Guide: How To Safely Invest in Crypto, NFTs and Digital Assets

Steve Huff
Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
crypto coins
Photo by Quantitatives on Unsplash

With the continually surging popularity of cryptocurrencies and NFTs, there has been an increase in scams targeting unsuspecting consumers. Even “ crypto winter” hasn’t slowed grifters looking to make big bucks by ripping off crypto and non-fungible token enthusiasts. In an August report, blockchain analytics firm Elliptic noted that investors had lost $100 million to NFT scams between July 2021 and July 2022. That was pocket change compared to cryptocurrency thefts—also in August, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis reported $1.6 billion in total crypto losses from hackers attacking services designed to help investors transfer digital assets from one network to another.

Moneymaking potential in cryptocurrencies and NFTs is touted across the web, but the potential for digital highway robbery is just as great. That’s why it’s a good idea to armor yourself with information about how to avoid the many dangerous dark alleyways found along the blockchain’s supposed paths to wealth.

Scams can take many forms, from fake investment opportunities to phishing attacks. For example, “Web 3 Is Going Just Great” reports that in May 2022, a crypto project was launched with the title “Day of Defeat.” The project's developers called it a “radical social experiment token” that promised, “to give holders 10,000,000X PRICE INCREASE.” This meant anyone who purchased $1 of the token would receive massive rewards.

By the time the token’s price plummeted by 96%, investors had purchased $1.35 million worth of coins. Unfortunately, the scammers took all the liquid assets with them. It was a classic “ rug pull.” That’s an apt term to describe what happens when investors are lured to a new crypto investment opportunity only to have the developer pull out and usually vanish—websites and social media accounts deleted or locked. Rug pulls aren’t that new, but crypto’s widespread adoption has provided plenty of opportunities for the sufficiently motivated to create new ones.

In June 2022, actor Seth Green fell prey to a classic phishing scam focused on his Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFTs. After Green bought legit Bored Apes, someone sent him a phishing email disguised as an alert about sketchy activity on his OpenSea account, where his apes were stored. He followed a link from the message to a site that looked enough like OpenSea to fool the Robot Chicken co-creator into typing in his login information. But as is usually the case with a phishing scam, Green’s info was sent to a command and control server where it was accessible to whoever built the fake login page.

In no time, hackers had grabbed some of Green’s most valuable NFTs and sold them to another account. As a result, the actor had to pay at least $260,000 to get his Bored Apes back.

While Seth Green was getting in on the latest thing—as Hollywood creators like to do—you can take steps to reduce your risk of falling into the trap that ensnared him.

Here are six to start:

Do your research

person using MacBook proPhoto by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Before spending a dime, examine the account offering the NFT or tokens. Does the marketplace offer verification? Opensea, for example, verifies accounts with a blue checkmark. It requires specific benchmarks for verification, stating that an account that owns “collections with at least 75 ETH of volume sold” may qualify if they also “meet other criteria like minimum activity levels and social presence.” Ensure you’re buying from a seller with a checkmark.

Use reputable platforms

Bitcoin wallet in 3D. Feel free to contact me through email Check out my previous collections “Top Cryptocurrencies” and "Elon Musk" . Photo by Mariia Shalabaieva on Unsplash

Crypto and NFT purchases generally require setting up a digital wallet. To that end, there are plenty of sites offering crypto wallet functions. Still, only the ones that have been around for a few years (Coinbase, for example, launched in 2012) and have real name recognition can guarantee that they at least take security very seriously. Known and generally reliable sites offering wallets include Coinbase, Trezor, Metamask,, and Ledger. Of course, those aren’t the only ones; they’re a good place to start.

Use the wallet’s security settings wisely

two pink padlock on pink surfacePhoto by FLY:D on Unsplash

Good wallets have the kind of security protocols we might expect from our banks or email accounts. For example, using two-factor authentication is a must, especially if you don’t want to end up paying through the nose for apes you’d already purchased, like Seth Green.

Look for rug-pull red flags

woman sitting on bed with MacBook on lapPhoto by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

These include mysterious, anonymous developers. If you research projects on Twitter, for example, there are frequent mentions of “doxxed” developers. In this context, doxxed just means the devs are telling potential investors who they are, likely with an open, transparent, and consistent web presence that goes back further than just a few months. Be wary of new social accounts and examine websites and white papers describing the project and its purpose. If they are vague or the sites seem thrown together (multiple pages with no content or TBAs), be very wary.

