“ICO ratings from top investors and experts” — this is how ICObench, one of the most well-known ICO rating platforms, advertises on its website the trust of investors in search of information. A noble claim. But how trustworthy and independent are the ratings that are awarded through such platforms? Even a closer look at the website of ICObench and similar rating providers shows that the visibility of the ICO ratings there is by no means independent, but depends on the wallet of each ICO. ICObench offers ICOs about so-called Premium Listing Services: Against some Bitcoin (depending on how long the service is booked), ICOs can buy such a top placement in the ICO overview, are featured in the newsletter and are also placed on the profile pages of their competitors. At the same time, these competitors are excluded from placing on the profile side of the paying ICO.
Thus, the visibility of an ICO does not depend on the quality of the expert rating, but solely on how much money it was willing to pay for a premium placement. However, these purchased top rankings are not marked. For the inexperienced user looking for valid information for their investment decision, this creates a distorted picture of reality. Quite a few users will mistakenly consider a highlighted ICO to be a recommendation from the rating platform and make an investment decision on that basis. Here it is clear that most rating platforms are nothing more than marketing tools, which sell under the guise of supposedly serious expert ratings visibility to the highest bidder. This alone is at least dubious business conduct.
This experiment shows: It’s so easy to buy expert ratings
Disclaimer: The following text is from the ICO rating agency Alethena. BTC-ECHO has reviewed the information to the best of its knowledge and curated the text, but can not guarantee the accuracy of the statements made.
“We are currently running our ICO. As a result, like every other ICO, we took a closer look at how ICO marketing currently works. Again and again we have encountered intransparency, dubious machinations and fraud. This has not only encouraged us to finally need transparent and independent ratings, but also that we want to uncover how dysfunctional and fraudulent the ICO advertising market currently works. That’s why we went to search for clues.”
If you look at the criticism of the current ICO ecosystem, there are always two concepts: Wild West and gold rush mood. And indeed, these descriptions are accurate when you look at the largely unregulated, partially legal-free space where ICOs vie for the favor of their investors, and at the enormous multimillion-dollar sums of money poured into countless ICOs. This lack of transparency and regulation, as well as the enormous sums involved, are fueling excesses that not only exceed the bounds of good taste, but are de facto investor fraud, as the following experiment shows.
It has long been an open secret in the crypto community that so-called expert ratings are often purchased and therefore by no means independent. To check if it’s actually that easy to buy supposed expert ratings, we’ve registered an ICO on ICObench. Shortly after registering on ICObench, we were sent a certain vagiz via telegram and offered to give us positive ratings for a fee.
An expert rating should cost $ 500. After a short negotiation, we finally settled on $ 800 for two ratings. In a conversation with Vagiz, we were also able to determine with how many stars the experts should rate our ICO.
After Vagiz told us that the two ratings appeared on ICObench, we paid the agreed $ 800 in Ether. After processing the payment Vagiz tried to sell us further expert ratings.
Finally, he offered us six more ratings for $ 300 each.
We once again purchased a rating of 0.56 ETH. Our ICO now received a total of three very positive expert reviews, all of which gave users who searched for trustworthy information on ICObench a completely wrong picture cost a good $ 1,000. A no-brainer compared to the sums currently circulating in the crypto world.
It gets worse
Vagiz was not the only one who tried to sell us expert ratings via Telegram. Shortly after registering with ICObench, we were also contacted by a certain John Smith, who drew our attention to our mediocre ICObench rating and offered us his help.
The help of John Smith cost 1.5 ETH per expert rating and eventually could be negotiated down to 1 ETH.
In the Telegram chat with John Smith, we wanted to see if we could add more influence to the counterfeit ratings by setting the rating text published by the experts.
John Smith said yes and we sent him an extremely positive rating text that we wanted to read about. That the initial letters of the four paragraphs gave the word SCAM, John Smith was not noticeable.
Shortly thereafter, a certain Stephanos Constantinou published a rating with exactly the text that we had specified.
It’s frightening how easy it is to buy ICO ratings from supposed experts. Whether and to what extent Vagiz or John Smith has a connection to ICObench — the platform on which the ratings have appeared — we could not prove. In this respect, ICObench is probably from a legal perspective, no fraud to prove. However, what seems very clear in the light of this experiment is that ICObench and other rating platforms at least approve of or tolerate the dubious machinations on their platforms. For inexperienced investors who trust this in-transparent and fraudulent behavior, this can have serious consequences. In the worst case, they are threatened with the total loss of their deposits when they fall victim to a scam ICO on fake ratings.
Marko Vidrih @cryptomarks
Marko Vidrih - Medium
Read writing from Marko Vidrih on Medium. @cryptomarks. Every day, Marko Vidrih and thousands of other voices read…
Image via pixabay, ICObench; source: BTC-ECHO