Portrait of an Exit Scam: Unraveling Crypto’s Biggest Mystery

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When Ameer and Raees Caji disappeared last week along with 69,000 bitcoins belonging to customers of their Africrypt exchange, they were continuing a time-honored crypto tradition. Since Bitcoin first appeared, there have been dozens and perhaps hundreds of “exit scams,” in which the heads of exchanges or token projects suddenly disappeared with user or investor funds.

One of the most notorious apparent “exit scams” was the collapse of Canadian exchange QuadrigaCX. In early 2019, the exchange disclosed, months after the fact, that founder Gerald Cotten had died of complications from Crohn’s disease while on a trip to India. His sudden death, according to the exchange, had cut off access to the “cold wallets” holding $145 million in customer tokens. Withdrawals were frozen and the firm eventually entered bankruptcy.

David Z. Morris is CoinDesk’s Chief Insights Columnist.

Angry customers and inquisitive journalists, naturally, did not take…

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