volume manipulation
Bitcoin,  Tether

BitForex accused of using Tether, wash trades to manipulate CoinMarketCap data

Never heard of BitForex? You’re not alone, but on Friday, they dominated Tether and Bitcoin trade volumes

Another day, another Tether controversy—and a new exchange is being accused of inflating trade volumes in the process.

On Friday afternoon Eastern Time, CoinMarketCap data showed that a tiny upstart exchange called BitForex was responsible for nearly $4.3 billion worth of tether transactions in 24 hours. That’s a shockingly high amount given that the average daily volume of tether has been $2.8 billion worth over the past 30 days. It also put BitForex in second place for bitcoin trading volume, more than eight times that of third place Binance.

Tether Market
Tether markets on Friday, August 3, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (via CoinMarketCap)

Such volume from a little exchange was very unusual and CoinMarketCap excluded BitForex’s data from its totals.

BitForex is an outfit registered in Seychelles but with a site that has Chinese as its default language. Among other things, it claims to be “the world’s leading digital asset trading platform,” though it launched just a couple of months ago and has only a couple of thousand Twitter followers. The exchange’s logo looks like a… um… well, judge for yourself:

BitForex
The BitForex logo looks like what they’ve been accused of doing to market data.

The surge in BitForex trades had some Twitter users scratching their heads:

Others, meanwhile, had warnings:

Several weeks ago, the crypto community started noticing strange spikes in trading volume from BitForex. It wasn’t just from trades in smaller cryptos that popped up on the exchange but also big currencies like bitcoin and ether. A site called Crypto Exchange Ranks, part of a group from Ukraine called Hacken, picked up on irregularities in mid-July:

“The number of messages in the Bitforex Telegram group is eight times higher than that of Hacken, but the velocity of messages is almost the same (the difference of 26 messages). At the same time, Kucoin TG group has 5.3K more members, but the number of messages per period is 4,5 times higher. The activity of the TG groups makes us think that BitForex uses bots and fake accounts with an aim to increase the total number of members.”

Coin Exchange Ranks estimated just 4,000 or 5,000 accounts at BitForex.

On Reddit, several commenters were also more than suspicious of Bitforex. They were quick to call it a con job.

“I can assert BitForex is 100% fake volumes,” posted kybarnet on July 21. “I look into making an account. Their order book only had $1,000 of outstanding orders. Nothing. Comparitively the $50,000 24 hr volume book has $5,000 outstanding orders.”

With so few accounts, BitForex could have boosted its transaction sizes using wash trades, argued Coin Exchange Ranks. The motive to do so would be account acquisition:

“BitForex has no wide, active, and loyal community in social networks that could ensure such a high trading volume. Therefore, it stands to reason that driving up fake 24h trading volumes is a more effective marketing technique than the fair nurturing of the users base through wide media presence and community management. This approach grants a platform a constant influx of high-quality referral traffic from CMC and avoids spending tangible budgets on paid advertising and PR, community building, and maintenance. In return, it enables an exchange to earn money by listing various tokens as a top exchange. 30 BTC for a spot on a TOP10 Exchange is an extremely beneficial deal for TGE startups, isn’t it?”

Some other big exchanges— notably, Bitfinex and Kraken—have been accused of allowing wash trades as well. Perhaps BitForex took advice from the title of the Cranberries’ first album, “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?”

 

[We miss you every day, Delores.]

Lawrence Lewitinn, CFA is editor in chief of Modern Consensus. Disclosure: Lewitinn owns no cryptocurrencies in his portfolio.