Between the skyrocketing popularity of meme coins and NFTs, a certain Central American country choosing to fully embrace Bitcoin and the ever-more elaborate scams, the crypto industry has seen some wild stories in 2021. Some were stupidly funny, others downright depressing and the select few — weirdly uplifting, and today we will take a look at the best ones.
So without much ado, here are the ten crazies crypto stories of 2021, in no particular order:
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Melania Trump’s NFT Collection Results in Backlash While Crazy Frog Is Forced to Drop NFTs Against His Will
While NFTs are reaching ever-higher levels of popularity, they are simultaneously becoming the target of more and more criticism for the often meaningless, exploitative or even downright criminal nature of several new NFT releases.
Underscoring the current craziness of the market of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), two new announcements were made last week which could truly boggle the mind of someone who hasn’t been closely following the industry for the past several months.
Melania Trump, the wife of former POTUS Donald Trump, has decided to publish her “Melania’s Vision” collection, resulting in some backlash
. Each token is accompanied by a digital image of a watercolor painting of the former first lady’s “cobalt blue” eyes, as well as an audio “message of hope” by Mrs. Trump.
An undisclosed portion of the proceeds from the NFT sale is slated to be donated to a charity cause for children aging out of the United States’ foster care system — with some commenters asking why didn’t Mrs. Trump choose to donate all of the earnings. Others have criticized the apparent lack of meaning behind specifically choosing the NFT format for this particular art sale.
Another, even more bizarre story, involves Crazy Frog, a Swedish CGI musician character whose Axel F music video is currently the 25th most-watched video on YouTube at over three billion views.
After briefly achieving international stardom, Crazy Frog had disappeared from the scene for more than a decade, only to reemerge
a couple of weeks ago with a new single and an announcement of an NFT drop, the latter of which was almost universally criticized — with some commenters choosing to go as far as to send death threats to the unfortunate frog.
As it turns out, the artists behind Crazy Frog actually had no personal desire to announce the sale of the controversial digital assets. Instead, they were apparently pressured into it by their producer, who is all but holding the cartoon frog hostage.
In other NFT-themed celebrity stories, it was revealed
this September that the Cozomo de’ Medici account on Twitter is run by none other than the popular rapper and entrepreneur Snoop Dogg.
Cozomo de Medici is a pseudonymous Twitter user who shares “tales & insights'' from the NFT industry. Besides tweeting memes and weighing in on discussions about digital assets and art, Cozomo also frequently showcases the NFTs that they own personally. Their combined portfolio of collectibles was estimated at about $17 million as of Sept. 25.
The account is fairly popular as far as crypto influencers go — having amassed over 143 thousand followers as of Dec. 23 — but until recently, the person behind it was a complete enigma. Cozomo had teased
a reveal on Sept. 17, tweeting:
“I have been thinking a lot about this, and have realized my real life celebrity status may bring many welcomed eyeballs to NFT.”
The actual reveal has never been made by Cozomo themselves, however, three days later Snoop Dogg had tweeted
from his own official account:
“I am @CozomoMedici”
Although it might appear crazy to some, the revelation should not come as a total surprise to those who have been paying attention to Snoop Dogg’s recent social media activity. The famous rapper has been involved in the crypto space, and NFTs in particular, for the better part of 2021, having announced and subsequently released his first NFT collection back in March.
Some users have theorized that Cozomo might not be the literal Snoop Dogg, but rather his digital asset manager, due to another reveal tweeted out by the crypto influencer themselves on Sept. 11. The posted image depicts two men standing on the shore of Lake Como in Italy, their faces concealed by digital masks.
It is clear from the description that one of them is the American singer-songwriter Jason Derulo, while the other one is white and is thus highly unlikely to be Snoop Dogg:
Famous Programmer, Entrepreneur and Crypto Proponent John McAfee Found Dead in His Prison Cell
Moving on to quite a bit more dark story, John McAfee was found dead
in June in his prison cell in the penitentiary center near Barcelona, Spain, where he was incarcerated since October last year.
McAfee initially obtained fame in 1987 as the creator of the eponymous antivirus program, which was the first commercial software of its kind. In the years that followed he had made, as well as lost millions of dollars by founding and/or investing in multiple business ventures in fields as varied as messaging and security software, ultra-light flight and herbal antibiotics.
A staunch and outspoken critic of involuntary taxation, McAfee has openly admitted
to not having filed a single tax return since 2010. As a result, the entrepreneur had been in self-imposed exile from the United States, hiding from tax evasion charges in Belize and, later, in international waters.
It is no wonder that when Bitcoin (BTC
) came about — built around, among other things, the libertarian ideals of financial privacy and independence — McAfee became one of its strongest supporters.
In July 2017 the businessman had predicted that the price of Bitcoin would reach $500,000 in three years. McAfee was so confident in his prediction as to promise
to “eat [his] own d*ck on national television” if it doesn’t come true.
Neither the prediction nor the promised genital consumption came to be, as Bitcoin had only managed to reach the price of about $9,141 by July 17, 2020, while McAfee backed out of his bet, claiming that it was merely a “ruse” to attract new users to the cryptocurrency.
The U.S. Department of Justice, assisted by Interpol, had finally caught up to him in October 2020, when he was arrested in Spain. After spending several months in a Spanish prison, McAfee was found dead in his cell following an apparent suicide on June 23, 2021, just hours after the court had authorized his extradition to the U.S.
Several details of his death, including an earlier tweet
in which he claimed that he would never commit suicide, have given rise to multiple conspiracy theories, none of which have been proven correct to date.
Crypto Scam Revenue Grows 81% Year-Over-Year, Reaching Above $7.7 Billion
published in December by the blockchain data firm Chainalysis has revealed the staggering scale reached by cryptocurrency scams in 2021. According to the company’s findings, the combined revenue from all crypto-based fraud has reached more than $7.7 billion this year, an increase of 81% over the 2020 numbers.
It appears that this year’s impressive performance was mostly driven by a relatively new type of scam, the so-called “rug pull
,” in which malicious actors spend some time pretending to work on a new project and generating hype around it, only to run away with investors’ funds after a sufficiently high sum has been secured. According to Chainalysis, if one subtracts the volume of rug pulls from the total scam revenue, the remainder will be on a similar level to that of last year.
The decentralized finance (DeFi
) industry, which was completely “plagued” by rug pulls according to the report, has suffered the most, contributing over $2.8 billion to this year’s total. AnubisDAO and Uranium Finance were the largest scams in this particular category. The largest overall rug pull, however, took place on a Turkish centralized crypto exchange (CEX
) Thodex, which stole a mind-blowing $2 billion worth of digital assets from its customers in April this year.
In a sign that crypto scammers are always improving their skills and becoming more efficient, the average active lifespan of a scam went down from over 2,000 days in 2013 to less than a hundred in 2021.
A conflicting report by blockchain analytics firm Elliptic provides an even higher total estimate: according to the firm, fraud and theft in the DeFi space alone accounted for $10.5 billion in money lost this year. If Elliptic’s analysis is correct, it would make 2021 the current all-time high year for the crypto scam “industry.”
Now that we’ve dealt with the general statistics, let’s zoom in on the specifics of a couple of the more crazy scams of 2021. The first of these took place less than two weeks ago: the Twitter account of Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, was hacked
in order to promote a Bitcoin giveaway scam.
Modi’s Twitter account was “very briefly compromised,” as his team later explained, on Saturday, Dec. 11, and used to post a fake announcement that India has adopted Bitcoin as legal tender. The tweet also falsely claimed that the Indian government had purchased 500 BTC to give away to its citizens and included a link to an article on Blogspot.com promoting the fake giveaway.
The prime minister’s team had quickly reacted to regain control of the account, delete the offending tweet and inform the followers of the incident.
Giveaway scams targeting high-level Twitter accounts usually work by asking the followers to send Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to the scammer’s address with a promise to send back double the amount — which, of course never happens — and are not a new tactic. Over the past few years, people and companies such as Elon Musk
, Bill Gates, Apple and Uber have been the targets of this type of attack.
What’s extraordinary in the case of Narendra Modi, however, is the scale of the potential audience that could be reached by the hackers: as of the time of the attack, the account boasted over 73 million followers. That number makes it one of the most-followed handles on the platform and indeed the most popular currently incumbent politician — only outstripped by the account of Modi’s out-of-office colleague Barack Obama, which enjoys more than 130 million followers and, incidentally, was at one point also the target of a similar hack.
