Scammers are impersonating Tron founder Justin Sun in an attempt to steal money from unsuspecting victims.
The scammers target cryptocurrency projects under the guise of forming partnerships with Tron. They even go so far as to invite victims to a “live” Skype call with Tron CEO Justin Sun himself.
But when invitees launch the Skype call, they’re greeted by a pre-recorded video of Justin Sun with the scammer’s voice laid on top of it. The scammer pauses the video of Sun whenever their target begins to speak – then hits play again when it’s time to reply.
The final effect is similar to a badly dubbed Chinese movie – see below.
The scammers also created a fake Justin Sun passport, which they send to their victims as proof of identity. However, as noted by the team behind Mochimo – one of the targets of the scam – the passport photo is clearly constructed from a publicly available photograph of Justin Sun.
While these examples might portray the scammers as complete amateurs, one of their targeted victims has already described the scheme as “the most advanced scam in cryptocurrency.” That’s because of the lengths the criminals are willing to go to in order to fool their intended victims.
The Criminal Process
One of those targeted, uPlexa (UPX) CEO Kyle Pierce, revealed the step-by-step process he was subjected to by the scammers. First, Pierce received a LinkedIn message from someone claiming to work for a company called “Ledger Capital”.
This representative claimed his firm was working on a “secret project” with the Tron. Pierce was offered the opportunity to be part of this secret project and was asked for his email address, which would be forwarded to the Tron Foundation.
At this point, Pierce knew something was amiss but decided to play it out as long as he could for curiosity’s sake. The next step saw him receive an email supposedly from the Tron Foundation.
However, when Pierce checked out the SPF (sender policy framework) and DKIM records (DomainKeys identified email) of the email, he found that they didn’t align with those of the legitimate Tron network mailing address.
Skype with “Justin Sun”
Next came Pierce’s meeting with Justin Sun himself. During the call, Pierce was offered the enticement of multiple exchange listings and was even offered the chance to migrate his project to the Tron blockchain.
All “Justin” wanted in return was a minimum investment of $32,000 – which they portrayed as a 40% discount from the usual fee of $80,000. The investment was to be made in return for JUST tokens – a legitimate token which recently launched on the Tron blockchain.
Pierce was then asked to sign a contract to seal the deal – but this is where his private investigation ended. Pierce told us:
“I tried to play it as far as I could, but when they sent over the agreement I didn’t feel like putting my actual ID in and didn’t know if creating a fake id for it would be legal (even given the fact they are scammers).
The poorly edited videos are likely to provoke laughter at first glance. However, this current scam could be an early, rough version of something much worse that’s yet to come.
Given the advances made in deep-fake technology, how long will it be before a fake of Justin Sun appears, which is indistinguishable from the real person? Pierce commented:
“Paired with deepfaking video technology, this is something I could see even the brightest of individuals falling for.”
Pierce speculated that the desire of smaller cryptocurrency projects to connect with a project like Tron could lead to many of them falling for such a scam. Pierce said:
“I could see people allowing their emotions to get to them. They may be thinking, ‘I need to prove myself to Justin Sun and Tron,’ and have a focus on how to present themselves and their projects or companies, rather than ‘who is this person I’m speaking to?’”
Pierce said informing people about such scam techniques could provide some immunization against them. However, he acknowledges that as deep-faking technology improves, it may make it impossible to tell future impersonators apart from their real-life counterparts.