Be suspicious of 'pie in the sky' promises regarding profits

10 and 20 us dollar billPhoto by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

If you refer back to “Day of Defeat,” the project that rooked investors to the tune of $1.35 million, one of the easiest methods of spotting a possible scam is right there—the promise that those who purchased tokens would see a 10,000,000X increase in price. CoinTelegraph puts it succinctly in their recommendations about taking care with crypto and NFTs: “If the yields for a new coin seem suspiciously high, but it doesn’t turn out to be a rug pull, it’s likely a Ponzi scheme.”

Look for skewed numbers

turned on monitoring screenPhoto by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash

According to Matthew Callahan—founder and CEO of Delphi, a Web3 consulting agency—other red flags to watch out for include projects where the number of “Twitter and Discord follower numbers seem disproportionate to their engagement.” That is, small numbers of users contrasted with active, vocal engagement can suggest sock puppetry at work. Callahan also suggests that “advertising the project on Twitter/Instagram” could be a red flag. Why? A paid ad campaign could indicate an attempt to obscure a lack of organic engagement. The account isn’t relying on word of mouth so much as paid views, which artificially boosts its profile, obscuring the fact that there’s “no real community engagement on social platforms.”

Frankly, there is still no surefire way to avoid all online scams. The key is to be a little paranoid, ultimately. Keep your digital head on a swivel, check all corners, and don’t go big at the start. Extra vigilance will improve your chances of not getting scammed into oblivion.

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Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable
Evan Xie

The original dream of streaming was all of the content you love, easily accessible on your TV or computer at any time, at a reasonable price. Sadly, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have come together over the last decade or so to recognize that this isn’t really economically viable. Instead, the streaming marketplace is slowly transforming into something approximating Cable Television But Online.

It’s very expensive to make the kinds of shows that generate the kind of enthusiasm and excitement from global audiences that drives the growth of streaming platforms. For every international hit like “Squid Game” or “Money Heist,” Netflix produced dozens of other shows whose titles you have definitely forgotten about.

The marketplace for new TV has become so massively competitive, and the streaming landscape so oversaturated, even relatively popular shows with passionate fanbases that generate real enthusiasm and acclaim from critics often struggle to survive. Disney+ canceled Luscasfilm’s “Willow” after just one season this week, despite being based on a hit Ron Howard film and receiving an 83% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Amazon dropped the mystery drama “Three Pines” after one season as well this week, which starred Alfred Molina, also received positive reviews, and is based on a popular series of detective novels.

Even the new season of “The Mandalorian” is off to a sluggish start compared to its previous two Disney+ seasons, and Pedro Pascal is basically the most popular person in America right now.

Now that major players like Netflix, Disney+, and WB Discovery’s HBO Max have entered most of the big international markets, and bombarded consumers there with marketing and promotional efforts, onboarding of new subscribers inevitably has slowed. Combine that with inflation and other economic concerns, and you have a recipe for austerity and belt-tightening among the big streamers that’s virtually guaranteed to turn the smorgasbord of Peak TV into a more conservative a la carte offering. Lots of stuff you like, sure, but in smaller portions.

While Netflix once made its famed billion-dollar mega-deals with top-name creators, now it balks when writer/director Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “The Holiday”) asks for $150 million to pay her cast of A-list actors. Her latest romantic comedy will likely move over to Warner Bros., which can open the film in theaters and hopefully recoup Scarlett Johansson and Michael Fassbender’s salaries rather than just spending the money and hoping it lingers longer in the public consciousness than “The Gray Man.”

CNET did the math last month and determined that it’s still cheaper to choose a few subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime over a conventional cable TV package by an average of about $30 per month (provided you don’t include the cost of internet service itself). But that means picking and choosing your favorite platforms, as once you start adding all the major offerings out there, the prices add up quickly. (And those are just the biggest services from major Hollywood studios and media companies, let alone smaller, more specialized offerings.) Any kind of cable replacement or live TV streaming platform makes the cost essentially comparable to an old-school cable TV package, around $100 a month or more.

So called FAST, or Free Ad-supported Streaming TV services, have become a popular alternative to paid streaming platforms, with Fox’s Tubi making its first-ever appearance on Nielsen’s monthly platform rankings just last month. (It’s now more popular than the first FAST service to appear on the chart, Paramount Global’s Pluto TV.) According to Nielsen, Tubi now accounts for around 1% of all TV viewing in the US, and its model of 24/7 themed channels supported by semi-frequent ad breaks couldn’t resemble cable television anymore if it tried.

