In the third quarter of 2017, ICOs raised more than $1.3billion for crypto ventures, which is five times more than the funding raised through venture capital in blockchain space.
Public interest in ICOs has grown considerably in recent months, and thanks to esoteric terminology and a lax regulatory framework, some ICOs have been used to fund scams, which are designed to cheat investors out of their money.
There are certain things that you can look out for that will help you to avoid getting caught up in a scam.
Use case does not require blockchain:
Not everything needs to be decentralised and require a blockchain. Even the projects that require cryptocurrency as payment for a service, such as Steemit, could operate and survive with existing cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether.
When evaluating an ICO, ask yourself if you need a blockchain or native token. If you believe that you don’t, the likelihood is that the ICO project is a scam.
Empty repositories for open-source projects:
You should avoid ICO projects that are proposing open-source code, or an empty GitHub.
A trait of public blockchain projects is that they are open-sourced. So, the code is uploaded to repositories for all to see. For those with blockchain programming experience, you should look through the published code, which can help them to gauge a projects validity.
If you do not have experience, check if a project has existing files uploaded to public repositories, or if a project has a functioning product.
Mining structure disproportionately favours development team:
The supply schedule and mining structure of the ICO can cross-reference other data points, which can help to validate the intention of the founders.
So, a premine will refer to when a portion of the tokens for a crypto project is made available to a small group prior to being made publicly available. If the percentage of the total tokens supplied throughout the lifetime of the project reserved for a premine is high, you should be concerned that it is a scam.
Anonymous team or a team with weak experience:
Trying to understand the team behind the blockchain project is one of the most important things that you can do. If the premise of the venture and market seem attractive, the team behind it can say an awful lot about the validity.
If the ICO does not have any full time developers that have been named, you should proceed with caution. It is not unusual for ICOs to list their advisors on their websites, so you should also verify whether these are legitimate or not.
Insufficient information on the website:
Use your initiative here, and if something seems a little off, it probably is. If you think it is a scam, err on the side of caution and lack of information on the website can be cause for concern.
Although it can be hard to determine if it is a scam, or an undeveloped project, there are certain ways that can help you. If you are an interested investor, you can either ignore the ICO, or wait for further information to be published about it to help you determine the validity.
No clear roadmap:
Legitimate ICO projects will list their funding and development goals on a clear timeline so investors can see it. The lack of a roadmap is a strong indicator that they are motivated by a short term financial gain, and these projects should not be trusted with your money.
Be aware though, malicious scammers can and do create a timeline out of thin are air, providing fake updates on chat apps. So, whilst a lack of a timeline is definitely be cause for concern, having one does not completely confirm the legitimacy of a project.