The Dark Side of PEPE: 19 Scams to Avoid
Meme projects, dApps, and tokens have the tendency to attract many Web3 users united behind a common idea, theme, or meme. And while meme projects can help the overall Web3 industry grow by bringing in and engaging new users, meme projects can also be a bane to the industry. Meme projects become an easy target for hackers, scammers, and bad players in crypto. One such meme project that has become an obvious target on BNB Chain is Pepe.
What is Pepe the Frog?
PEPE, popularly known as Pepe the Frog, is a popular internet meme on social platforms including Reddit, Discord, and Twitch. The cartoon meme was developed in the mid-2000s by Matt Furie and has gained popularity as emojis, memes, and meme tokens.
What is PEPE?
The PEPE token was launched in April 2023 by an anonymous developer or group of developers with no affiliation to the original creator of Pepe. According to the website, PEPE is a meme token represented by a green frog chosen to replace the reign of dogs as meme tokens. The token has no intrinsic value and is for entertainment purposes only.
Since its launch, PEPE reached the top 100 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization led by several factors including listing on popular exchanges and the existing popularity among Web3 users. PEPE hit a market-cap high of $1.8 billion and has since dropped to $541 million. However, this popularity also attracted several risky versions of PEPE such as phishing scams, fake social profiles, or other meme tokens that claim to be affiliated with PEPE.
19 Pepe Scam dApps
DappBay’s Red Alarm has helped identify and list 19 risky meme websites, smart contracts, and dApps that claim to be affiliated with the official PEPE, airdrops, NFT mints, etc. in the last 3 months. Most of the 19 risky meme dApps belong to the phishing category, where a scam dApp, platform, or website forges the pages of other legitimate projects to trick users into using the scam website.
1. Airdrops, Claims, and Mints
Airdrops, free mints, giveaways, and claiming digital assets seem to be the most popular ways scammers use to get unsuspecting users to connect their digital wallets to a PEPE scam. For example, users are asked to connect their wallet to the scam platform to participate in 10000 NFT mints (with 5000 NFTs already minted). The risky PEPE airdrops, claims, and mints include Claim PEPE Gift, PEPE Claim Now, Pepes Coin Claims, Pepe Girl Airdrop, and Mint Pepe. Currently, the official PEPE doesn’t have any airdrops, NFTs, giveaways, or marketplaces for users.
Claim PEPE Gift
Pepe Girl Airdrop
PEPE Claim Now
Pepes Coin Claims
2. Variations, Affiliations, or Copycats
Variations, affiliations, or copycats are not identical versions of PEPE, but alternate versions that claim to be affiliated with PEPE in some form. For example, Arabian Pepe is similar to the original PEPE, but a Middle-East version of Pepe the Frog. Mini Pepe, another knock-off, claims to be a mini-version of the original meme frog. Copycats and variations are used by scammers to gain a user’s trust into using a risky dApp or website. The risky variations, affiliations, or copycats of PEPE include Mini Pepe, Arabian Pepe, Golden Pepe, Rich Pepe AI, and Pepe Sui.
Rich Pepe AI
3. Upgraded Versions of Pepe
Upgraded versions of Pepe claim to bring some added value or benefit to the Pepe community such as a launchpad, a staking platform, a DAO, a swap platform, and more. However, the original PEPE is only a meme, with no intrinsic value and no added benefit to users. The upgraded dApps or versions of PEPE try to gain user confidence that they’re using or going to be investing in the next big thing since it has some added utility. Some of the phishing dApps that claim to be upgraded versions of PEPE include PEPE 2.0, PEPE DAO, Pepe Chain BSC, Pepe Launchpad, Pepe Saga, Pepe Chain, and Mr.Pepe.
Pepe Chain BSC
4. Fake Tokens
Fake PEPE tokens are rip-offs of the original PEPE tokens and are created with the sole use of deceiving users into thinking that the fake PEPE token is the original PEPE token. In some cases, the fake tokens may even resemble the original PEPE token address with the first few and last few digits being identical. Users should check the entire token address to make sure they’re not interacting with a fake token. Two cases of fake PEPE tokens on BNB Chain include PEPE Coin Token and Pepes Coin.
PEPE Coin Token
Other PEPE Scams
Apart from DappBay, Certik, PeckShield, Hashdit, and other security providers have also issued warnings, reports, and risky smart contract addresses associated with fake PEPE projects.
According to Dune, one of the most prominent phishing PEPE scams includes over $7 million stolen from more than 5000 victims by Inferno Drainer, a wallet associated with a scam service provider. On the whole, Inferno Drainer has stolen over $32 million in funds from 76,962 victims across multiple scams and schemes.
According to PeckShield, jaredfromsubway.eth managed to generate at least $1.4M in profits from sandwich attacks involving PEPE. A sandwich attack is a form of front-running where traders manipulate the price of crypto assets.
Certik has put out alerts warning Web3 users by tracking several fake PEPE Twitter accounts and malicious web pages. Hashdit has identified and notified users of over 10 Pepe smart contracts associated with fake or phishing websites.
Common Themes in Pepe Scams
The common themes in Pepe scams can help users identify and avoid similar scams when encountering them. Some of the common themes between the PEPE scams on BNB Chain and other PEPE scams include:
- Deceiving users to click on a website by copying elements such as the name, logo, and information from legitimate dApps.
- Gaining traction using fake followers on social media.
- Asking users to connect their wallet to avail of some fake incentives such as NFTs, token airdrops, etc.
- Creating a sense of urgency to incentivise users to act quickly, such as only a limited number of mints left, or a time-limited airdrop event.
- Making users sign transactions they don’t understand.
- After a while, the scam website may stop working while the scammers may set up more websites to continue to scam users.
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