Last month, former president and convicted felon Donald Trump announced that his campaign would accept donations in cryptocurrency. In the weeks that followed, the cybercrime detection firm Netcraft found dozens of scam websites seeking to target Trump supporters and swindle them out of their crypto, according to a report shared exclusively with WIRED.

Netcraft found that in the days leading up to the announcement, scammers registered domains with common misspellings, hoping to capture supporters intending to access One domain registered to was a near perfect replica of the actual Trump campaign website. And while the Trump campaign accepts donations via Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange, some of the scam websites instead appear to be using portals meant to look like Coingate, a blockchain and crypto payment processor.

“As a victim, the fact that the real campaign is using Coinbase payments rather than direct cryptocurrencies” wouldn’t be very obvious, says Rob Duncan, head of research at Netcraft. “The way it’s been advertised is ‘Donald Trump’s taking cryptocurrency donations,’ when actually that’s quite it’s a bit more subtle.”

A second surge of fake websites appeared immediately after Trump’s May 30 felony conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records to pay off the porn star Stormy Daniels. In the hours after his conviction, the campaign raised more than $34 million in donations. Cybercriminals seemed to anticipate this interest, and were ready to capitalize on the donations pouring into the Trump campaign in the wake of the verdict.

“Criminals like to use events like this, to base their scams on topical events, things that people are interested in, where people are more likely to click on links,” says Duncan. In the wake of the October 7 attacks and subsequent conflict in Palestine, Duncan says Netcraft identified several donation scams, targeting people on both sides of the conflict.

“They’re interested in getting cryptocurrency from anybody. And they’re not bothered about which political persuasion they might have,” says Duncan.

Duncan adds that through checking the blockchain, none of the scams seem to be successful yet, but he suspects that may be because they are relatively new and may not yet be active.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Cryptocurrencies can be particularly useful for criminals because they are largely unregulated and don’t have the same constraints that traditional financial institutions do. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2023 Internet Crime Report, crypto investment scams cost people some $3.94 billion. “Crypto is obviously a very good mechanism for criminals to use,” says Duncan. “There’s no way to reverse payments; once the money’s in the criminal’s wallet, it’s gone.”

Trump’s recent support of crypto is an about-face from his presidency. In 2019, Trump said he was “not a fan” of cryptocurrencies in a series of posts on X, then Twitter. “We have only one real currency in the USA … It is called the United States Dollar!” he posted at the time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *