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NFT streets may be paved with gold, but they are also dotted with a fair amount of doggy doo-doo. There are a thousand ways to get ripped off in the NFT space but one of the most intriguing of them all is the FREE MINT! scam.
The reason this scam is interesting above any other bait 'n' switch type rip-off, is that it plays an alluring psychological fiddle, whose tune is very difficult not to dance to.
The Free Mint scam starts to play, and you can't help but tap your feet in time, whilst nodding your head appreciatively. A smile begins to play across your face as you hum the somehow familiar tune to yourself.
Just as the melody is reaching its soulful crescendo,
The needle on the record goes sliding across the vinyl, piercing your ears and setting your teeth on edge.
You've been scammed again, but how? This one was free. How could you possibly have fallen for this one?
'Ah yes, I see now. Well done sir. You got me.'
'You crafted a Symphony Of Greed. That's why the tune was so familiar, it was the sound of my own beating heart, yearning for the latest too-good-to-be-true shiny object, to actually be true this time.'
So let's break it down. How the hell does a FREE MINT! manage to get money out of you, when the thing is free?
Just like in music, a good scam requires a good hook. Some musicians say they write the hook first and then build the tune around that.
In much the same way the FREE MINT! guys do the same thing. First they'll set up a Twitter page calling it @WhateverLameNFT_FREEMINT_On_RandomDate!
The anatomy of this page is simple, lots of capital letters, preferably in different colours and flashing.
Then of course there will be some blurb about the NFTs and the talk of the most amazing project you've ever heard of in your life! It might be a game or some new financial DEX that's going to take the world by storm whilst making all the early adopters rich.
The project Devs are so confident of success, they are making the mint free. All you have to do to get on the advance mint is to follow, retweet and tag somewhere between two and five friends.
Oh and did I mention that all NFT holders get a free airdrop of a shitcoin that will never get listed anywhere the amazing token linked to the NFT that you'll be able to use for multiple benefits on the cool shiny new platform?
So retweet, follow, tag, join the discord, become an OG, special person getting in right at the bottom, and the best thing is, it's all completely one hundred percent,
This is the hype phase, now that everyone is gathered in the Discord and the Twitter Army are primed and ready, it's time to spread the good word, because the more people who find out about this, the faster the coin will get listed on Magic Eden, ergo the sooner you become a crypto millionaire.
So now it's time to retweet the hell out of @WhateverLameNFT_FREEMINT_On_RandomDATE and pimp those sweet competitions they're running.
If you're lucky you were one of the first one thousand Discord whitelisted members who got a coin airdrop, but if not, don't worry, because the mint is FREE!! and you'll be getting it later anyway.
Now you are full of gratitude, 'these dudes rock!!, what lovely people, so nice to see good guys out there in this sea of sharks.
A good FREE MINT! scam understands just how long to play this bit. Too long and people start to question the validity of the project. Too short and you don't gather enough people filled with the right amount of goodwill.
Like any good musician crafting a melody, they'll know when to stop and move on to the chorus.
Well you have to hand it to them, this was weaved as masterfully as a clever whodunnit murder mystery. One where you're kept completely in the dark until the big reveal at the end.
You hop into the Discord channel, everyone's showing off their new NFT. A couple of people are complaining that the FREE MINT! is not technically free. Yeah but whatever, most people are ignoring those naysayers.
Lol, if you can't afford $5 for a quality NFT you shouldn't be in this space bro!
'Yeah exactly! And look, they've sold out, all 8,888 of them!'
'They've promised an immediate listing on Magic Eden, it's a bit late now so will probably be announced tomorrow.
A quick jump into the Discord channel to get a last bit of good vibes before bed and then get ready to hype tomorrow.'
Then the next day comes and you log into the Discord before you're even properly awake. Of course you see that people from all different time zones have been in there at various points in the night.
You have a huge grin as you look at the first few messages and you start to scroll through them.
Like a slowly retreating tide on a beach, your smile starts to fade. The warm fuzzy feeling you had as you logged in, now sinks below the horizon of your awareness as the dark clouds of realisation blot out the last rays of your hope.
The messages start off varied at first, mostly showing off their newly minted NFTs and chatting excitedly about the future. However soon they all begin to read the same, until it is just one word repeated over and over again.
So reading through the above, I'm sure you spotted the exact point it was a scam. When the free mint turned out not to be free.
The thing is though, and you'll only really be able to relate to this if you've been caught in something similar before. But while it's happening, you just kind of gloss that bit over in your mind. Simply because you've already been primed into thinking you're getting in on a cool thing before the masses.
It's the equivalent of someone coming up to you in a bar and striking up a conversation.
He tells you that through his job he gets free Rolex watches worth thousands and that his bosses are arseholes who scam their customers and treat the workers poorly.
The person says they'd like to stick it to their boss one more time and he likes you and you're an amazing individual and he'd like to give you a free watch.
You meet him the next day in the park and he shows you the watch. It's in its beautiful display box and he even lets you take it out to examine.
The secondhand sweeps beautifully, a trademark of the Rolex company. Wow! It's the real deal. Okay then, let's go for this!
'You're sure it's free right? I can just take this and walk away?'
*'Yup, here, take the certificate of authentication, it's now yours.'
'Wow! Thanks man. You're a legend!
'Hey no problem, I just like to spread love in the world.'
'Really? That's so cool of you.'
Yeah no worries man, enjoy. Oh, by the way, I'm kind of stuck here now, I live right across town. Do you have $20 for a cab? It's no problem if you don't.'
'What? Sure man! Here, how could I say no when you're giving me this beautiful watch?'
You watch your benevolent stranger get in his cab and deliver a friendly wave as he rides away. As it pulls off into the distance and your arm returns to it side, you realise you never got the kind man's name.
You're at home now and you want to check how much this is worth. Rolexes tend to increase in value, this could end up being a nice little nest egg for you.
As you examine the watch, more closely this time, you can see that there is a picture of Mickey Mouse which you never noticed before.
You flip the watch over and you see the unmistakable words, badly scratched onto the metal back.
Made In China
Hmmm, last time you checked Rolex was a Swiss brand, and you're pretty sure they would emboss the words onto there.
Oh well, at least it was free.
Ah, no, you gave him $20 for a cab, which he probably got out of once he was out of sight.
Essentially you've been tricked by the prospect of something shiny AND, this is the crucial one. He has used a type of assumption bias on you.
Because it's such a small amount of money, you won't ever assume anyone would be bothered enough to go through such an elaborate scam for such a pitiful amount of money.
But here's the thing, if he does it enough times it'll become a large amount of money. Also because everyone is ripped off by such a small amount, nobody is going to the authorities or trying to hunt the guy down to get their twenty bucks back.
Unlike on the street whereby you'll most likely never see the person who ripped you off ever again. Online it's a different matter. Because the FREE MINT! scam isn't over there.
Once the Discord is covered with negativity and anyone coming in late realises its a rugged channel. You'll start to notice lots of people posting links to other channels.
Shit, we got rugged guys. But this project is good. Honest Devs, good roadmap, etc.
Of course a lot of these messages will be from the scammer themselves, because if you gather a bunch of people who'll fall for something once, then why not try again?
They probably end up with some kind of Elite List, whereby everyone in the final Discord channel has fallen for twenty scams in a row and they are labelled as the ultimate marks.
Some of the messages might be real, but they could be coming from people who get habitually scammed. Whatever the case, you definitely do not want to click on any of those links and then go ahead and leave the channel immediately.
So there you have it, the FREE MINT! scam. It sucks you in with the promise of something for nothing. Then once you're hooked on the story, it simply charges you a small amount for the mint. Sometimes it's not even small, I've seen a couple of these things go from free to 0.4 $Sol, getting close to $100 USD.
As in anything that has anything to do with money, there will always be the bad actors, who spoil it for everyone.
The thing is, there are genuine free mints out there, and some of them even advertise themselves as FREE MINTS!! Those ones tend to stay free and at no point are you expected to part with any cash.
They do this because they believe in the projects they've built. Which is why the scammers get away with it, because they use the same plausible story, they just tweak it slightly and if they do it well, you won't notice till afterwards.
So my advice would be to still look out for the free mints and take part in them. However as soon as that FREE MINT! turns into anything other than advertised, even if it's just a single dollar, unfollow the Twitter, leave the Discord and move on.
Stay safe out there peeps!
HAVE YOU FALLEN FOR THE FREE MINT! SCAM YET? OR PERHAPS YOU'VE FALLEN FOR A DIFFERENT CRYPTO RUSE?