned my back and walked away,” he says.
When I ask him who might be behind the threats, he won’t elaborate. “I can’t discuss that. It starts to get very very very scary, very very very fast.” According to Bjercke, Dr Ruja never expected OneCoin to grow so big. People involved at the early stages have told him it was never supposed to be a billion-dollar scam. She tried to close it down, he says, but the dark forces wouldn’t let her.
“Once OneCoin was running above 10 million, 20 million, 30 million, something happened where she was unable to stop it,” Bjercke says.
“I think she was so scared in the fall of 2020 that she decided to skip.”
Igor Alberts, the MLM seller, also talks about the involvement of “very influential people”.
When I ask for more details, he replies: “No, I cannot tell that because I don’t want to take that risk with our lives.”
It’s not clear who Bjorn and Igor are talking about, or whether they are even talking about the same people, but the US Department of Justice claims to have evidence of a link between Dr Ruja’s brother, Konstantin Ignatov – who took over the running of OneCoin when Ruja disappeared – and “significant players in Eastern European organised crime”.
Inside ‘the family’
On 6 March 2020 Konstantin Ignatov was at Los Angeles International airport, waiting to fly back to Bulgaria after some OneCoin meetings in the US. Just as he was boarding his flight home, he was pounced on by FBI agents, arrested ,and charged with fraud in connection with OneCoin. Around the same time, the US authorities charged Dr Ruja in absentia for wire fraud, security fraud and money laundering.
Amazingly, even after this, OneCoin continued to function – and people continued to invest in it. When Georgia and I visited Sofia a month later, Dr Ruja’s personal mansion appeared to be locked up and empty, but the OneCoin office gave every appearance of being a busy workplace.
Why have so many people continued to believe in OneCoin, despite all the evidence?
Investors often told us that what drew them in initially was the fear that they would miss out on the next big thing. They’d read, with envy, the stories of people striking gold with Bitcoin and thought OneCoin was a second chance. Many were struck by the personality and persuasiveness of the “visionary” Dr Ruja. Investors might not have understood the technology, but they could see her talking to huge audiences, or at the Economist conference. They were shown photographs of her numerous degrees, and copies of Forbes magazine with her portrait on the front cover.
The degrees are genuine. The Forbes cover isn’t: it was actually an inside cover – a paid-for advertisement – from Forbes Bulgaria, but once the real cover was ripped off, it looked impressive.
But it seems it’s not just the promise of riches that keeps people believing. After Jen McAdam invested into OneCoin she was constantly told she was part of the OneCoin “family”. She was entered into a Whatsapp group, with its own “leader” who disseminated information from the headquarters in Sofia. And McAdam’s leader prepared her carefully for conversations with OneCoin sceptics. “You’re told not to believe anything from the ‘outside world’,” she recalls. “That’s what they call it. ‘Haters’ – Bitcoiners are ‘haters’. Even Google – ‘Don’t listen to Google!'” Any criticism or awkward questions were actively discouraged. “If you have any negativity you should not be in this group,” she was told.
Prof Eileen Barker of the London School of Economics, who has spent years studying groups like the Moonies and Scientologists, says there are similarities between OneCoin and messianic millennium cults, where people believe they are part of something big that is going to change the world – and no matter what the evidence, once they’ve signed up, it’s very hard for them to admit they are wrong.
“When prophecy fails they believe more strongly,” she says. “Particularly if you have invested something, not only money, but belief, reputation, intelligence. You think, ‘Wait a bit longer.'”
Money might push people to invest in the first place, but the sense of belonging, of doing something, of achieving something, is why they stay, Barker says. “And in that sense it’s cultic.”
In an ideal world, regulators would take action to protect consumers from scams like OneCoin. But the authorities all over the world have been slow to react, partly because the whole area of cryptocurrencies is relatively new.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which is responsible for regulating financial markets in the UK, issued a warning on its website only in September 2020. “We believe consumers should be wary of dealing with OneCoin,” it said. “We are concerned about the potential risk this poses to UK consumers.”
Less than a year later, the warning was removed from the website. The FCA said it had been up for long enough, but OneCoin promoters presented this as proof that the UK authorities considered OneCoin a legitimate investment.
“There’s the answer, right from the horse’s mouth, it’s official,” said one promoter from Alberta, Canada, in a video posted online. “If they still thought we were a fraudulent company, then guess what, that warning’s not removed. Game over.”
Several OneCoin events took place in the UK after the FCA took down the warning, and money continued to be invested. The FCA did not respond to the BBC’s request to comment.
The fact that OneCoin was operating internationally also created difficulties for the authorities. In August this year, the City of London police ended a two-year investigation into OneCoin. “The companies and individuals behind OneCoin are based outside UK jurisdiction,” it said. “We’ve been unable to identify UK-based assets, which could be used to compensate UK investors.”
Such explanations don’t offer much comfort to those affected. “I’m devastated for all the UK victims,” Jen McAdam told me, when she heard the news. She now runs Whatsapp support groups for OneCoin investors who realise they have been swindled. “Where’s the support? Where’s the help? More folk are going to promote this. It’s a green light for the OneCoin scammers to continue and extort more money from innocent people in the UK and nothing has been done about it. They don’t care!”
The City of London Police told the BBC: “There was insufficient evidence to support criminal proceedings against individuals based in the UK, though the force has never specified that there had been no concerns surrounding OneCoin. The force has provided assistance to foreign law enforcement partners in respect of their investigations concerning OneCoin personnel and will continue to do this. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud in relation to OneCoin or you suspect someone of actively marketing OneCoin, please come forward and report it to Action Fraud online.”
Until this week, however, the OneCoin head office remained open for business – and people were continuing to promote the currency.
A Ugandan tragedy
In the Ntangamo region of Uganda, not far from Rwandan border, most people make their living growing bananas, or sometimes cassava, sweet potato, beans or groundnut. In 2020 it was here that 22-year-old Daniel Lienhardt came as he was scraping together the 700,000 Ugandan shillings ($250) he needed to buy a OneCoin starter package.