Mainstream Media Reprint Fake Announcement That Walmart Is to Accept Crypto
While we’re on the topic of fake announcements, another crypto one was published on Sept. 14 on GlobeNewswire: it said
that the multinational retail corporation Walmart, the largest company in the world by revenue for eight consecutive years, has partnered with the cryptocurrency Litecoin (LTC
) and would start accepting it as payment.
Knowing that GlobeNewswire is a respectable PR platform used by companies small and large to publish their official press releases, mainstream media outlets such as CNBC, Reuters and Bloomberg had impatiently reported on the new deal. Naturally, cryptocurrency industry-focused news sites also followed suit.
Even Litecoin Foundation’s own Twitter account “screwed up” — in the words of its leader and LTC creator Charlie Lee — and eagerly retweeted the press release.
In the end, however, the announcement turned out to be nothing but a fraudulent hoax, used by an unknown person or group of people to briefly pump
the price of Litecoin only to dump their coins onto unsuspecting investors. And as CoinMarketCap’s own analysis
shows, it was a fairly efficient one: the price of LTC briefly spiked from $175.51 to $233.06 following the announcement, allowing the perpetrators to make an instant profit of at least 27%.
In a race to be the first to report on the big “partnership,” news media outlets have ignored several red flags, such as the email domain used in the announcement that leads to nowhere, the company having a C-level executive listed as the media contact or the fact that “Walmart,” for some reason, chose to adopt Litecoin, but avoided the significantly more popular coins like Bitcoin or Ethereum (ETH
It is also unclear how the scammers were able to impersonate a company as big as Walmart on a website as curated as GlobeNewswire. Intrado, the company that owns the PR platform, has labeled the fake announcement as a “never before” occurrence and said that it will take the appropriate steps to prevent something similar from happening in the future, as well as to facilitate a full investigation into the event.
Tesla Accepts Dogecoin Payments for Merchandise
That sentence might seem completely normal if you have been following crypto news for a while — but I urge you to imagine for a second that you are a newcomer from outside of the industry and re-read it.
And unlike the Walmart one, this announcement
was completely real.
Elon Musk, the CEO of the electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, tweeted
on Dec. 14 that the company will start accepting Dogecoin (DOGE
) payments for some of its merchandise and “see how it goes.” The funny dog-themed meme coin — which has long become much more than that for many crypto enthusiasts — reacted favorably to the announcement, gaining more than 20% in value shortly afterward.
Musk’s recent tweet is not his first foray into the cryptocurrency scene, but rather a new milestone in a long and sometimes conflicted history
. Regarding Doge specifically, the billionaire entrepreneur’s first public mention of the coin took place in April 2019, when he tweeted that it might be his “fav” cryptocurrency.
While none of Musk’s SpaceX rockets have yet to reach extraterrestrial bodies, he did manage to send Dogecoin to the moon by tweeting a single word “Doge” in February 2020: the cryptocurrency increased by about 120% over the course of four days following the post.
Notably, Musk had already promised this year that Tesla will start accepting Bitcoin as payment for its products — which likely contributed heavily to the cryptocurrency reaching its then-all-time-high — only to then remove
the option over environmental concerns, temporarily resulting in a BTC price dip.
On the other hand, Musk’s continued insistence over the years that Dogecoin is a better-suited cryptocurrency for everyday transactions than Bitcoin might be evidence that DOGE payments for Tesla products are here to stay.
UK’s Advertising Watchdog Launches Investigation Into Floki Inu Ads on London Underground
Floki Inu (FLOKI
), so named in honor of Elon Musk’s Shiba Inu puppy, whom he adopted in June and finally revealed in a September tweet
, is another dog-themed meme coin that was created in July 2021 to attempt to replicate Dogecoin’s success.
In a bit of on-the-nose marketing, ads positioning FLOKI as an alternative investment for those who were late to the DOGE bandwagon had abruptly sprung up on London Underground in October, only to be targeted
by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the self-regulatory advertising industry organization in the UK.
As part of ASA’s larger crackdown on cryptocurrency ads, the organization launched an investigation into both Floki and the Transport for London (TfL), the government body with executive authority over most of London’s transport network, including which ads get displayed on the city’s public transport. The ASA had justified its inquiry by the fact that it finds crypto-related ads “misleading and irresponsible.”
