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I have an Instagram account where I post some content from time to time. Recently, I've been posting some images I created via AI, which I indicate in every post.

Today, I received a message where someone offers to purchase two of those images as NFTs, 7 ETH for each. I made the calculations, and that seems an absurd amount of money.

I'm 99.9% sure this is a scam, but as I'm not knowledgeable with anything about cryptos or NFTs, I fail to see how can it work or what risks it poses for me or my money. Also, while I've been googling it for a bit, everything I found explains me about the risks of buying NFTs or crypto, but nothing about selling it. Thus, I hoped you could give me some light about what I would be exposing myself if I were to accept his offer or something.

Update: I answered him asking for more info (which images and how to do the transaction), trying to understand his intentions, but being aware about not clicking any link, not downloading anything, not sharing any personal info. Here's what I got:

  • He tells me to "mint" the images on OpenSea. He doesn't provide any link for it, so I don't see any risk of phishing or something here. I googled about the platform, and scams related with it, and it seems more or less fair game, I think, as long as you are careful.

  • He tells me to set the price to 7 ETH and send him the link to buy it. Again, I would be doing this myself, so I see no option to "I tell you 7 ETH but I bid 7 Dogecoins which are worth far less". I would stay vigilant for it, anyway.

  • Again, he is not asking me to click on any link, to download a file, or to send him personal information or money. Any of these would make me block him imediately.

I would consider these green flags, but again, I'm not knowledgeable on the subject so I'm not sure about it. The apparent red flags (apart for the obvious "too good to be true", which it was striked me at first as a scam) are:

  • He now seems to try to instigate a sentiment of urgency on me ("mint them now", "I'll buy them now") which he didn't do before.
  • Some of his messages seem to come from a bot? He seems to repeat the same message or the same info a lot of times. I didn't noticed this when first posting the question as I didn't talked him yet.
  • The instagram account seems fake. 5 recent publications all on the same date, and no relevant info about him.

Again, I have no doubt this is a scam. But I completely fail to see what risks does it entail for me, the most it seems I can lose are two images that are not worth actually anything for me. And not understanding it makes me uncomfortable, so any clue you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

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    You might get a better answer on Etherium.SE. Anyway, he might want the NFT for some other scam and so is willing to overpay you to get them quickly.
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 13:49
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    As far as I'm concerned, any offer of cryptocurrency should be treated with extreme suspicion. Request for cryptocurrency likewise, come to think of it.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 13:56
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    Even with your update we still don't have enough information to tell you where the scam is. There are an astounding number of scam mechanisms. Many of them involve gradually engaging the mark's enthusiasm because the trade looks scam-proof, then introducing some small "detail" at the last minute, counting on the mark's enthusiasm and confidence to skip really checking out the ramifications of the detail. Some of these schemes are very clever and you won't be able to figure it out until it's too late (if then). The more you correspond with them the more chances they have to plant the barb. Commented May 7, 2023 at 0:56
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    For example, they could tell you to use a certain site to buy ethereum with a credit card, but the site is just a scam that steals your credit card info. Commented May 9, 2023 at 10:18
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    "I am having trouble sending the ETH using that link, give me your (personal info) and I'll initiate the transaction from your side" or some such.
    – stannius
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 17:40

3 Answers 3

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Minting NFTs can be rather expensive: Along with listing fees and commissions, your costs could range anywhere from $0.01 to $1000.. Now, are they planning on getting some of that money you spend minting the NFTs? Probably not. Their plan could be to send you to a fake OpenSea website, or maybe they get a referral fee, etc., but my guess would be that it's more likely that this is a "foot in the door strategy". A major goal of scammers in the beginning is to get the mark to spend money. Any amount of money. Preferably sending it to the scammer, but if they send it elsewhere, that's also useful. This is based on several psychological principles:

Loss aversion/sunk cost While the opportunity cost of passing on some apparently easy money can be a strong motivator through FOMO, even more of a motivator is an actual cost of money that you've spent. Once you spend money, not continuing will mean realizing a loss. The opportunity will no longer be some theoretical money that you can ignore without it affecting your life, it will be your money that you're trying to get back.

Relative cost If the scammer can get you to spend $2000 on gas fees, then you spending $200 on some further random fee that "came up" seems like not that big an amount in comparison.

Cognitive dissonance If past-you spent some money, then present-you not spending money would mean that present-you is disagreeing with past-you. Present-you is saying that past-you was wrong and fell for a scam. People have a psychological need to feel like they have a consistent mind, and going against their previous decisions, or perceived previous decisions, causes distress. And people don't like admitting that they were wrong. When people get deep into a scam, they'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to stave off admitting that they've been scammed.

So, this is speculation, but my guess is that this person will ask you to spend several hundred dollars on gas fees. Then something will come up, and they'll be some transaction fee that you'll have to pay $10 or so for. Then something else will come up that you have to pay slightly more for, and on and on.

A dirty little secret about NFTs that a lot of people don't seem to understand is that NFTs and IRL ownership have nothing to do with each other. There's absolutely nothing stopping me from minting an NFT off the Mona Lisa, or a picture of Tom Holland as Spider-Man, or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Sure, I would get into legal trouble for doing so, but there's nothing in the blockchain stopping me.

So one has to wonder why this person is asking you to mint the NFTs, rather than giving you some ETH in exchange for your blessing to mint them. At the very least, they should be willing to pay you a deposit to cover your gas fees, with you agreeing that if you renege and don't mint the NFTs, you grant them a license to mint the NFTs and keep them for themselves. I suppose, given that the whole NFT market is built off perceived value rather than objective value to begin with, an NFT directly minted by the creator would be valued greater than one licensed by the creator, but it still seems a bit odd to me.

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Just thought I add my 2 cents. Opensea allows you to create an account and upload the art without having to pay any fees. They do this because the buyer of your art is the one that ends up paying the gas fee so that the transaction is recorded in a block on the blockchain. I have had several scammers emailing me about buying my art for 7ETH which is absurd when I have it listed for .02 ETH. Because I know what I'm doing (been in crypto since 2016) the scammer will present a problem, stating something like my transaction is tied up because you don't have enough ETH to cover gas. Well, this is not true. The blockchain doesn't work like a credit card where transactions are just pending, it's either mined/confirmed or it fails. The goal is to get you to email so they can phish you or get you to scan a QR code. Basically, they're trying to rob you for whatever they can get. The moral of the story is if it's too good to be true, 99.99999% of the time it always is.

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If you look at the other questions tagged "scam", that will give you a basic education in the most common forms of abuse -- bounced-check "overpayment" schemes, pay-to-play schemes, money laundering. Websearch, especially if government sites describing scams, will find others.

In the end, they all boil down to getting you to send money to the scammer or their associate. Any unnecessary complications in the transaction, including insisting on a specific cryptocurrency, should be treated with extreme suspicion. Any unreasonably large payment likewise, as that is probably an attempt to make you greedy enough to overlook the warning signs.

I'll point out that most cryptocurrency requires a certain amount of up-front cost to get an account set up so you can receive it and use it. So even if this was legit, unless it was a crypto I was already using I'd tell them no and list the forms of payment I would accept.

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