Twitter Scammer Exploits Sympathy with Fake Cancer Story to Sell NFTs and Vanish with Funds

In a shocking turn of events, Twitter users were left furious on May 31st after discovering a fraudster who pretended to have cancer in order to exploit the compassion of the online community. The scammer, operating under the username “Phoenix,” deceived users into purchasing NFTs (non-fungible tokens) before disappearing along with the funds.

It all began when the Twitter account named Phoenix claimed to be a cancer patient, stating their intention to create a pixel art NFT collection. The tweet quickly spread across social media platforms, gaining traction among influential individuals.

For instance, the account @LeviNotAckerman, with 13.6 thousand followers, shared Phoenix’s story, urging the community to purchase the “Pixel Penguin” NFTs to help raise funds for their supposed medical expenses. This Key Opinion Leader (KOL) claimed to have minted 10 NFTs and hoped that others would follow suit to support the aforementioned “artist.”

A Fictional Friend

On the morning of May 31st, Andrew Wang, a KOL with 189.7K followers, also posted a series of tweets promoting the Pixel Penguin NFT collection. According to Wang, his friend named Sarah was battling cancer and had decided to release the collection to cover her medical costs.

Wang’s tweet read: “I woke up today to see one of my friends trending on Twitter, @Hopeexist1. She made a collection to help herself battle cancer, and some awesome web3 people spotlighted her today, so I’d like to add to it. Her name is Sarah, and she’s been a pixel artist in our space for over a year now. This whole time she’s been getting chemotherapy for lacrimal gland cancer, and all of her sales have gone towards it. Most days she’s in the hospital, but when she gets a moment of free time…”

According to Wang, each NFT in the collection was priced at $13, with 20% of the profits being donated to charity organizations and the remainder used for Sarah’s treatment. The collection had been launched in February.

With a substantial following, Wang’s tweets garnered attention on Twitter. Shortly after, many users began minting Pixel Penguins to support Phoenix. Within a few hours, the Pixel Penguins were sold out and became a trending item on the OpenSea marketplace. On May 31st, the floor price rose to 0.07 ETH, equivalent to around $130.

However, some Twitter users discovered that the account was merely reselling artworks created by other artists, including Snooow. Web3 artist Arcanic emphasized that many scammers had employed similar tactics to attract attention from crypto users. Some individuals claimed that their wives had cancer, while others expressed their desire to escape from debt.

The Twitter account was deleted after widespread exposure of the scam. However, Phoenix managed to accumulate approximately 63.5 ETH ($119,000) before disappearing. According to blockchain analyst ZachXBT, these funds were transferred to different wallets and might have been sent to the cryptocurrency exchange OKX.

BenJammin, a former supporter of the project, expressed exhaustion regarding the scammers’ actions, stating, “As a community, we came together to support someone with a heartbreaking story.”

Arcanic also denounced the scam as “a heavy blow to those trying to do good” in the Web3 space. Despite the disappointment, he emphasized that the community should continue to show empathy and support for those around them.

Is the KOL Truly Innocent?

On the other hand, after the truth was revealed, numerous users criticized Andrew Wang. A few hours later, Wang posted another series of tweets, condemning the collection and apologizing for promoting Pixel Penguin. He stated, “I was not wise enough to evaluate the situation. Hearing such a heartbreaking story and seeing her artworks made it difficult for me to remain objective.”

Wang explained that he had spoken to someone claiming to be Sarah’s teacher before purchasing the NFTs. He expressed feeling hurt and deceived, admitting his mistake in sharing the scammer’s story. However, some people pointed out that Wang had been promoting Phoenix’s artwork since December 2022 in a series of other tweets. This raised suspicions that Wang was not simply a victim but potentially benefited from the scam.

“How did you verify her story? Most people probably minted NFTs based on your statements,” questioned ZachXBT.

Investments always carry inherent risks, and distinguishing genuine projects from scammers can be challenging for investors. Moreover, in the case of the Pixel Penguin story, the collection was created back in February, not recently. This is why influential figures can have a significant impact on community sentiment, and the disclaimer “this is not investment advice” can often be rendered meaningless.

The incident serves as a sobering reminder for social media users to exercise caution and skepticism, even in the face of heart-wrenching stories. As the Web3 space continues to evolve, maintaining a critical eye becomes essential to protect against exploitation and deceit.

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