Bitcoin Reaches $220,000 on Livecoin; Exit Scam Suspected

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On Dec. 24, 2020, Livecoin shut down trading after Bitcoin reached $220,000. The exchange says it was hacked, but some in the community think it is a coordinated exit-scam. Some say, it is not even Livecoin’s first.

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During the last couple of days, the price of Bitcoin rose to $220,000 on the Livecoin exchange. Along with Bitcoin’s exaggerated rise, the price of Ethereum rose by 960% to $6500.

Though Bitcoin’s Christmas price of $25,000 may have seemed amazing, this appeared too good to be true. And it was. After this mega-rise in price, the platform stopped withdrawals.

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But users suspect that the platform is suffering from an exit-scam, or even perpetrating one.

Too good to be true

Livecoin’s BTC Trading Page with BTC Near 200,000: Forklog

According to Forklog, initially this price rise was blamed on a technical difficulty. In an announcement on the homepage, the team promised the site would return to normal functioning soon.

But frustrated users investigated. The Twitter user @yukio_staker noticed that funds, including 285 ETH, had been moved from Livecoin’s wallets. One of them, @yukio_staker says, is a wallet used by hackers during EXMO’s hack last Monday Dec. 21, 2020 for about $16 million.

Later, the AMLBot, which tracks the addresses of bad actors, found that BTC from Livecoin went to the same wallet as BTC stolen from the EXMO hack.

Livecoin changed their warning message to say that their exchange had fallen victim to a “carefully planned” attack months in the making. The firm said that their backend, servers, and nodes had all been compromised.

They only regained control of some front-end functionality, which allowed them to post the warning message. The message pleads with users to not trade, deposit, or make transactions.

According to Forklog, 106 BTC, 361 ETH and 236 BCH had been stolen via the linked addresses. 

But users smelled something fishy. 

Exit scam in disguise

One anonymous user told Forklog that large withdrawals had been blocked a day before the hack. Customers were unable to withdraw smaller amounts beginning a few hours before the announcement appeared on Livecoin’s site as well.

However, the loose ends don’t stop there. If Livecoin’s hacker is the same intelligent hacker as EXMO’s, then why did they use the same wallet in both cases? Surely separate wallets would be harder to track.

Suspiciously, Livecoin’s chief has  been silent. EXMO’s Chief Business Development Officer Mariya Stankevich said that Livecoin’s director Svetlana Geller had deleted her Telegram account on Dec. 24, 2020.

Angry users came together on the forum bits.media and Telegram to air their grievances. Meanwhile, they demanded that Livecoin halt withdrawals and proposed alternative theories. 

The user vernichter suggested that Livecoin, or bots set up by the company, created a huge demand for BTC. This price rise sent users into a panic. Seeing the huge gains, they jumped on board at astronomical prices. Then, the company allegedly shut down withdrawals and ran off with the cash.

History repeats itself

Though this may sound far-fetched, Livecoin has come under scrutiny before. Veros Fundraising Platform had listed their token on Livecoin. But on Dec. 20, 2020, they Tweeted that users should withdraw them. Apparently, the balance sheet did not match up with the exchange’s wallets, and Veros called foul.

Just a few days before, Veros told Forklog that Livecoin used bots to manipulate the price of their token, VRS. The bots raised the price, dumped it, then scooped it up cheap, said Veros. The loss was to the tune of $800,000.

Veros also says that this happened with many other trading pairs on Livecoin. In February, Livecoin was also accused of trading Monero the company knew to be stolen.

Parsing out the truth from this one is going to take some serious chain analytics.

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Harry Leeds is a writer, editor, and journalist who spent much time in the former USSR covering food, cryptocurrencies, and healthcare. He also translates poetry and edits the literary magazine mumbermag.me.

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