He already had 400,000 shillings in savings, and to raise the rest he returned from the capital, Kampala, to his family home, took three goats raised by his younger brothers, and sold them.
“There was no other way,” he says ruefully.
Daniel is one of thousands of Ugandans who’ve bought into Dr Ruja’s fake cryptocurrency – and the OneCoin financial documents leaked to the BBC reveal that as time went on, investors like him became increasingly important to OneCoin.
In Europe, less money was invested in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2020. But in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, it was the other way round. As the money started drying up in Europe, promoters turned more and more to countries like Uganda.
Daniel took me and Georgia to meet Prudence, who first introduced him to OneCoin. They are still friends, even though both now realise it’s a scam.
Prudence is a nurse in a Kampala slum, who thought she could make more money selling OneCoin and set about recruiting new investors. A senior promoter gave her a nice car to impress customers, and instructed her to visit farmers when their crops were being harvested and they had money in their pocket.
People in villages trust people from the city, Prudence tells us. To buy the packages some sold their cattle, their land and even their houses – with disastrous consequences.
“Some of their kids are at home sitting without going to school – some don’t have anywhere to sleep. Some are running because they got loans from a bank. Some are hiding. Some are divorced.”
If anyone asks Prudence when the investment is going to deliver the promised riches, she tells them to wait. She can’t bring herself to tell them the truth.
“I’m somehow hiding myself. I don’t want those people I introduced into OneCoin to see me moving around. They can easily kill me. They thought I ate their money.”
But though she has stopped recruiting, many others haven’t, and there are still plenty of interested buyers, she says.
One of the main OneCoin offices in Kampala is attached to a church. There are videos of the minister, known as Bishop Fred, leading the congregation in call and response. “One Life!” he shouts. “One Coin!” the congregations replies. Bishop Fred, we learned, is now one of the country’s top promoters of OneCoin, though he says it’s no longer promoted during church services.
As in other countries, OneCoin has spread here through networks of friends and families. Together with Daniel, Georgia and I travel south to meet his mother. She lives in a concrete house with a tin roof – five small rooms, a small television and a cooking area. A towel covers the front door, and a few metres away is her land, where she grows her own food and sells anything left over at the local market.
The family had saved about £3,000 to buy a maize store so that Daniel’s mother could stop spending every day in the fields. But when Daniel found out about OneCoin, it suddenly seemed like a much better alternative. His mother had doubts, but he persuaded her to put the money into OneCoin instead. She had no computer or smartphone, to do her own research.
She doesn’t speak English either, so I’m shocked to discover, as we sit and talk, that Daniel has never actually told his mother that the money is lost.
“I’ve never told her directly that it’s not going to work – that there is no more money, there’s no more hope,” he tells me. “I’ve been telling her it’s changing. They keep postponing this. That I don’t know what they’re thinking. Maybe it’s just a delay. I haven’t given her 100% full confirmation that it won’t work.”
I ask him why not. “It’s hard. It’s hard to say.”
Daniel’s mother then tells us that when she first saw me and Georgia, she assumed it was a good sign – that perhaps it meant that her money was going to arrive at last. She asks what news we have about OneCoin. Will she get her money back?
I look at Daniel.
“Maybe you can tell her… Maybe…” he says.
He doesn’t seem certain it’s a good idea. Perhaps it would put him in an uncomfortable position. I don’t want to be the person that breaks the news to Daniel’s mother.
Georgia suggests we tell Daniel’s mother that we are journalists, and that we are investigating OneCoin because a lot of people aren’t getting their money.
Daniel translates, and his mother’s reply comes back.
“If you have your money and it’s taken away from you, life becomes stressful,” she says. “You’ve been planning, planning for something. If it doesn’t happen, life is hard.”
Where are you, Dr Ruja?
When we started planning the Missing Cryptoqueen podcast in late 2020, no-one really had a clue what happened to Dr Ruja after her disappearance. It was only earlier this year that the US authorities revealed she’d flown to Athens on 25 October 2020. And even then, the question remained, where had she gone next?
There were rumours of course – lots of them. Igor Alberts, the MLM kingpin, said he’d heard she has Russian and Ukrainian passports and travels back and forth between Russia and Dubai. It’s also been suggested that there are powerful people who might protect her in her native Bulgaria – and that she could hide in plain sight because of plastic surgery that makes her unrecognisable. I’ve even heard that she might be in London. Others told us she was dead – which does remain a possibility.
This is clearly a question for a professional, which is why Georgia and I went to see private investigator Alan McLean. Finding people is his speciality, and there is one thing above all he says we should focus on.
“What was her lifestyle? That’s the most important thing of all,” he says. “Go back to her life before OneCoin. Find out who her friends were, what her lifestyle was like, her family.”
Another tip he gives us is to find out where she has been on her yacht. We should try to get the tracker off it, he says, and he doesn’t appear to be joking. I explain that this is probably beyond my abilities (apart from being illegal). Then he says I should check what yachts were bought in Athens around the time she arrived there from Sofia.
“In my opinion, for what it’s worth, she’s moving around the Mediterranean,” he says.
A few weeks after our meeting Alan gets back in touch, with some amazing information. His colleagues – also private investigators – visited top-end restaurants in Athens armed with photos of Ruja, and in one of them several waiters claimed to clearly remember her dining there earlier this year. When Georgia and I called them ourselves to check, they confirmed it. So it seems Ruja is still alive, and is able to visit a European capital without fearing arrest.
Another lead comes our way when we pay a visit to a bizarre OneCoin beauty pageant in Bucharest. It’s as glitzy as you would expect. Men are drinking champagne from the bottle, everyone is eyeing us in a way that makes us feel very uncomfortable. We soak up the atmosphere, cheer the British contestant, and then leave. But later we hear that we might have been in the presence of Dr Ruja – that she was there, in the same room, right in front of our noses. Except now with plastic surgery, and so harder to spot.
