What is crypto shilling? What’s the effect of crypto shilling and how to be aware of it? How can one identify a crypto shilling scam? Dive in to find the answers to all these questions!

The crypto ecosystem is growing at a staggering pace, contrary to general assumptions emerging from the uncertainty of crypto assets. However, the world of crypto has expanded beyond the scope of Bitcoin, and you can witness many interesting developments. For example, new classes of digital assets and decentralized finance services are some examples of the growth of crypto.

However, it is also important to stay careful of a crypto shilling, which is one of the most lucrative traps for crypto owners and investors. Is shilling something similar to the process of minting cryptocurrencies? What is shilling when it comes to cryptocurrencies? What is the impact of shilling in the world of cryptocurrencies? Any beginner would have these questions about a shilling in crypto, just like you. Let us find the answers with an introduction to a shilling in cryptocurrencies in the following post. 

Want to become a Cryptocurrency expert? Enroll Now in Cryptocurrency Fundamentals Course

What is Crypto Shilling?

The obvious highlight at the beginning of a cryptocurrency shilling guide would focus on its definition. The term ‘shilling’ has become a notable phenomenon in the world of crypto since the mainstream adoption of crypto trading. Mainstream crypto trading has opened up the prospects for advertising cryptocurrencies on television and radio rather than the troublesome ads and website banners. So, what is shilling in cryptocurrencies? Crypto shilling or pumping is basically a method of implicit or covert advertising in which a reputed individual attempts to create hype around cryptocurrencies on different online and social media platforms. 

Generally, the reputed individual claims that they endorse the crypto with unpaid advertising, although they receive payment for advertising the crypto. The good thing is that you can identify the people who are shilling or shills from genuine crypto owners. Think of the times when you came across lines such as “get your hands on the best ever cryptocurrency” or “buy the dip before you are in the dip.” 

At the same time, you must have noticed enthusiastic influencers coaxing others to buy a specific cryptocurrency claiming an imminent rise in its prices. In most cases, the primary goal of shilling in crypto focuses on creating hype around a specific cryptocurrency. However, malicious agents can use shilling for rug pulls after elevating the prices of the cryptocurrency project by increasing demand and supply. 

Get familiar with the terms related to cryptocurrency with Cryptocurrency Flashcards

Origins of Shilling

The notorious implications associated with the crypto shilling meaning are one of the first things which draw attention. However, it is important to note how the term shilling emerged as a relevant choice for a malicious event in crypto. Early instances of the term “shilling” in history bring the early American coin to the discussion. On the other hand, shilling also comes with a unique meaning when applied to casinos. 

A shill in a casino is basically an individual employed by the casino itself. Now, the casino makes the shill win again and again so that the spectators would believe that they can also win. The general assumption points out that you are more likely to lose in a casino than win. Therefore, the casino has better chances of winning every time a player joins the table, eluded by a shill’s antics.

Take this process and apply shilling in crypto, and you can notice how popular celebrities can work as shills and fool investors into buying a specific cryptocurrency in large numbers. Most important of all, the process of shilling relies a lot on crowd psychology and tapping into it for obtaining positive desired responses. 

The internet has emerged as one of the healthy pastures for crypto-pumping scams, particularly on large social media platforms. For example, Facebook and Instagram have millions of active users worldwide at any instance of time. Therefore, crypto developers can leverage the services of celebrities to endorse a cryptocurrency without any viable economic potential. 

Want to get an in-depth understanding of crypto fundamentals, trading and investing strategies? Enroll Now in Crypto Fundamentals, Trading And Investing Course.

Examples of Cryptocurrency Shilling

The detailed overview of answers to “What is crypto shilling?” would turn the focus of the discussion towards examples. Let us start with a practical example of how shilling works in cryptocurrencies. Imagine that you have a new cryptocurrency project called XYZ, which is priced at almost $1 right now. 

Now, you find a celebrity continuously talking about how XYZ is the next big thing for crypto investors. You try to check whether the celebrity is faking it, and you verify the number of XYZ coins they have. As a matter of fact, you find out that they have quite a hefty amount of the project’s coins. Quite some crypto influencer you have been following, right? 

However, the trick for crypto shilling starts here! Now that you know that the celebrity influencer is endorsing the crypto project with good intent, you are more likely to purchase a reasonable amount of the cryptocurrency. The same can be applicable in the case of many other people following the celebrity. Think of the massive demand and supply mechanics that come into play when many people are lining up for a single cryptocurrency

The price of the cryptocurrency rises up, and now the celebrities or supposed “crypto endorsers” can sell their holdings for profits. The speculation-based economic bubble, due to price rise, works in favor of the shills, and they cash out of the bubble before it bursts. Finally, you will be left with a few cryptocurrencies or tokens without any value.

Want to know the answers to some of the commonly asked questions about cryptocurrency? Check the detailed guide on Frequently Asked Questions About Cryptocurrency 

Has Anyone Tried Shilling?

Speaking of the examples of cryptocurrency shilling, it is important to look for a real-world example. First of all, it is important to note that shilling is illegal irrespective of the crypto space. The first-ever example of crypto shilling is evident in the case of John David McAfee, the founder of the first commercial anti-virus software. 

