Luke Hartford was first informed about the new rising cryptocurrency through a type of response. The tweet was tucked under a message from Carl Martin, a Swedish cryptocurrency analyst and YouTuber, on October 27. Martin was discussing the price of the Shiba Inu alt coin, which he said could drop to zero.
This is where Hartford, a structural engineer from Sydney, Australia, read a tip from a user by the name of @ jonhree112 who alerted him to the latest cryptocurrency on the rise. Its price had increased by 1000% and seemed to have a margin of 200% more. At the time, the price of each coin was 72 cents. “Better buy before $ 1.00,” @ jonhree112 wrote.
The play was called Squid Game, based on, but not affiliated with, the runaway Netflix series of the same name. “The play exploited the zeitgeist for the Netflix series Squid game apparently giving obsessed gamers access to a game to be won, ”says Katherine Wooler, managing director of UK crypto-wealth platform Dacxi. The project’s white paper, posted on its now defunct website, promised great things for investors, but looked horribly like a Ponzi scheme. “The more people who register, the more [sic] the rewards pool will be, ”he promised.
Hartford was a seasoned crypto trader, involved in the world since 2017. He had seen the meteoric rise of Shiba Inu, an apparent joke meme coin that had seen a 900% increase in less than a month, seized making its way into the top 10 cryptocurrencies in the world in the process. And he saw the Squid Game piece capture the zeitgeist in a similar way. He wanted to go downstairs. So on October 28, he bought.
Hartford was not a newbie, so he looked at BscScan, which records all transactions on the Binance platform, before investing. Some comments from people warned that the Squid Game piece could be a scam: Coming out of nowhere, it sounded too good to be true, and it was susceptible to trademark infringement and therefore could end up failing. But Hartford ignored them. “I wanted to get in as soon as possible,” he says. He bought $ 300 worth of Squid Game coins when each was worth around 90 cents, sat down and watched. He first crossed $ 1, which earned him a 10% ROI. Then $ 2. Then $ 3. “I watched him continue to ride that night, getting pretty excited that I doubled or tripled my money in a matter of hours,” he recalls. When Hartford woke up the next morning, the Squid Game coin had hit $ 5. His $ 300 had climbed to over $ 1,660. He was overjoyed.
But something weird was going on. On the morning of October 29, when he searched for the hashtag $ SQUID on Twitter, he saw people tweeting that they couldn’t sell their holdings. Others corrected those who had trouble cashing in, explaining that they had to buy marbles, obtained through a paid game hosted by the project owners, in order to sell them. Hartford paused for a moment. “I wasn’t sure at this point if I had been scammed or not,” he says.