Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Wikimedia

Local, regional and crypto media outlets are reporting that Vietnam has just experienced the world’s biggest crypto heist. A look at the companies alleged to be involved in this scam reveals … well, not much at all.

Ho Chi Minh City authorities started investigating the apparent scam after protesters gathered on Sunday outside the office of local company Modern Tech, demanding compensation for investments into Singapore’s iFan and Dubai’s Pincoin. Both are crypto-currency based multi-level networking start-ups.

Local media reports that 32,000 Vietnamese investors are caught up in the alleged scam, with the sum involved said to be $660 million. The biggest recorded crypto heist to date was the $530 million Coincheck hack in Tokyo in January.

Modern Tech was listed as the official Vietnamese representative for both Ifan and Pin. Investors were told the tokens from both companies would see quick value jumps once they were sold on a secondary market and were also promised 8% commission for every new member introduced to the “network”.

Investor suspicions rose when the company began paying commissions not in real money but in tokens and while investors could see their investments supposedly rising on a daily basis, via an online dashboard, it was never possible to make actual withdrawals. After the protests, local media reported that Modern Tech had left its Ho Chi Minh City offices in March.

Ifan sold itself as an “advanced social network” for celebrities and music artists. The Ifan token could be used, the company’s marketing said, for merchandise, albums and live concert tickets.

Internet domain registration documents reveal the Ifan website was registered in September 2017 although the individual or entity behind this registration has chosen to list as private. Nowhere does the business website list an office or corporate address.

The site does list Ifan team leader and advisory council members although these names do not immediately show up on any other web records. One of the entries, for a supposed team leader, is clunky, to say the least. The team member, says the bio entry, “is a technical blockchain. He used to work as software development…”

Pincoin, on the other hand, was sold simply as an “investment opportunity” promising up to 40% monthly returns.

Pincoin’s whitepaper, like its website, is well-designed, articulate and indeed convincing. Except, amidst all the info-graphics, flashy videos, flow charts and duotone images of smiling happy people – or even the talk of communities, ecosystems, decentralised hedge funds and, yes, even ‘endless opportunities,” – nowhere does it say who is launching the coin.

The FAQ section of the website has a section entitled “How can we trust in PIN community.”

“We make our commitment in everything we do,” is the answer. “Our website, our logo, our marketing campaign, our roadmap, our strategy, etc. We believe that everything we do can satisfy many people. Actions speak louder than words, therefore we will always do our best so that Pin would [be] so far beyond our members’ expectations.”

Domain registration documents show that the people behind the Pincoin registration have, just like Ifan, chosen to remain unlisted. The Pincoin site was only registered in November 2017.

When there is possibly $600 million at stake, you just can’t beat a bit of old-fashioned due diligence, eh?

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