From either Greece or Romania Dr Ruja could be extradited to the US. If it’s true she was in these countries earlier this year, she probably has a fake identity.
Taking seriously Alan McLean’s advice about studying Dr Ruja’s life before OneCoin, Georgia and I turn to the internet, which fortunately never forgets anything.
Even the most obscure entry or innocuous comment on a forum is usually saved somewhere, and with enough digging can be found. You’ve heard of Google, but there are several other search engines that specialise in this. So we start unearthing previous addresses, known friends, old phone numbers, anything that could help us.
We already knew that Dr Ruja spent some of her childhood in Schramberg, southern Germany. We had also visited the town of Waltenhofen in Bavaria, not far away, where she and her father bought a steelworks around a decade ago, an episode that led to her being tried for fraud. (She received a fine and a suspended sentence in October 2020.) While in Waltenhofen, we learned that she had a German husband, a lawyer for the well-known firm, Linklaters.
But we were still surprised when, during our internet searches, Frankfurt started appearing over and over again. It wasn’t a place we’d previously thought of looking.
There were several old addresses in the Frankfurt area – ones she’d posted in forums many years ago, or were associated somehow with old phone numbers of hers. Then we started looking at some old photos of Ruja, and spotted one friend who appeared with her all the way back to 2020. And that friend was visiting the richest neighbourhood in Frankfurt in summer this year. From a tiny fragment of a poster advertising a tennis tournament, an expert identified the park in which one photograph was taken.
We also learned that Dr Ruja had a daughter in late 2020, and that she remained very close to her. The daughter, we were informed, might be in Frankfurt. This is also where Dr Ruja’s husband – or perhaps ex-husband – lives and works.
Armed with a microphone and several photographs of Dr Ruja, we headed off to Frankfurt and searched old addresses and gated neighbourhoods said to be the most expensive in Germany. A couple of people looked at the photographs and paused for a long time, raising our hopes – but then said they didn’t recognise her. A postman thought he recognised the name, but couldn’t be sure. We called the lawyer who is (or was) married to her, and he didn’t want to talk.
Did we get close to her? Could she really be hiding out in the heart of the EU? We don’t know. Frankfurt probably isn’t the only place she goes – it might be one of several places, including perhaps Dubai and Russia.
Then a few days later we received a call from a trusted source we cannot identify. He told us we were right – Frankfurt is indeed where she spends much of her time. But we need to keep going, we needed to find the house. “You will find her,” he said. “You must dig deeper.”
She would have known that we were looking for her, he added, and she would have laughed at us.
On 5 November 2020, the day after the final episode of The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast was released, Dr Ruja’s brother, Konstantin Ignatov, appeared in court in New York, testifying for the government in a case against a lawyer accused of laundering $400m of the money OneCoin made in the US.
In court it was revealed that Ignatov signed a plea deal on 4 October, in which he pleaded guilty to several fraud charges. A court reporter was there to hear his testimony, and according to his account of the proceedings Ignatov appears to have implied that his sister had duped him with the same line the organisation put out to its investors – that OneCoin critics were “haters” who could not be believed.
She vanished, he said, because she was afraid that somebody close to her was going to give her up to the FBI. She had got hold of a “big passport”, he said, and asked him to get her plane tickets to Vienna, then Athens.
OneCoin has always denied wrongdoing. It told the BBC: “OneCoin verifiably fulfils all criteria of the definition of a crypto-currency.” It said the Missing Cryptoqueen podcast “will not present any truthful information and cannot be considered objective, nor unbiased”. It added that the allegations made about it around the world were being challenged, stating: “Our partners, our customers and our lawyers are fighting successfully against this action around the globe and we are sure that the vision of a new system on the basis of a ‘financial revolution’ will be established.”
OneCoin was a familiar scam with a digital twist – a new and hugely successful take on the old pyramid scheme.
But to me it symbolises something else too.
It represents the dark side of rapid technological change – the way that every new technology creates amazing new opportunities and possibilities for people who understand it, but also the chance to exploit the people who don’t.
Dr Ruja identified several of society’s weak spots and exploited them. She knew there would be enough people either desperate enough, or greedy enough, or confused enough to take a bet on OneCoin. She understood that truth and lies are getting harder to tell apart when there is so much contradictory information online. She spotted that society’s defence against OneCoin – the law-makers, the police, and also us in the media would struggle to understand what was happening.
And, most frustratingly of all, she correctly guessed that by the time we realised it, she’d be gone, along with the money.
Three Cryptocurrencies With Signs Of Life In Them
First, try verifying your game files by right clicking on Signs of Life in Steam, selecting properties, then go to the tab labelled “Local Files”, then click “Verify integrity of game cache”. If that doesn’t work.
Try updating your graphics card drivers, once they are up to date.
Try manually installing the .NET and XNA files located in:
Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Signs Of Life\_CommonRedist\DotNet
Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Signs Of Life\_CommonRedist\XNA
.Net should be installed first and then XNA.
If that doesn’t work, you might also try running DXSetup.exe in:
Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Signs of Life\_CommonRedist\DirectX\Jun2020
Try temporarily disabling your firewalls or virus scanners and see if that lets you play Signs of Life. If it does, let us know either here or through email at [email protected] and let us know what virus scanner/firewall you were using.
You might also try running the game from the install directory, and if that doesn’t work try running the game from the install directory in compability mode for windows XP service pack 3.
Comodo’s Behaviour Blocker has issues with XNA, so try opening Comodo and shut down the anti-virus, behaviour blocker and firewall, or add an exception for Signs of Life.
Try deleting the settings file at My Documents/My Games/Signs of Life/Saves/Settings.s3db and try again. If the game still won’t launch, let us know.