Services like Tubi and Pluto stand to benefit significantly from the new streaming paradigm, and not just from fatigued consumers tired of paying for more content. Cast-off shows and films from bigger streamers like HBO Max often find their way to ad-supported platforms, where they can start bringing in revenue for their original studios and producers. The infamous HBO Max shows like “The Nevers” and “Westworld” that WBD controversially pulled from the HBO Max service can now be found on Tubi or The Roku Channel.

HBO Max’s recently-canceled reality dating series “FBoy Island” has also found a new home, but it’s not on any streaming platform. Season 3 will air on TV’s The CW, along with a new spinoff series called (wait for it) “FGirl Island.” So in at least some ways, “30 Rock” was right: technology really IS cyclical.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base
Evan Xie

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

Another day, another update in the unending saga that is the potential TikTok ban.

The latest: separate from the various bills proposing a ban, the Biden administration has been in talks with TikTok since September to try and find a solution. Now, having thrown its support behind Senator MarkWarner’s bill, the White House is demanding TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sell its stakes in the company to avoid a ban. This would be a major blow to the business, as TikTok alone is worth between $40 billion and $50 billion—a significant portion of ByteDance’s $220 billion value.

Clearly, TikTok faces an uphill battle as its CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. But other social media companies are likely looking forward to seeing their primary competitor go—and are positioning themselves as the best replacement for migrating users.


Last year, The Washington Post reported that Meta paid a consulting firm to plant negative stories about TikTok. Now, Meta is reaping the benefits of TikTok’s downfall, with its shares rising 3% after the White House told TikTok to leave ByteDance. But this initial boost means nothing if the company can’t entice creators and viewers to Instagram and Facebook. And it doesn’t look promising in that regard.

Having waffled between pushing its short-form videos, called Reels, and de-prioritizing them in the algorithm, Instagram announced last week that it would no longer offer monetary bonuses to creators making Reels. This might be because of TikTok’s imminent ban. After all, the program was initially meant to convince TikTok creators to use Instagram—an issue that won’t be as pressing if TikTok users have no choice but to find another platform.


Alternatively, Snap is doing the opposite and luring creators with an ad revenue-sharing program. First launched in 2022, creators are now actively boasting about big earnings from the program, which provides 50% of ad revenue from videos. Snapchat is clearly still trying to win over users with new tech like its OpenAI chatbot, which it launched last month. But it's best bet to woo the TikTok crowd is through its new Sounds features, which suggest audio for different lenses and will match montage videos to a song’s rhythm. Audio clips are crucial to TikTok’s platform, so focusing on integrating songs into content will likely appeal to users looking to recreate that experience.


With its short-form ad revenue-sharing program, YouTube Shorts has already lured over TikTok creators. It's even gotten major stars like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift to promote music on Shorts. This is likely where YouTube has the best bet of taking TikTok’s audience. Since TikTok has become deeply intertwined with the music industry, Shorts might be primed to take its spot. And with its new feature that creates compiles all the videos using a specific song, Shorts is likely hoping to capture musicians looking to promote their work.


The most blatant attempt at seducing TikTok users, however, comes from Triller, which launched a portal for people to move their videos from TikTok to its platform. It’s simple, but likely the most effective tactic—and one that other short-form video platforms should try to replicate. With TikTok users worried about losing their backlog of content, this not only lets users archive but also bolsters Triller’s content offerings. The problem, of course, is that Triller isn’t nearly as well known as the other platforms also trying to capture TikTok users. Still, those who are in the know will likely find this option easier than manually re-uploading content to other sites.

It's likely that many of these platforms will see a momentary boost if the TikTok ban goes through. But all of these companies need to ensure that users coming from TikTok actually stay on their platforms. Considering that they have already been upended by one newcomer when TikTok took over, there’s good reason to believe that a new app could come in and swoop up TikTok’s user base. As of right now, it's unclear who will come out on top. But the true loser is the user who has to adhere to the everyday whims of each of these platforms.

We Asked Our Readers How They’re Using AI in a Professional Setting. Here's What They Said

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

We Asked Our Readers How They’re Using AI in a Professional Setting. Here's What They Said
Evan Xie

According to Pew Research data, 27% of Americans interact with AI on a daily basis. With the launch of Open AI’s latest language model GPT-4, we asked our readers how they use AI in a professional capacity. Here’s what they told us:

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