MIT: Crypto Pump-and-Dumps See $7 Million in Volume Every Day

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Technology Review, two researchers at the prestigious Imperial College London have utilized artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze hundreds of crypto pump-and-dump schemes to figure out a way to spot them before they occur.

Since the 2017 bull market of cryptocurrencies, pump-and-dump schemes in the digital asset exchange market have become a major issue for both investors and regulators.

Even on major trading platforms, the market has seen assets pump within a period of hours and dump within seconds after the build-up, mostly organized by private Telegram groups, leading retail investors to lose out massively.

$7 Million Per Day

In their study, Jiahua Xu and Benjamin Livshits at Imperial College London revealed that on average, at least two pump-and-dump schemes are materialized in the crypto market on a daily basis, producing $7 million in daily trading volume.

The researchers said that hundreds of pump-and-dump schemes happen every quarter and the only way to not be affected by them is to completely avoid assets that show any sign of an artificial price build-up.

For instance, one of the 236 pump-and-dump schemes Xu and Livshits studied between July 21 and November 18 is a little-known coin called BVB. The researchers said that once a Telegram group announced the initiation of a pump on the asset, the price of BVB almost immediately skyrocketed to its peak.

To go from a low price range to an all-time high, it took BVB 18 seconds.

The researchers wrote:

“We notice that the first buy order was placed and completed within 1 second after the first coin announcement. After a mere 18 seconds of a manic buying wave, the coin price already skyrocketed to its peak. Three and half minutes after the start of the pump-and-dump, the coin price had dropped below its open price.”

The CFTC has warned consumers that crypto pump-and-dump schemes are illegal.

With low market cap cryptocurrencies, especially those with less than $1 million in daily volume, it is very cheap for manipulators to artificially create an upward price movement in an instant. The sudden increase in price then fuels a follow-up rally, influencing many other investors in the market to join in out of fear of missing out (FOMO).

The researchers also stated that some insiders accumulated crypto assets even before the pump is initiated to stay ahead of the pack and squeeze out a higher profit margin over fellow “pumpers.”

“The study reveals that pump-and-dump organizers can easily use their insider information to take extra gain at the sacrifice of fellow pumpers,” Xu said.

Simple Solution

Most of the information Xu and Livshits gathered was discovered by a machine-learning algorithm that was trained using historical pump-and-dump schemes to instantaneously detect potential pumps before they even begin.

But, to the majority of traders that do not have a machine-learning algorithm readily available, the researchers said that a simple way to find out if an asset is going through a pump-and-dump cycle is to see if a low volume and low market cap cryptocurrency sees unexpected trades in an unexpected period.

Although the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has released a stern warning to investor groups in the crypto market against running pump-and-dump schemes, strict regulations have not been practical and effective in preventing them.

Author: Joseph Young
Image Credit

How Cryptocurrency Pump-and-Dump Scams Work

Several news stories have hinted or provided anonymous accounts of schemes to manipulate cryptocurrency trading through pump-and-dump schemes. A recent report by the Wall Street Journal provides definitive proof. The report provides an inside look at the operations of pump-and-dump schemes. The Journal states that crypto pump-and-dump schemes accounted for $825 million in trading activity over the last six months and “hundreds of millions of dollars in losses”. During the period from January till the end of July, there were 125 pump-and-dump operations and they manipulated prices of 121 different coins.


How Do Pump-and-Dump Schemes Work?   

According to the Journal, crypto pump-and-dump schemes operate in a fashion reminiscent of the early days of the stock market. During that time, a group of traders wreaked havoc in the markets by manipulating prices through purchasing in groups.

A similar dynamic exists in cryptocurrency markets. A horde of traders drum up enthusiasm for a coin by evangelizing it on multiple channels, including social media. Subsequently, they instigate a coordinated purchasing frenzy for it. As the coin’s price climbs, other traders, unconnected to the pump-and-dump group, also latch onto the buying spree, further boosting its price. The coordinated action is repeated, except this time around in selling the coin, when it reaches a certain price target. This causes a sharp decline in its price. While the pump-and-dump group makes profits, other traders, who purchased the coin based on false promises, are left holding losses.


The favored medium of communication for traders involved in pump-and-dump are messaging apps Telegram and Discord. Traders form groups on both platforms. Such groups charge between $50 to $250 for membership. In some cases, traders can choose to evangelize the service to others and become a member. Binance, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange, is a favorite for such operations because it lists small coins with low liquidity that makes them ideal candidates for manipulation.

Not all traders in the scheme make money, however. The Journal article provides the example of a San Diego-based trader Taylor Caudle, who lost $5,000 in 30 seconds. He had placed a buy order for DigixDAO that was listed on Binance. Its prices dropped and did not recover. According to Caudle, such schemes “incentivize the poor followers to keep buying until the [target] price is reached, which it often never does.”

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual’s situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.

Here at Dollar Destruction, we endeavour to bring to you the latest, most important news from around the globe. We scan the web looking for the most valuable content and dish it right up for you! The content of this article was provided by the source referenced. Dollar Destruction does not endorse and is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy, quality, advertising, products or other materials on this page. As always, we encourage you to perform your own research!

Author:  Rakesh Sharma
Image Credit