It's no secret "buyer beware" has become a mantra in the world of ICOs, where blockchain startups are raising millions, sometimes with just a white paper, a bright idea and a few lines of code.
Indeed, The Wall Street Journal recently found that 271 of 1,450 ICOs it analyzed displayed "red flags that include plagiarized investor documents, promises of guaranteed returns and missing or fake executive teams."
Still, with regular Joes turning into crypto millionaires, however infrequently, they're enticing bets for investors.
Expanding on the WSJ's analysis, CoinDesk wanted to make it clear what kind of approaches fraudulent ICOs take, and there may be no better poster-child than Pink Taxi Coin and its PTT crypto token, recently promoted on Twitter by John McAfee, an entrepreneur who made his name selling software but has recently pivoted to crypto.
A McAfee endorsement has no doubt become a worrisome sign for token investors, but there's much more to Pink Taxi Coin than just a bad endorsement.
Paul Walsh, CEO of MetaCert, which recently launched a browser extension to warn users when they visit a cryptocurrency phishing or scam site, told CoinDesk:
"There are certainly enough red flags surrounding this ICO warranting a warning to potential investors, starting with the reports of plagiarism."
CoinDesk first heard about Pink Taxi Coin from Lithuania-based ride-hailing app A2B Taxi (which has an ICO underway).
According to the A2B Taxi spokesperson, Pink Taxi Coin had plagiarized basically everything from A2B Taxi – "website design, content materials, texts, even our advisor's video explaining our token model."
Sure enough, when CoinDesk visited Pink Taxi Coin's original website (archived version) – aside from the name change and a shift from a green theme to a pink one – the entire page was seemingly copied and pasted from A2B Taxi's site. The text, formatting and much of the artwork were identical.