These are just some fixes that people have found worked for them, so let us know if any of these solutions work or if none of them do and hopefully we’ll eventually squash all the bugs =)
Cryptocurrency Investment Strategy 2020: Don’t Make These 50 Common Mistakes
Anyone can make big profits from investing in cryptocurrency in 2020. You just have to invest at the right time — like in December 2020, when no one could lose.
But investing at the right time requires luck. Only those who improve their cryptocurrency investment strategy every day, one mistake after another, consistently crush the masses.
Only the most skilled and disciplined investors are running away with big profits over time, while dreamers and noobs end up hodling useless coins.
This is why I have curated the ultimate cryptocurrency investment strategy: a list of common mistakes to avoid when investing in the crazy crypto world.
We’ll start with basic mistakes and progressively move to more advanced ones. So if you are an experienced investor, make sure to read until the end.
Let’s get started!
1. You Don’t Know the Basics
If you’re beginning, you’re likely eager to trade. I get it, really.
But don’t rush it. Take a little bit of time to develop a basic cryptocurrency trading strategy and to educate yourself.
Do you know the basics of blockchain technology and Bitcoin? Do you know what circulating vs total supply means? Do you understand what inflation is? Do you know about exchanges , wallets , private keys , and public keys ?
If you can’t answer these basic questions, you’ll be in trouble quick enough. Take some time to prepare yourself, it’s essential.
To learn the basics, navigate our website – there are tons of cool resources to get started.
2. You Don’t Take Action
Every day, potential investors miss out on cryptocurrency investing because they aren’t confident about how to get started.
Even experienced investors miss on new tools or cryptocurrencies that could bring significant profits simply from not staying active.
Why? Because they’re afraid to make mistakes. The first step is taking action, so don’t hesitate to dive right in.
Action will result in experience, and experience will result in better decision making. In fact, the experience is all about learning from the mistakes you make.
If you feel ready to make your first investment, then go for it. Even only $10, on any exchange you want, with any payment method you like.
You can’t imagine the difference a small step will make versus not taking action.
This is where your experience will start, and you will feel the highs and lows of investing – it’s a wild ride.
3. You Don’t Understand the Technology
What makes Bitcoin and many cryptocurrencies innovative is their underlying technology. But if you don’t understand the foundations of the technology, the road will be risky.
You don’t want to rely on others’ ‘knowledge’ to make your investment decisions. Until you can judge these projects for yourself, you will be missing out on big opportunities.
After all, the creators of Bitcoin and its first adopters were all techies.
To avoid this, find educational sources you trust, take the time to learn, and most importantly, enjoy the journey of learning.
Once you understand block rewards , consensus algorithms, premining , and all the fancy jargon, you will be an improved, independent investor.
Blockchain technology is continuously advancing, so keep up with it the best you can.
4. You Ignore Fees
Now that you’ve taken action, take your time and find the right exchange with the best fees.
When people start trading, they make lots of trades a day hoping to earn small profits. While this is nice in theory, fees are killing them. Even if they are low, it all adds up.
Do your research before you trade. To become a successful investor, you need to start taking good habits right now.
5. You Overtrade
Some investors, mostly beginners, want to make 20 trades a day. This is dangerous.
Ultimately, many of them lose from fees or because they make bad trades a mistake and then trade more to recover their losses. Only to dig a deeper and deeper hole for themselves.
The reality is that there aren’t 20 good trading opportunities in a day. Trading too much leads to poor decision making.
6. You Don’t Understand Tax Implications
Overtrading also increases your tax liabilities.
At least in the United States and Canada. Most people think that they only owe taxes on profits that were sold back to USD/CAD, when in fact, you owe taxes on every single trade you make – even crypto to crypto.
The IRS and CRA view every trade as a realized gain or loss. Put simply, if you buy Ether with Bitcoin, they consider this a taxable event on a realized gain or loss. They assume that you sold Ethereum to USD, then purchased Bitcoin with USD, even though this is not what happened.
Ignoring both tax implications and exchange fees will severely impact your overall cryptocurrency investment strategy.
Tax implications, in addition to accumulated fees and bad trades, is another reason why you should not overtrade.
7. You Invest Your Life Savings
Rule number one of investing; don’t invest more than you can afford to lose.
You should go into this ready to lose whatever you put in. Ultimately, as the price swings up and down, you should remain calm and still be living a healthy life with room for regular spending.
I’ve heard countless horror stories of people investing greedily with their entire life savings or borrowing large sums of money. This is a HUGE mistake.
Funny enough, even if you hit it big, your greed will likely win you over. For example, if you invest $50,000 and at one point have $150,000, then your mind will rationalize and normalize these winnings to feel less significant than they are.
The next thing you know, the market drops, and you are back at break even, or at a loss.
8. You Think Cryptocurrencies are Shares
Take your time to educate yourself and understand what you’re investing in.
Cryptocurrencies are not shares like stocks. You have no ownership in the company and receive no dividends.
If a company issues a cryptocurrency, then it is very possible for the company to profit or get acquired, with no benefit to you. A company can be doing very well, yet their coin can drop.
The only exception here may be security tokens which can grant ownership to their investors. But even then, it’s up to the guidelines of the offering.
Cryptocurrencies are a different game.
9. You Chase Cheap Coins
Don’t chase cheap coins with dreams of lambos and private jets.
Lots of uneducated investors in the crypto space buy low priced cryptocurrencies because they think there is a higher chance of big returns.
If presented with one coin priced at $0.01 and another at $75, they blindly purchase the $0.01 coin because they think it’s easier for a coin to go from $0.01 to $0.02, rather than from $75 to $150.
This is a common trap.
There are lots of factors that affect a coin’s price, including two important ones: the circulating supply and the real world value of the coin.
More often than not, a cheap coin has a huge supply of coins, which dilutes the price of each coin. If the supply is massive and there is little real-world value, then the coin priced at $0.01 is not undervalued and should be priced that low.
