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- Really Bad
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TopMine (topmine.io) was launched in February 2016 providing cloud mining services for multiple cryptocurrencies. The company’s legitimacy has been evaluated based on the items listed below. Every individual item has been checked for the presence of obvious red flags or warning signals. If these are present, an explanation detailing what triggered them has been included. A detailed description of the reasons to evaluate each of the included items can be found below the table.
|Total Flags: 13 (3 Warnings = 1 Flag)|
|Social Proof||It is possible to earn 12% in referral fees. This service would literally be handing out most of its profit margin if it were real.|
|Reciprocity||Users will get 5 TeraX for registering.|
|High Return / Low Risk||TopMine's own profit calculator shows that users may expect returns of at least 500% per year.|
|Overly Consistent, Positive Returns||The profits at TopMine are seemingly unaffected by price or difficulty changes.|
|Public Mining Address||No|
|Pictures of Mining Equipment||None|
|Secretive or Complex Equipment||TopMine's full story is that they "possess a new and unique system of Bitcoin and altcoins mining algorithms, that is an undeniable advantage of our service and provides an alternative for those who want to start mining Bitcoin." Uncreative stories such as these indicate a lazy scam.|
|Website Registration Details||topmine.io was registered February 18, 2016.|
|Website Design||The website includes little to none information. The terms and conditions are even missing (or well hidden).|
|Grammar on Website||Good|
|Payments Options||Only Bitcoin and other payments methods (Payeer) that provide anonymity are available.|
|Service Disruptions & Unbusinesslike Conduct||The lack of terms and conditions (see Website Design) result an absence of any legal basis for doing business.|
|Contact Information||Contact information (address and/or telephone number) is not provided at all.|
|Verified Address||TopMine is actively hiding its company information. Contact details are not provided and the website registrar data is privacy protected.|
|Verified Owner||Information on the company owner is also actively being hidden, identical to the above (Verified Address)|
|Business Registration||There is too little information to even attempt verifying a business registration.|
Note that items with a warning instead of a flag indicate that these could occur at a legitimate company. For example, legitimate companies will normally try to persuade you into buying their products. Multiple warnings will, however, still trigger a flag. A description for the listed items is provided below. This list is meant to assist with identifying obvious scams, and therefore does not provide any guarantees that a company is truly legitimate.
The most common tactic used by fraudsters is called “phantom riches”. By dangling the prospect of wealth such as “big payoffs”, the scam artist tries to get you to stop thinking logically.
Using the fear of missing out, fraudsters create a false sense of urgency with statements such as “last chance” or “only so few available”. This causes people to agree hastily, before even having the opportunity to think about what they’re doing.
Persuasion is more likely when the source presents itself as being credible, expert and trustworthy. Common tactics used by scammers to make themselves look legitimate include using fake websites or hacked emails and pretending to be someone they are not. Alternatively, sources can also be external with claims such as “Warren Buffet has already invested in this”.
Fraudsters take advantage of herd behavior by creating the illusion of consensus or social proof that the investment is legitimate with claims that “everybody is already doing it”, or referral programs in which members encourage their friends and associates to invest as well. This automatically triggers something in the head that says: “if everybody [or someone from the inner circle] wants it, it must be good”.
A business is likely to receive far more of our trust when it provides a lot of free value, because of the rule of reciprocity which causes us to tend to feel obligated to return favors after people do favors for us
All investments carry some degree of risk, so a guaranteed profit is a clear red flag. A valid question would be why an organization would try to sell such a scheme instead of using it to get rich themselves.
High Return / Low Risk
Like a guaranteed return, a high return / low risk investment opportunity also defies the common risk-return relationship. The best advice is an old one: “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.
Overly Consistent, Positive Returns
Cryptocurrency markets are among the most volatile markets, hence the performance of any related product or service is also expected to fluctuate.
External Risk Insurance
The fraudster may present some external risk insurance for the investment in order to add to its credibility. In reality, insurance is only seldom acquired and guarantees typically lack substance. Dummy companies are often used to act as the guarantor or insurer.
Public Mining Address
A cloud mining company must have a public cryptocurrency address in order to participate in the mining process. There is no reason for a legitimate company not to disclose this.
Pictures of Mining Equipment
Cloud Mining companies should be able to provide some pictures of the products they are selling besides any textual descriptions.
Secretive or Complex Equipment
Even in the world of cryptocurrencies one should be skeptical about special competitive advantages without any proper disclosure, or when the information is incomprehensible or incomplete. Too often only the positive elements are accentuated.
Considering the importance of domains and websites in the internet age, there is almost no reason for a legit company not to have one.
Website Registration Details
Very few scam websites survive longer than one year, so domains are generally registered for just one year unless otherwise required for the specific domain. For the same reason, websites created less than one year ago should be considered suspicious.
Amateurish, cluttered and disorganized websites can point to a scam as many scam sites use text and images from legit websites and other sources which may not work together very well.
Grammar on Website
Many scammers have limited English proficiency.
Even though cryptocurrency payment options are logical for a cryptocurrency company, it is also very convenient for scammers as the recipient essentially remains anonymous. The same goes for services such as Western Union and Moneygram. Hence a lack of alternative payment options should still be considered a warning signal.
Service Disruptions & Unbusinesslike Conduct
Especially Ponzi scheme promotors will encourage participants to “roll over” their investment. These schemes are not very fond of investors cashing out, which may lead to difficulties receiving payments and a non-responsive or difficult to reach customer service.
Legitimate companies have very little reason not to list their contact information.
First, you should never hand your hard-earned money over without knowing where it is going. Second, you should do a background check to avoid handing it to a known scammer. Be weary of people without an online identity. Scammers will typically try to hide their identity or conceal their true identity to avoid being easily discovered.
Audits certainly do not root out every instance of fraud, but auditors do have a responsibility to detect errors or fraud in the company’s financial statements.