Tracking Counterfeit Cryptocurrency End-to-end
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Proceedings of the ACM on Measurement and Analysis of Computing Systems
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The production of counterfeit money has a long history. It refers to the creation of imitation currency that is produced without the legal sanction of government. With the growth of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, there is expanding evidence that counterfeit cryptocurrency has also appeared. In this paper, we empirically explore the presence of counterfeit cryptocurrencies on Ethereum and measure their impact. By analyzing over 190K ERC-20 tokens (or cryptocurrencies) on Ethereum, we have identified $2,117$ counterfeit tokens that target 94 of the 100 most popular cryptocurrencies. We perform an end-to-end characterization of the counterfeit token ecosystem, including their popularity, creators and holders, fraudulent behaviors and advertising channels. Through this, we have identified two types of scams related to counterfeit tokens and devised techniques to identify such scams. We observe that over 7,104 victims were deceived in these scams, and the overall financial loss sums to a minimum of \$ 17 million (74,271.7 ETH). Our findings demonstrate the urgency to identify counterfeit cryptocurrencies and mitigate this threat.