ASA’s campaign against crypto is reportedly supported by the UK’s Liberal Democrat and Green parties, which the team behind Floki decided to fire roundabout shots at in a Nov. 18 tweet
"The attack against these ads by a certain political party is an attack against cryptocurrency and against the people's freedom of choice - a clear attempt at censorship."
With the benefit of hindsight, ASA’s decision to protect investors has so far been proven justified, as FLOKI continued to move in a downward direction ever since the end of October. Since the all-time high of $0.0003406 reached on Nov. 4, the coin has been in a near-continuous decline, having lost about 65% of its value by Dec. 23. It is now trading at just $0.0001178 per coin.
Squid Game Token Moons, Implodes in a Matter of Hours
Squid Game Token (SQUID
), a new cryptocurrency token clearly inspired by but in no way affiliated with the highly popular Netflix show of the same name, made headlines
on Nov. 1 — but for all the wrong reasons. SQUID was launched, exhibited what was likely one of the highest single-hour growth rates out of any asset type to ever exist on God’s green earth, and completely imploded after a rug pull, all in a spectacular seven days.
Squid Game, produced in South Korea and released this September on Netflix, quickly became an international phenomenon and by far the most viewed series on the streaming service, amassing a combined 1.65 billion hours of viewing in its first month of airing.
The show’s unprecedented popularity quickly drew in crypto scammers who decided to cash in on its fame by launching a project masquerading as a play-to-earn
game. Before the finale rug pull debacle, SQUID offered its investors a chance to play a series of six competitive games with ever-increasing stakes and the winner taking it all.
The token was launched on Oct. 26 at a price of $0.01. Just three days later it went up by 44,100% to $4.42. On Nov. 1 it suddenly screamed past the $38, $90, $181 and $523 marks to reach a high of $2,861 in a mere three and a half hours — an increase of about 7,500%. At one brief, beautiful moment, the token’s market cap reached over $2 trillion, far exceeding that of Bitcoin. Seconds later, the token’s value completely evaporated, leaving the investors with nothing.
The worst part? Due to an absurd “anti-dumping” mechanic, in order to sell SQUID, users needed to hold a second token — called Marbles — which could only be earned by playing the project’s game. The entry fee for the first round of the game was priced at 456 SQUID whereas entering the final, sixth round cost 15,000 SQUID — these prices worked fine when the token was worth a penny, but not so much when it reached the single-digit dollar values and above.
Ultimately, the majority of SQUID holders were priced out of realizing their profits and forced to helplessly watch as their investments mooned to unbelievable highs and then crashed and burned while the people behind the project escaped with all their money
— a scenario not dissimilar to the titular Squid Game from the actual show, when you think about it.
El Salvadoran President Bukele Announces Creation of Bitcoin City Near a Volcano
Concluding our list is not a story of reckless greed or boundless stupidity, but rather one of unbridled bravery
— after all, it does take courage to build a new city beside a volcan
o, which is exactly what Nayib Bukele, the sitting president of El Salvador, had announced
he’s planning to do in November. While not listed among El Salvador’s six closely monitored active volcanoes, the Conchagua does have active fumarolic areas on both of its peaks.
Despite being the smallest Central American country by area, the tiny Republic of El Salvador has been really making its presence felt on the global scene this year by its pioneering efforts in the crypto space. It became the first country to officially adopt Bitcoin as legal tender in September 2021, established a network of crypto ATMs and launched its own cryptocurrency-enabled Chivo Wallet all in the span of a year.
At the forefront of these efforts is Nayib Bukele, the country’s recently elected president. Bukele’s craziest plan — at least so far — is to create an entirely new Bitcoin city at the foot of the Conchagua volcano.
The city is planned to be fully powered by renewable geothermal energy and devoid of any taxes save for the value-added tax (VAT) to support public infrastructure and maintenance. Bukele plans to secure the funding for the project — currently valued at $1 billion — via Bitcoin-backed bonds.
The president’s plan has already come under criticism
from El Salvadoran environmentalist Ricardo Navarro, which has so far failed to deter Bukele, who plans to begin the construction of the city as soon as two months after securing the necessary financing.
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