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Three Essential Crypto Lessons Investors Can Learn from the OneCoin Scam

If Somebody Tells You Their Project’s the “Next Bitcoin” – Run the Other Way!

It is June 11, 2016. In London, “Dr. Ruja” takes to the stage in Wembley Arena, the UK’s premium concert venue. Flames shoot out of the stage as she enters, while “This Girl Is on Fire” by Alicia Keys blares on the sound system. Wearing a flowing red dress, Dr. Ruja tells the enthralled audience that OneCoin’s market cap is now second only to Bitcoin. In fact, she says, her protocol is the “Bitcoin Killer.”

“We don’t have far to go,” she enthuses. And if everyone just keeps on investing their money, “in two years, nobody will speak about Bitcoin anymore.”

While there is undoubtedly some competition among crypto communities – there are bitcoin-only folks like the Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Ethereum advocates who champion their favorite coin among all others. But when it comes to token founders, animosity is rare. Even crypto celebs like Vitalik Buterin, the Ethereum co-founder and Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, the founder of Binance Coin, have admitted to holding Bitcoin and other tokens.

Solana is billed by proponents as an Ethereum “killer,” but the co-founder of the protocol, Raj Gokal, has shunned this kind of label.

Real high-worth protocols are not interested in being the only show in town. There is plenty of space in the industry for successful protocols and those trying to “catch” BTC and the rest are likely making pie-in-the-sky promises aimed at nothing more than filling their pockets with your cash.

Beware Charismatic “Leaders” – and Remember Crypto’s Supposed to Be Decentralized

Dr. Ruja was ostensibly the perfect antithesis to the Vitalik Buterins of this world. While the latter is a bookish, understated, nerdy, intellectual type, Dj. Ruja was the opposite: She was the last word in charm.

And while Buterin is only a cog in the Ethereum machine, Dr. Ruja was anything but. She actively sought out the limelight, making incredible promises of fabulous wealth.

But in the real crypto sphere, this kind of focal point is almost always a bad sign. Crypto’s big selling point is its decentralized nature – a factor that makes a protocol almost indestructible after it has grown to a certain size. The less you hear about the founder of a protocol, and the more you hear about a large community of busy developers’ plans to improve the network, the better.

Few people have dug up as much dirt on this scam as the British journalist Jamie Bartlett – the creator of the most famous exposé of OneCoin yet: the BBC’s “Missing Cryptoqueen” podcast. In summing up Dr. Ruja, Bartlett wrote that “most frustratingly of all, she correctly guessed that by the time we realized [the extent of her scam], she’d be gone, along with the money.”

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