Crypto scammers are everywhere these days. With crypto being such a trendy market, but with few people understanding how it works, there are plenty of scumbags trying to make a quick buck off the uninformed public. Back in the earlier days of crypto, though, there was one true OG of scamming. Her name is Ruja Ignatova, the Cryptoqueen, and she was responsible for one of the biggest scams of the 2010s: OneCoin.

This cryptocurrency launched in either 2014 or 2015 -- information on its founding is as shady as the business itself. What matters is that it was founded by Ruja Ignatova, who would become the charismatic personality that drove OneCoin. While she's been unveiled as a fraudster now, she was trusted when she started. She held a Ph.D. and very effectively presented herself as a financial genius. Ignatova's followers dubbed her the “Cryptoqueen” for her perceived knowledge of the market. 

Now, it may seem like crypto bros throwing around buzzwords are all part of some cyber money-worshipping cult, but with OneCoin that comparison is not just for laughs. At the center of the cult was Ignatova herself, who spread awareness of OneCoin through sold-out seminars

During these seminars, she would build up the idea that the banks had too much power, and that the only way to fight back was to invest in a decentralized currency, OneCoin. Implanting this battle between OneCoin and the financial establishment in the heads of potential investors helped create a following of OneCoin and Ignatova. Investors felt like they were part of a revolution, and they became fiercely loyal as a result.

Ignatova’s speeches were effective. OneCoin seminars were held across Europe, in the United States, China, even in Uganda. At its peak in 2017, OneCoin had three million investors, and it is estimated that they invested $15 billion into the cryptocurrency. However, in that same year, with obvious cracks in the OneCoin foundation, Ignatova vanished, and she has not been seen since. Behind the scenes, the U.S. federal government had charged her with fraud

Outside of being a series of the world’s worst seminars, OneCoin was just a Ponzi scheme. Instead of buying cryptocurrency as one may expect, what OneCoin investors were really buying was educational material. This could cost them thousands of dollars, and some people lost everything buying it. Investors were told that the material would allow them to mine OneCoin and ultimately make a profit. Instead, in true multi-level marketing fashion, those at the top made money, while everyone else lost whatever they invested. Those who owned OneCoin could not do anything with it

Despite their missing founder, OneCoin trudged on as authorities across the world cracked down on their scheme. In an increasingly unhinged move, OneCoin even hosted a beauty pageant in Romania

Some even believe that Ignatova, the true Ms. OneCoin, was at the pageant, disguised under layers of plastic surgery.

To this day, the Cryptoqueen is still missing. Her brother, Konstantin Ignatova, pleaded guilty to charges related to OneCoin in 2019. The OneCoin story serves as a cautionary tale of avoiding hype and never following a glorified TED Talk speaker who promises that you’ll make money through their program.

Top Image: OneCoin

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