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15th February 2023 > > Scam alert.

tl;dr

A well-executed scam is a timely reminder to always remain sceptical.


Market Snap








Market Wrap

Good to see the 22-handle back in action from yesterday afternoon. More pleasingly is a growing trend of reduced correlation between cryptos and stocks, long may it last. Make no mistake, both are risk assets, and one can never be a hedge for the other, but it is always healthier if asset specific news has a notable impact over and above the general beta of the markets.


Curious Cryptos’ Commentary – MEV (maximum extractable value)

MEV has been described as:


“Maximal Extractable Value (MEV) refers to the maximum amount of value a blockchain miner or validator can make by including, excluding, or changing the order of transactions during the block production process.


MEV occurs when the block producers in a blockchain (e.g. miners, validators) are able to extract value by arbitrarily reordering, including, or excluding transactions within a block, often to the harm of users. Simply put, block producers can determine the order in which transactions are processed on the blockchain and exploit that power to their advantage.” (https://blog.chain.link/maximal-extractable-value-mev/)


MEV can work in several ways, but just one example should suffice.


When interacting with a DeFi (decentralised finance) protocol to swap one crypto for another, there is a concept known as slippage which is the price difference between what was expected and what was confirmed. The reason for this difference is that there is a time lag between when you confirm the trade using the protocol and when the blockchain confirms the trade.


During that time lag, prices can move, either in your favour or against you.


Slippage is quoted as a percentage and is user-defined.


There is an MEV strategy known as a “sandwich attack”. The blog referenced above describes this as well as anyone could:


“For example, if a large trade is spotted, a front-running bot can copy the user’s trade and create a transaction bundle where their transaction is processed first before the user’s trade. This moves the market price of the asset being traded, causing the user’s trade to incur a larger amount of slippage—the difference between the expected price of a trade and the actual price. After the user’s trade is processed, the market price of the asset being traded further shifts in the frontrunner’s favour, which allows them to take profits by selling their assets via a back run trade, resulting in what is commonly known as a “sandwich attack.”


Curious Cryptos’ Commentary – An MEV scam

Two days ago, in response to that day’s CCC, I received a message on Medium linking to an article on Medium with the claim that an MEV bot could turn 1 ETH into more than 20 ETH in a short space of time.


Being sceptical by nature I assumed it would be a scam, but also being inquisitive by nature, I was intrigued by what form the scam would take.


The article has been taken down now, and the user has been deleted. Before we look at the scam itself, there are a couple of key things to point out which demonstrate that quite a bit of work has gone into promoting this scam on Medium, and YouTube.


The author of the article had 423 followers in his profile, suggesting an air of authority, and helping to build trust, at least for the unwary. I was a bit surprised to see so many followers as the account was only a couple of weeks old. After a year or so of posting on Medium, my follower list is up to a grand total of twenty-six. 423 just seemed too many to me.


Even more intriguing, each follower that I checked had no articles themselves, but followed some of the other 423 people. Each one I checked had the offending article saved in “Your lists”.


The author had a total of four articles published on Medium, the first three of which were short and very simple statements of the obvious about some basic concepts in cryptos. They were essentially of no value, and certainly would not justify so many followers.


Fully convinced now that it was a scam, I read the fourth and final article which repeated the claim of rapidly producing more than 20 ETH from a starting investment of 1 ETH. The article itself linked to a video on YouTube, which remains in place:



The video claims that a viewer can deploy a smart contract with an initial investment of 1 ETH that will execute a sandwich attack along the lines described above. The video purports to show that for two 12-hour periods the bot produced a total return of 0.4 ETH i.e., 40% in just one full day. “George” – the mysterious narrator whose voice has been digitally altered – calls this a “not bad return”.


The power of compounding means that a daily 40% return would result in 24,000 ETH in one month and an almighty 585mm ETH after two months from a starting investment of 1 ETH. Look, we will all be billionaires soon!


Under the video are many comments lauding the profits being made, all of which are lies and fakery.


So, what is the actual scam?


Obviously, I didn’t deploy the smart contract, and my knowledge of coding is not good enough for me to precisely identify how the smart contract could steal your funds, but I guess it will do one of two things. The most obvious is that it would steal your investment the moment you fund the contract. The second, and more worrying option, is that it would steal all the funds held in your MetaMask wallet, which would be a very distressing situation to find oneself in.


At the heart of this scam is the usual sorry tale of the scammer appealing to peoples’ greed, whilst hiding behind a lot of technical fluff.


Stay sceptical, stay safe.

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