Scammers Take Advantage of Ethereum Hard Fork To Harvest Private Keys

Ethereum hard fork

The Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has admiration for Zcash. He recently suggested that the network starts using the term network upgrade instead of hard fork in describing its software updates.

He made the statement in the wake of phishing scam projects initiated by to steal the private keys of participants of the fake scam forks that targeted Ethereum and its sister coin Ethereum Classic.

Cryptoinfowatch reported that Ethereum Nowa a scam fork took advantage of the imminent Constantinople hard fork to lure investors into sending digital currencies to a wallet address in the pretext that they would get forked coins.

Ethereum Nowa, A Shoddy Scam

The project which was by any standards a poorly setup scam may have fooled some crypto enthusiasts by giving them impression that the Constantinople hard fork referred to by Buterin would entail a chain split giving holders of ether equal volume of the ETN.

The team behind the project intentionally mixed up a hard fork with ICO prompting participants to send funds to the project wallet in the quest to get the “forked” Ethereum Nowa coin.

That was the first indication that the Ethereum Nowa project was a scam- asking buyers to send ether in exchange for the ETN. Then the use of ETN, a ticker already in use by another coin Electroneum. Two coins cannot use the same ticker in exchanges.

The team further asked investors to import their private keys into the wallet adding to a string of evidences against the project. A post on this site shows that the team photos are stock photos from the internet leaving no one in doubt that Ethereum Nowa is a scam.

Scammers Also Targeted Ethereum Classic for Hard Fork Scam

The other fork scam targeted Ethereum Classic with similar intrigues. Ethereum Classic Vision seemingly adopted a name reminiscent of the Bitcoin Cash Satoshi Vision which forked from the BCH chain last month.

The purpose was obviously to give the impression that the project is related to a fork of the Ethereum Classic blockchain. The reality is that the upcoming hard fork is for Ethereum and not Ethereum Classic. The fork will also not split the  Ethereum chain but more of an upgrade. The scammers just took advantage of the situation.

Scams Requested Participants’ Private Keys 

The Ethereum Classic Vision scam required users interested in its airdrop to deposit funds in an address as well as export their private keys to its new wallet. It promised investors 3 ETCV for every ETH in their wallets.

An analysis of the wallet by programmers showed that the exported keys were moved to remote servers giving the fraudsters access to the funds in such wallets.

Browsers such as MetaMask have picked up the scam signal and are warning users attempting to access the Ethereum Classic Vision website stating:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“This domain is currently on the MetaMask domain warning list. This means that based on information available to us, MetaMask believes this domain could currently compromise your security and, as an added safety feature, MetaMask has restricted access to the site. To override this, please read the rest of this warning for instructions on how to continue at your own risk.”[/perfectpullquote]

Ethereum Classic Vision Site Down

Ethereum hard forkBy Sunday Morning, the ETCV website has been taken down although it is not clear if this was done by the web host as a result of complaints or by whitehat hackers. The page now displays a bold suspension notice of the account.

Though a good development, it could have happened earlier but there was no certainty that the project would turn out a scam. Many in the crypto community though it was another legitimate and beneficial fork.

The Other Scam Fork Site Still Live

The Ethereum Nowa site is still live ostensibly because it is considered not as much of a risk like the more sophisticated Ethereum Classic Vision scam. It may also be that the ETCV was not forced down. Whatever the reason, the ETN is the more obvious of the scam forks.

A view of the destination wallet of the ETN scam shows that the scammers recently moved 4 ETH from the wallet. The latest ether deposit was 0.099 ETH sent to the wallet 14 hours ago.

The impact of the Ethereum Classic Vision on the coin community would have been far more devastating not just in terms of bad publicity but the number of people that would have lost their funds to the scam if it wasn’t obvious there were some fraudulent intrigues surrounding the project.

600 Signature Campaign Followers

The signature campaign of the project alone had more than 600 followers at the last check with many more eager to join in thinking it has something to do with Ethereum or Ethereum Classic. After all we’re talking about the second and eighteenth most capitalized coin here.

From the outset, it was obvious to experienced crypto watchers that the Ethereum Classic Vision had no reason to launch a fork since there was nothing in its whitepaper that showed an improvement on the ETH or ETC networks . All the objectives of the ETCV were solutions already provided by other platforms such as Tezos.

If a project is not an improvement on the blockchain it plans to fork, it ordinarily should have no business conducting a fork, even if it’s a real fork. The scam forks is a lesson to the coin community that scammers will stop at nothing to steal money from investors. ICOs, Airdrops and phishing scams are now means of obtaining private keys of participants in these scams.

This is why one of the first safety measures every coin holder should learn is how to secure their private keys. This is also a reason why holders of substantial volume of coins should secure their holdings and never reveal or export private keys. As a rule, whoever controls the private keys of a wallet owns the cryptocurrencies in it.

No Team Shown On Site

The Ethereum Classic Vision smartly did not add a team to their website and whitepaper raising even more questions on their capability to accomplish even their below Ethereum level project. They clearly wouldn’t want to be caught with a faked team like ETN. In any case, some big projects have been known to keep their team IDs anonymous but with the proliferation of scam ICOs this is hardly tenable anymore.

Interestingly, the ETCV roadmap showed that they planned implementation of the project in just one year. This ordinarily is a tough call even if it was a genuine project.

The scam project which promised that owners of Ethereum would get 3x the value in ETCV had many in the coin community hoping for free coins which is a common feature of forks.

Scammer Selling ETCV On Telegram

Rarely do you come across a fork that gives more than 1:1 ratio of the split cryptocurrency. On the supposed day of the fork, the Telegram admin of the scam fork announced that investors could buy 50 ETCV with just 1 ETH in a clear move to get as many investors as possible to send them funds.

The ETCV may have become the biggest scams for a new year judging from the publicity it had and the many private keys harvested. Though the volume of ETH stolen from participants who gave away their private keys is still unknown, it is obvious viewing the wallet of one of the scammers that they stole from many victims.

ethereum hard fork


As things stand, most new projects are clones of older ones that hardly offer an improvement on the projects they clone. This is unlike the early days of cryptocurrency when a project like Monero built something better on the concepts initiated by Bytecoin.

The Ethereum hard fork that scammers are taking advantage of in recent times is the quest by the network to improve its scalability using the features of Zcash.


Author: Jofor Humani

Jofor is a crypto journalist with passion for investigative reviews.

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