What is a Rug Puller in Crypto and How Do You Spot One?

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By Connor
Estimated reading: 5mins
rug puller

The explosive growth of decentralized finance has opened new opportunities for scammers to trick unsuspecting investors. One rising threat crypto newbies face is the "rug pull" - a brazen scam that has robbed victims of billions.

This guide will explain what a rug pull is, whether they are illegal, how to spot rug pullers early, and steps you can take to avoid losing your hard-earned money in a blink.

What is a Crypto Rug Pull?

A "rug pull" refers to when crypto developers artificially create hype and FOMO for a new token before pulling the rug out from under investors by stealing liquidity and abandoning the project.

The scammers work to aggressively market their new coin, spreading lies and false promises of overnight riches to lure in victims. They'll also utilize tricks like locking up liquidity to simulate value and signal legitimacy.

Once enough victims buy in and the token value spikes, the rug pullers cash out by immediately dumping their tokens for a big payday. With liquidity ravaged, the token price utterly collapses as victims are left holding worthless bags.

Are Crypto Rug Pulls Illegal?

While morally criminal, rug pulls often operate in legal gray areas since cryptocurrency markets remain lightly regulated. Scammers can disguise their schemes enough to avoid outright securities fraud.

However, regulators like the SEC are ramping up efforts to prosecute rug pulls under existing laws. Potential violations include:

  • Securities and Exchange Laws - Selling unregistered securities (the tokens) directly to consumers.
  • False Advertising - Making misleading claims about token utility to drum up investment.
  • Wire Fraud - Using the internet and crypto to perpetrate fraud schemes.
  • Money Laundering - Cashing out and obscuring the trail of illicitly gained funds.

So while crypto scams are often creatively structured to be just vague enough to evade enforcement, increased legal risk exists for rug pull creators. But regulations still lag behind the novel ways schemers hatch crypto fraud schemes.

How to Identify a Potential Rug Pull

Learning the red flags associated with rug pull schemes can help you steer clear of honeypot scams:

  • Anonymous Teams - No doxxed developers or leadership to hold accountable.
  • Too Good to Be True - Outrageous promises of 100x gains or high assured staking yields.
  • Fake Roadmaps -Detailed near-term plans but vague long-term vision.
  • Odd Tokenomics - Tricks like high taxes make it hard to cash out but easy for creators to dump.
  • Influencer Shilling - Lots of influencer hype but few organic investors or community.
  • Bot Followers - Project appears popular on social media but engagement looks fake.
  • Locked Liquidity - Liquidity locked short-term to project safety but dumped quickly.
  • No Audit - Contract not certified safe by reputable auditors.

Scrutinize projects thoroughly rather than blindly chasing overnight gain promises. Legitimate developers put in the hard work to build a long-term community.

How to Avoid Losing Money in a Rug Pull

crypto rug pull

With cryptoscams proliferating, smart crypto investors take steps to minimize risk:

  • Vet Extensively - Don't invest in projects you don't fully understand. Research the team, contract audit status, tokenomics, roadmap and community.
  • Avoid "Too Good to Be True" - Any project guaranteeing massive gains is likely a scam. Safe annualized returns are in the single digits.
  • Don't FOMO In - Rug pulls rely on building false hype and FOMO. Don't fall for "act fast before you miss out!" pressures.
  • Diversify - Don't overweight wallet with one unproven asset. Stick to established projects for most holdings.
  • Monitor Red Flags - Watch for shady behaviors like founders disappearing after launch. Don't wait around if it looks like a scam.

As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Protect your portfolio by steering clear of risky gambles.

Did Safemoon Rug Pull? Controversy Explained

Safemoon became one of the more controversial cryptos after allegations surfaced its founders secretly rug pulled. Critics pointed to red flags:

  • Founders abruptly left just months after launch. One cited "stress" and moved abroad.
  • Strange tokenomics made it easy for creators to sell but hard for others.
  • Promises like building a cryptocurrency exchange never materialized.
  • Despite hype, the token price since inception has only declined as liquidity dried up.

However, supporters counter that Safemoon remains actively developed by its community. They argue the founders did not "run off" with funds but simply cashed out some profits.

The Safemoon saga highlights the complexity of identifying real rug pulls in crypto's mixed regulatory space. As always, only invest based on fundamentals - not influencer hype or promises alone.


The accelerating world of crypto holds great promise but also great risks as scam artists proliferate. But armed with the right knowledge, retail investors can avoid traps like rug pulls.

Steer clear of shady projects with anonymous teams overpromising overnight riches - no matter how glossy their marketing. And never bet more than you can afford to lose in speculative assets.

Slow and steady responsible investing remains the wisest path to navigating crypto safely. With caution and care, you can sidestep minefields and work towards your long-term crypto investment goals.

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Disclaimer:Please note that nothing on this website constitutes financial advice. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided on this website is accurate, individuals must not rely on this information to make a financial or investment decision. Before making any decision, we strongly recommend you consult a qualified professional who should take into account your specific investment objectives, financial situation and individual needs.

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Connor is a US-based digital marketer and writer. He has a diverse military and academic background, but developed a passion over the years for blockchain and DeFi because of their potential to provide censorship resistance and financial freedom. Connor is dedicated to educating and inspiring others in the space, and is an active member and investor in the Ethereum, Hex, and PulseChain communities.

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