A better factor to consider when looking for coins with growth potential is the market capitalization of the coin. The ‘market cap’ is calculated as [current price * circulating supply] and is often a better (although not perfect) indicator of a coin’s valuation by investors.
If you want to find the next gem coin, look for coins that have a low market cap.
Low market cap coins have more potential for growth, but they also come with a lot more risk (failure, illiquidity , etc.)
Ultimately, you should stay away from those coins if you’re still at a beginner level, and pick your next investments based on their potential real-world value.
10. You Think You Must Always Be Right
I hate to tell you this, but get over yourself. You’re not always right. And it’s okay.
Investing is a game of speculation which involves some amount of luck – even for professional investors. To be a winner in this space, you only need to be right a certain percent of the time.
For example, if you 2x your investment 55% of the time, then you can afford to lose 45% of the time as you will make money in the long run.
11. You Make Sloppy Mistakes
Hold your horses, buddy! Take your time when transferring your money.
Don’t rush, and make sure the sending and receiving addresses are correct. Never type an address. Just copy and paste them. This way you avoid any chance of typos. And hey, it’s faster!
After you copy and paste it, always verify the first two characters and the last three characters match your address.
12. You Don’t Diversify Your Portfolio
Your cryptocurrency investment strategy must involve diversification.
While it may be tempting, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Every experienced investor hedges , or protects his/her risk by investing in multiple assets.
You might notice some coins correlate where when one goes up, the other goes down. If this is the case and you like both coins’ futures, then invest in both. Your investment will be much safer.
My recommendation: own a minimum of 5 cryptocurrencies.
13. You Over Diversify Your Portfolio
Be sure to pick a number of coins that you can keep track of. This means keeping up with news and price action.
My recommendation: invest in a maximum of 10 cryptocurrencies at a time.
14. You Don’t Do Your Own Research (DYOR)
Research a coin before you invest in it.
So many people invest based off of hype. They see other investors on Twitter or Facebook talking about a coin, see the coin’s price rising, and then buy off of impulse. This often ends badly.
Do your own research.
When researching a project, you should be able to answer the following:
- What is the mission of the project?
- Who are the core team members? Have they worked together before or have past success?
- When is the mainnet expected to launch?
If you can answer these, then it’s a good start.
Don’t be afraid to miss out on investment; there will always be more to come.
15. You Research Poorly
Once you understand WHAT you should research, then next is starting the research.
The process will be time-consuming if you’re just starting. But the more you research, the better you’ll become at it.
Here are a few basics to get started:
- Have a look at each coin’s BitcoinTalk.org announcements thread and website.
- Search on the internet to see if there are reviews on the coin or mentions of it being a scam. If you see lots of talk about it being a scam on Google or Reddit , then it’s worth digging deeper into that to understand the reasoning.
- Check on the economics of the coin such as its market cap , trading volume , price history, and total versus circulating supply .
- Cross-reference opinions from industry experts. Never trust one single opinion.
16. You Don’t Keep Up to Date with your Investments
As you come to own 5, 6, 7, or more coins, the amount of responsibility on your shoulders increases.
Be sure you keep up to date with all of their developments and price action.
- Follow them on social and through their blog
- Join their communication channels (Telegram, Discord)
- Bookmark their websites and Bitcointalk threads
17. You Don’t Have a Plan that you Stick With
Lots of folks let the market highs get to their head. Once their portfolio hits an all-time high , they only want to go higher.
On the other hand, as a coin drops in price, they hold until 0 because they are stubborn about their investments.
The best way to avoid these situations is to set a target, stick with it, and don’t be greedy.
So, when you enter a position, be sure to write down your plan.
18. You Don’t Take Your Profits
If you want your cryptocurrency investment strategy to profit, you have to sell and accumulate profits eventually.
Learn from others mistakes. At the end of 2020, during the big boom of cryptocurrencies, lots of investors became rich IF they sold for profits. On the other hand, many had theoretical profits but overheld into this bear market .
Now, they are stuck holding at a loss, waiting for the next bull run .
Remember: you don’t profit until you sell back to realize your gains.
19. You Don’t Cut Your Losses
Being stubborn is easy. But at the end of the day, the market moves despite how you feel.
Don’t hold a coin you no longer believe in.
You should always ask yourself: “if I had not bought this coin, would I buy this coin right now?”
Be honest with yourself. It’s okay for things to change.
Additionally, if you planned to cut losses at 15%, then do it, no matter how you feel at the time. Don’t rationalize that it will rise – cut your losses and trust the plan.
20. You Buy High
I bet that when Bitcoin was at $15,000 or $20,000, your friends and family were asking you about cryptocurrencies.
That’s because there is a natural tendency for people to follow trends. But those who profit are those who entered the trend early.
DO NOT buy high, especially when a coin is close to its all-time high .
After all, why buy Bitcoin at $20,000 when you can buy it at $3,500? Buying high may be the right decision in some cases, but is a mistake more often than not.
21. You Don’t HODL Hard Enough
On the flip side, lots of investors are impatient and ‘cut their losses’ early because of emotions.
The cryptocurrency market is made of cycles, where prices rise and fall drastically.
If you buy high, then you will need to wait out an entire new market cycle to end up with profits – meaning a new bear , then bull run – which can be well over a year of waiting.
Remember: if you still believe in the project, then your best bet is to be patient and hold strong, even if the price is dropping fast.
22. You’re a Math Noob
Any successful investor needs to understand the basic maths behind trading. If you don’t understand the real implications of a 20% drop, it’s time to learn.
Here are some examples of math-related confusions:
- If an asset drops 50% in price, it does not need to raise 50% to break even again. In reality, it needs to raise 100%.
Think about it: if you purchase a coin for $100 and it drops to $50, it needs to double (+100%) in price from $50 to hit $100 again. If it only goes back up 50%, then you will have $75 – still at a loss.
- The difference between an 80% loss and a 95% loss is extremely significant. To break even after an 80% loss, the price needs to bounce back 5x. To come back from a 95% loss, you’re looking at 20x.
Every 10% drop, makes a bigger and bigger difference.
23. You Don’t Use 2FA
The crypto world is the wild west. Full of opportunities, but extremely dangerous.
One crucial step when working on your cryptocurrency investment strategy is to reinforce the security of your cryptocurrencies.
Enabling 2FA on every sensitive website is the most important habit you need to adopt to increase the security of your accounts.
2FA, or two-factor authentication, is another layer of security upon login. Most cryptocurrency exchanges , wallets , and services offer to enable 2FA.
To enable 2FA, you will need to download an app on your phone – either Authy or Google Authenticator, and sync it with the exchange or wallet via a QR code . It’s super simple.
Next time you go to log in to the exchange/wallet, you will be required to enter your username, password, and the passcode that the 2FA app shows. The passcode changes every 30 seconds, so for someone to hack your account, they will need your phone as well.
24. You Leave Your Coins on Exchanges
One of the most famous mottos in the crypto industry is “if you don’t control your keys, then you don’t control your coins.”
Exchange are huge targets for hackers and are always at risk. When you leave coins on an exchange, the exchange controls your coins. You are trusting the exchange’s security measures and not your own.
Do yourself a favor – keep your coins in a personal wallet.
25. You Don’t Own a Hardware Wallet
I will be straight up: if you’ve invested more than $500 in cryptocurrencies, then hardware wallets are a smart investment.
They are disconnected from the internet, which means that hackers can only obtain your funds if they steal your physical device and also know the passphrase to access it. This makes security a much easier task.
If you have large amounts of money, say over $5,000, then it may be worth buying two. The second can act as a copy to the first one, in case you lose it.
26. You Don’t Know Best Security Practices
Both the wallets and websites you choose to use hold sensitive personal information – do your best to keep it safe!
If someone compromises your accounts, then you can say goodbye to all of your funds. Take security seriously, and learn from those who have learned the hard way.
When using a wallet, hardware or desktop, be sure to:
- Avoid using Public Wifi
- Avoid using unsecured software/extensions
- Use strong passwords
One more important tip: do NOT use your daily email address when you navigate the crypto space. Use a separate one dedicated to your cryptocurrency investments.
27. You Don’t Back Up Your Sensitive Information
Always back up both 2FA and wallet data.
If you lose access to your computer and haven’t backed up your private keys , seeds or passphrases , then you won’t be able to access your coins anymore.
Same for exchanges: you’ll be locked out of your accounts if you lost your phone and haven’t kept a safe copy of the 2FA keys.
Wallets and exchanges will often guide you through the process, so make sure to read and follow their instructions carefully.
For 2FA, I recommend you backup your keys so when you get a new phone, you can recover all of your accounts to log in. Do not forget to do this, as it will be a huge pain and time sink if you forget!
28. You Fall for Scams
Be careful out there. There are scammers in the crypto space, and they become smarter over time.
While I know you are not a gullible old lady, here are some trusted ways to avoid scams:
- Double check the URLs you’re clicking on. A URL can be embedded in the text. What if you click on a sensitive link – like a wallet – and end up on a different URL? If you don’t believe me, click on www.google.com and see what happens. You can check the URL embedded in a link by right-clicking on it, copying the URL address, and pasting the URL in a new tab. But DO NOT press enter.
- Triple check the domains you land on. You might see some surprises. For example, you may land on coiinbase.com instead of coinbase.com. And believe me, these websites are set to steal your money.
- Avoid ‘easy money’ opportunities. Each time you’re offered to get rich online, there is a hidden scam. This includes Ponzi schemes such as the famous Bitconnect case. Remember: Great opportunities aren’t offered to you on a plate.
- Ask questions to Google and communities. Type [“Website” + Scams] or [“Website” + Review] on Google, and you should know soon enough.
29. You Don’t Find a Reliable Community to Learn With
Online communities will be handy when you experience any difficulty in the cryptocurrency space.
Whether you struggle to use an exchange or have a question about the fundamental value of Bitcoin – or anything else, surrounding yourself with like-minded people is essential.
These communities can also provide you with a consistent flow of cryptocurrency sentiment to keep a pulse on the industry.
There are great Facebook groups, like Cryptocurrency Investing and Crypto Coin Trader. If you’re not on Facebook, then you can search on Reddit, BitcoinTalk, and Uptrennd.
30. You follow shills
Shill is a common word for someone who is compensated or has a financial incentive to spread the good word about a coin, even if it is terrible.
I won’t name anyone in particular, but lots of influencers, bloggers, and YouTubers have been guilty of promoting horrible cryptocurrencies – sometimes even scams – because of their own, selfish intentions.
Whether they’ve been paid to review a cryptocurrency or have other incentives (they own a lot of coins, they know the owners, etc.), you will be the one paying the price if you follow their advice blindly.
31. And crowds
Well-known shills tend to cause crowds to follow their footsteps. If they are influencers with thousands of followers, then you will see groups of individuals talking about a coin in unison.
This can result in Facebook threads, Twitter threads, and Bitcointalk threads being created with everyone shilling one coin as a crowd.
Do not follow them blindly. Hear the noise, but do your own research about the coin.
- If you find out the coin is indeed promising, I’m sorry for you because – you likely missed the opportunity.
- On the other hand, if you believe there’s nothing new under the sun, stay confident, because the coin’s price will surely drop soon.
Take a cryptocurrency called ICON as one example. Lots of people bought in, and there was a lot of traction on major forums and social media outlets.
12 months later, after the crowd hype phased away, the price was down by
Follow this advice: when everyone’s talking about a cryptocurrency, it’s time to sell it.
32. You Enter Positions You Can’t Exit
If you hold a coin, but no one wants to buy it, then you are in an illiquid market.