He was arrested in 2020 under the charges of shilling Initial Coin Offerings. The cybersecurity expert allegedly shilled almost 8 ICOs and made almost $23 million from the whole process. The SEC involved McAfee in a lawsuit for allegedly lying to investors about being a technical advisor in the ICOs. 

Subsequently, the ICO hype engine created the impression that the companies were receiving technical assistance from McAfee. On the other hand, his tweets appeared as paid promotions. McAfee also cashed out some other worthless tokens from the ICOs after being caught in the press. What did you learn about a shilling in crypto from the example of John McAfee?

  • People never had any doubts about their technical expertise of McAfee and believed his endorsements. 
  • John McAfee used social media, primarily Twitter, to ensure that his message reached more people. 
  • McAfee also convinced investors to purchase the worthless cryptocurrencies from the ICOs, for the purpose of selling them off afterward. 

Deeply concerned with the common threats to cryptocurrency and cryptocurrency security? Check the detailed guide Now on Cryptocurrency Security

Are All Crypto Promotions a Part of Shilling?

No, you should notice the difference between crypto shilling meaning and the process of crypto promotions. The intent of shilling in cryptocurrencies and crypto promotions are completely different. However, you can notice many differences between genuine crypto promotions and shilling projects in cryptocurrencies. 

Genuine crypto promoters vouching for a cryptocurrency project would showcase all signs that they are in for the long run. Genuine promoters never use pretentious advertisements or deceptive endorsements. On the contrary, authentic crypto marketers would maintain complete transparency regarding the details of financial incentives. 

The behavior of shills is one of the prominent highlights of identifying the instances of crypto pumping in a new project. Shilling basically aims to capitalize on the crowd psychology of the crowd by fooling people into purchasing tokens, which don’t carry any practical value. The shills spearheading such scams generally have their own exit plan, which they put into action when people find out about the scam. 

On top of it, shills are always the loudest ones in the room, ranting endlessly about the project they endorse. A genuine cryptocurrency enthusiast or evangelist would never try to sell you something. On the contrary, they would try to educate you about the different aspects of cryptocurrency projects.

How Can I Identify Crypto Shilling Scams?

The difference between genuine crypto promotions and cryptocurrency shilling shows that financial incentives can corrupt the crypto landscape. However, you should know when to identify a shilling scam so that you don’t miss genuine crypto projects. Here are some of the critical situations you should watch out for identifying shilling scams in cryptocurrencies. 

  • Influencers

The first category of people you should stay away from is the influencers. Remember that all the influencers on your Instagram feed are not all you have for information on cryptocurrency. Crypto advertising has shifted from web media to mainstream media in recent times. As a result, celebrities without any association with the crypto space can also put their name on a project and endorse it. 

Interestingly, you can spot a fake influencer from a real one and discover whether it is a crypto-shilling scam. If celebrities actively encourage investors to participate in the project, they must have comprehensive knowledge about the project. On the other hand, if the celebrity cannot showcase the reasons for supporting the project, then you must steer clear of the project. 

  • Enthusiastic Marketers

You might also come across individuals with promising levels of expertise in marketing, albeit without exceptional tech expertise. Such shills can invest in a token and use their marketing expertise to sell off the token. Once they have successfully encouraged a lot of investors to purchase the cryptocurrency, the shills can capitalize on the increased prices of the tokens. The shills sell out the project and leave the investors in the dark. You can identify the possibilities of shilling in crypto when the project developers or founders cannot tell you about the project’s use cases. 

  • Excited Founders or Team Members

Any individual would want to see their business achieve the heights of success. The founders and team members behind a cryptocurrency project would obviously work on enticing new investors by advertising the project. However, you can look up the crypto shilling meaning and discover how the advertisements can turn into shillings. 

Generally, developers or founders behind new cryptocurrency projects have a clear vision for the project alongside a planned future roadmap. On the other hand, shills don’t have any documentation for their whitepaper or future roadmap. As a result, you are likely to invest in a project without any focus or function. There is nothing wrong with promoting your crypto project. However, you must find whether the founders or team members are overselling the project.

Build your identity as a certified blockchain expert with 101 Blockchains’ Blockchain Certifications designed to provide enhanced career prospects.


The final overview regarding crypto shilling suggests that crypto investors must follow security best practices at all times. As the world witnessed new developments in the crypto space with the introduction of new products, shilling has emerged as a duping mechanism. It serves as a strong foundation for rug pull scams centered on creating hype for a new cryptocurrency project. 

Once the project gains hype and investors start pouring in, the value of the cryptocurrency rises. Now, the founders or developers can cash out the tokens at higher pricing and leave the investors with valueless coins. Learn how to identify shilling scams in cryptocurrencies and stay safe.

Unlock your career with 101 Blockchains' Learning Programs

*Disclaimer: The article should not be taken as, and is not intended to provide any investment advice. Claims made in this article do not constitute investment advice and should not be taken as such. 101 Blockchains shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this article. Do your own research!