Liquidity refers to the amount of ease with which an asset can be bought or sold in a market. You can check how liquid a coin is by checking its trade volumes on CoinMarketCap.
Liquidity is essential in cryptocurrency:
- What if you think cryptocurrency is going to collapse?
- What if you think one cryptocurrency is going to skyrocket and you need funds to get in?
- What if you need money for a personal situation?
For any of those scenarios, you’ll need to be able to sell off your position quickly. If the coin you need to sell has low liquidity, you might have to sell it at a lower price to find buyers.
Even worse: if your cryptocurrencies are illiquid, you might have to say goodbye to your money for good.
The less liquid a cryptocurrency, the riskier it is.
If you’re a beginner, don’t even waste your time considering buying a cryptocurrency that has a low daily trading volume.
33. You FOMO
FOMO , or fear of missing out, is a common behavior in the crypto space.
FOMO is when investors feel they are going to miss out on something big, and as a result, will immaturely buy an asset to hop on the bandwagon.
Examples of such persuasion can be project owners or investors tweeting things like: “Huge announcement released next week” or “Big partnership with a major bank to be announced soon.”
Many shills will also take advantage of FOMO by explaining to their audience that a particular cryptocurrency is the next big thing, how the price is soaring, and if they don’t get in now, then they will regret it forever. They persuade investors to buy irrationally – hence FOMO.
Ignore the noise, analyze facts. Your investment decisions should be based on logic, and NOT on emotion.
34. You Fall for FUD
Contrary to FOMO, FUD is short for fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The goal of FUD is to get you to sell, not buy.
So, if the shiller(s) wants to buy into a coin at a lower price, he will start spreading bad news about security vulnerabilities, hackings, team changes, or anything else to cause people to panic sell and lose faith in the project.
Once again – use logic. Understand their motives and don’t act on impulse.
35. You Panic Sell
Besides FUD, another simple reason people sell is that the price drops quickly. But it doesn’t mean it is going to drop more.
Don’t sell in a rush. Have a cup of coffee, discuss with your friends who also invest in cryptocurrencies.
All in all, “control your emotions” and think your decision twice. Don’t forget this is a volatile market and you should be ready to stomach significant losses.
36. You Fall for Media Propaganda
Major news sites will sometimes release very negative, and often, threatening news.
The news may be about a country banning the use of cryptocurrencies, or about how Wall Street doesn’t want to get in. Deceiving headlines are the foundation for propaganda.
A lot of these news articles are intended to generate clicks, controversies, and sometimes even FUD . It’s often very exaggerated.
One more style of content that can negatively persuade you is sponsored content. Websites and media you trust will promote a product not because they use it and like it, but because they’ve been paid to promote it.
Sponsored content is fine as long as it is clearly noted that the content is paid for. Many times, sponsored content looks just like non-sponsored content, which can be deceiving.
The most effective change you can make to improve your long term cryptocurrency investment strategy is to read these articles – not just the headlines – and cross-reference opinions. Stay calm and remain skeptical at all times.
37. You Are Emotionally Attached to Your Coins
Many investors become attached to their investments at an emotional level. They put lots of faith into their investments, and hate the thought of selling before the next pump.
I have met several crypto investors who have been down 95% on an investment. They read that the project has been abandoned by the team or delisted from exchanges, but they still won’t sell because they irrationally believe it will come back.
This goes along with our personal biases we mentioned earlier – humans don’t want to admit they are wrong.
Don’t get emotionally attached to your coins. Always invest based on logic.
38. You Lack Patience
Be patient – because the sophisticated, wealthy investors are.
You may feel desperate to find the next big investment opportunity, but “ whales ” have enough capital to sit on the sidelines for two or more years waiting for the right time to strike. They can easily stay in a bear market, with losses, for years.
In other words, wealthy investors can afford to be in losses for multiple years to shake out weak HODLers. If you lack the patience and knowledge of this, then you will always be buying on the wrong side of the market.
If you are patient enough to wait even an entire year to buy in a bear run or HODL until the next bull run, then you will benefit greatly.
39. You Don’t Stay Clear Headed
Remember to stay calm and relax.
You should have invested an amount you are comfortable losing, so have fun with it. Don’t let the negative press or big news sway you.
If you do let negativity get to you, then you are more likely to make poor decisions.
Disconnect from crypto from time to time to stay clear-headed.
40. You Don’t Understand the Market Dynamics
Bitcoin only makes up about 40-50% of the market’s liquidity . There are thousands of altcoins, and they work in correlation with Bitcoin.
Not understanding these correlations can lead to poor and costly investment decisions. Those who make money trading crypto understand these dynamics like the back of their hand.
There are three situations for how Bitcoin and altcoins affect one another:
The whole market crashes. In such a case, Bitcoin will often be more resilient than the other coins. We witnessed this firsthand in 2020: Altcoins dropped
95%, while Bitcoin dropped
All of these time frames can be viewed using coinmarketcap.com. Take your time and look at different historical time frames to help you better predict the future market!
Takeaway: if you think the market is ready for a bull run, then add more altcoins to your portfolio. On the other hand, if you believe the market is going down, sell your altcoins for Bitcoin, or even better, for fiat or stablecoins .
41. You Ignore Airdrops
Airdrops are free money with little to no effort.
Many times, new projects will airdrop their token as a marketing strategy to raise awareness.
You might need to register on their website to claim the airdropped tokens, but sometimes, you have to do nothing at all.
Check out AirdropAlert to be on top of every airdrop opportunity.
42. You Don’t Prepare For Forks
Hard forks are similar to airdrops from an investor’s standpoint – free money! Most investors I know miss out on these opportunities, which can turn out to be quite lucrative.
Bitcoin Cash is an example of a hard fork of Bitcoin, where all Bitcoin holders received 1 Bitcoin Cash for each Bitcoin in their wallet. Bitcoin Cash trades for well over $100 or $200, so these coins you can get for free, aren’t cheap.
Just make sure the wallet you are using support the fork. Simple as that!
Use CoinsCalendar and search for the category ‘hard forks’ to stay up to date.
43. You Don’t Use the Best Tools Available
The cryptocurrency industry is full of creative and hardworking people who offer some handy products and services.
Don’t rely on only yourself, use all the tools at your disposal to craft the best cryptocurrency investment strategy and make better decisions.
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44. You Hold USDT
Tether , or USDT , is a stablecoin that is pegged to the value of $1. Each Tether is supposed to be backed by one USD in a bank.
There are two dangers to holding USDT:
- They’ve had a shady past. Many believe that not every Tether is backed by a single USD, which means that if you want to redeem $1,000 USDT for USD, then you’re $1,000 USDT is meaningless.
- Transfers cost a lot. Second, most people don’t know this, but just to withdraw USDT from an exchange costs several dollars. If you want to transfer funds to another exchange, it is often less expensive (but more time-consuming) to trade back to a cryptocurrency before withdrawing.
While it’s okay to enter USDT positions for short-term trades, don’t hold it for too long.
45. You Don’t Buy the Rumor
There’s a popular narrative that says, “buy the rumor, sell the news.”
Often, cryptocurrency projects launch their coin before a final product is made. Rumors can spread around the community about when their product will be complete, which companies will partner with them, and which exchanges the cryptocurrency will be listed on.
Usually, these rumors create lots of hype. The hype can grow to be so strong that when the real news is released, the price drops.
One example is the Verge project, which at one time had rumors spread by John McAfee and other prominent figures, discussing partnerships and innovations. The price was skyrocketing on rumors, and some made the best decisions of their lives by getting in early.
46. You Buy the News
On the other hand, when the news comes out, do not buy it – it’s likely too late. This is when those who bought the rumor will take their profits.
When the time came for real news to be released about Verge, the price dropped drastically – well over 80%
So, instead of just buying coins at the time the news is released, take some risk. Buy the rumor, wait for the bubble to grow, and sell when the news comes out.
You’ll thank me later.
47. You Don’t Understand How to Read a Trading Chart
Once you understand some basic dynamics such as supply and demand, then you should start learning how to read trading charts, also known as technical analysis.
Technical analysis is a science which helps you better predict the future by analyzing historical market data. You’ll gain a feel for when markets are about to turn, or if assets aren’t priced properly.
For some, it’s super helpful and core to many people’s cryptocurrency investment strategy.
BabyPips is a popular place to start learning technical analysis, and it applies to all markets, not only crypto.
Knowing how to read charts can give you an advantage over those who don’t – and it can be quite lucrative.
48. You Don’t Prepare for Bull Markets
Do you believe the market is dead and the entire crypto industry will vanish away just because Bitcoin drops 40%? Of course not. These cycles happen, so don’t be afraid to go against the crowd.
If you sold when you were in profits, then you should have fiat ready to invest in cryptocurrencies during bear markets.
Keep these funds available in your wallets and be ready to accumulate your favorite cryptocurrencies when everyone else in the market is panicking.
But, don’t FOMO! Generally, bear markets can last for well over a year. If you buy the dip too early, you’ll end up losing a lot of money.
Bear markets should also give you plenty of time to find some altcoins worth investing in. So do not wait until the bull market is back – do your research in advance.
49. You Don’t Listen to the Market Sentiment
If the overall sentiment varies, then so may the price.
While you may expect a bull market soon or be optimistic about a cryptocurrency, other investors may feel the opposite way.
This is why listening to the sentiment of other investors in the industry is crucial. If you don’t, you might miss the next bear/bull market, or the next cryptocurrency about to moon.
So, how do you listen to the sentiment of your peers?
- Read other investors’ thoughts. Not thoughts from influencers or media – from investors, like you and I. You can do this by joining and participating actively in some of the best crypto communities (read mistake #29)
- Use tools. These tools scrape information from the web and turn it into actionable metrics, and each of them uses different factors to determine sentiment. Alternative.me, for example, scrapes data from trading volumes, Google Trends, and social media amongst other indicators.
Remember that sentiment is just one indicator of the next market movements.
When crafting your cryptocurrency strategy, cross-reference different indicators from several sources. Always use logic over emotions.
50. You Don’t Earn Interest From Your Crypto
You cannot earn interest from cryptocurrencies as you do with your bank account, but there are ways to grow your bags simply by holding.
There are three ways to earn interest on your cryptocurrencies:
- Stake your coins. If you are holding Proof-of-Stake (PoS) coins, hold them in the official wallet, turn on staking, and you will begin earning stake rewards, much like interest in a bank account.
- Margin Lending. Exchanges which offer margin trading allow users to lend coins for a percentage return. This may be small, say 1-2% a month, but it can add up! Even at 1% a month, that comes to 12% a year as a safe return. Beats a 0.2% interest bank account.
- Lending Platforms. Nexo is one example of a lending platform that can land you a minimum of
6% a year. For minimal risk, not a bad deal.
51. BONUS: You Only Invest in Cryptocurrencies
This last mistake comes as a surprise, but why invest only in cryptocurrencies? It’s wise to diversify your portfolio not only amongst cryptocurrencies, but stocks, bonds, and other assets as well.
The stock market is indeed a safer bet than crypto, so if you want to be conservative, put say 15% of your investment funds into crypto. If you hold safe stocks and bonds with the remaining money, then you should be pretty safe.
Disclaimer: we do not know your financial situation, nor are we financial advisors.
The world is your oyster, so don’t be afraid to invest in different markets and niches.
Well, you made it to the end, congratulations!
Although there are plenty of mistakes to avoid, most of them are common sense and require no memorization. Simply being aware of them should be enough to make you think of and improve your cryptocurrency investment strategy.
Which mistake from the list prevents you from making more profits? Which one do you make again and again? Do you make mistakes that aren’t listed? Let me know in the comments!
Lastly, here are more resources you might like:
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