JUN 01, 2014
Disreputable Company Claims 5/Th Rate Mining Rig
Cointelegraphs' investigation into the case of BTC Olympus - a company that showed up on the scene claiming to sell powerful mining rigs and an alleged scam.
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If you spend anytime on Bitcointalk, you may remember BTC Olympus. They showed up on the scene back in December claiming to sell powerful mining rigs for a competitive price. After some initial excitement however, members of the forum uncovered several red flags that seemed to cast serious doubt on the company's legitimacy and the thread was eventually locked after several members alleged that the company was a scam. Our own investigations into the company did nothing to inspire confidence either.
First, lets get into what BTC Olympus is claiming to sell. The BTC Olympus Zeus is allegedly a 5Th/s mining rig selling for USD $10,000. Customers can reportedly split that into two equal payments of USD $5,000. The first to be sent via Bitcoin before the company ships the product and the second after the device is in hand. According to BTC Olympus, after the second payment is received they will send you a code to unlock the miner.
If getting “locked” hardware isn't enough to scare you off, the red flags uncovered by members of the Bitcointalk forum (who I owe a debt of gratitude to for doing much of the heavy lifting in this article) might.
First and most obvious: The website for the company, which claims to be from the U.K. is registered anonymously. The phone number listed at the time allegedly wouldn't accept calls and has since been removed. The address listed reportedly sits in a high end retail section of town, not the typical place a company that does the vast majority of its sales online would reside.
According to another user, BTC Olympus also directly copied their TOS from Hashfast, the embattled bitcoin mining company, and at one time forgot to replace the name with their own. A look through their LinkedIn profiles is also concerning. All three employees are brand new to the business social media site and have only received endorsements from each other. Their photos were all done in the same style with a stock background.
The listing for employee Matthew Tot also includes some curious claims. According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr. Tot graduated Secondary school (roughly equivalent to American High School) in 1989. Which, assuming a graduation age of 18, would make him 43 years of age. The photo on his LinkedIn profile looks to be someone in his early to mid twenties.
One Bitcointalk user posted an image alleging to be a screen shot of the site from Archive.org. It revealed how the site allegedly looked a few weeks before their first announcement. The pictures on the “team” page showed stock photos in lieu of the employee's actual photos. Using stock photos while a website is underdevelopment isn't strange in of itself, however, the photos they choose are. In place of profile pictures were images of a pregnant woman smoking, a mock mug shot, a close up on female lips with a white milky substance seeping out and similar images. Perhaps more damning is that the page included more employees and none of them had the names of the current alleged employees. However, everything dealing with the site previous to April 17th has been taken off of Archive.org (suspicious enough on its own) so we could not independently verify the claims. BTC Olympus' unofficial representative on the Bitcointalk forums never denied the screen shot. We have reached out to Archive.org for more information, and will update you if they are able to provide it.
After that image showed up, BTC Olympus went dark on the Bitcointalk forums, the only two exceptions were equally suspicious. In early April, while evidence of alleged fraud was still being revealed, a user posted an auction for one of BTC Olympus' alleged miners. By posting a picture of the device with a custom message to a user, the auctioneer did seem to confirm that they had a BTC Olympus branded mining rig (or at least a case) in hand. Despite some good offers however, the user, whose first post on the forum was the auction, refused them all.
Later, in the “Pictures of your mining rigs!” thread, a member posted what he claimed was the BTC Olympus Poseidon. However, it didn't take long for the community to figure out the images were screenshots taken from BTC Olympus' official YouTube channel.
Then, just days ago, BTC Olympus reappeared on the forums with claims of being ready to sell their new 5TH/s Zeus machine. Members of the forum were understandably skeptical and asked for evidence. BTC Olympus' unofficial representative pointed them to a testimonial page that included images of BTC Olympus-branded mining rigs allegedly from customers, but even that page seems filled with misleading information.
The first thing that jumps out is that some of the images were already posted by the company from before they claim to have sent out devices. One, which was recognizable because of an image of porn on a nearby television screen, was previously posted on the Bitcointalk forum and had been posted to the aforementioned Matthew Tot's Google+ page. The rest of the images could be the same miner put into different settings. The same laptop is used several times (although three pictures include different computers, one is also featured on one of their YouTube videos) and all the houses photographed outside of the one we know came from employee Matthew Tot, appear to have either a small area run covering the floor or the same hardwood flooring pattern (the fake “snap-in” kind with three wooden pattern types per board). This isn't damning evidence, but including their own pictures in a section meant to prove their legitimacy, combined with the coincidence of the floor types, which is also the floor type shown in the aforementioned auction post and BTC Olympus' official YouTube video, does bring up some questions.
It is also worth pointing out that BTC Olympus had promised review models to two respected members of the forum, but neither appear to have actually gotten their rigs at press time.
Perhaps the least damning but most obvious red flag, and this is what initially tipped me off, is that despite claiming to be based in the U.K. the site is full of typographical errors. Worse yet, those same typos (like not capitalizing “i”) are found in the customer testimonials as well. While the internet isn't generally known for its effective use of grammar, it seems unlikely that several customers would fall victim to the same mistake and that the supposedly U.K. based editor would continually miss the glaring typo on both the site and in the testimonials.
The company has also been hyping an upcoming cloud mining program with a countdown timer. It has been sitting at zero since December 16th with no announcement. That isn't a sign of fraud but does bring into question their ability to follow through.
It is important to note that at this point, everything in this article is alleged. Nothing has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It is technically possible that everything has simply been a series of errors, coincidences, incompetence (at least in editing and marketing) and sabotage. However, BTC Olympus is asking for $8,000 in Bitcoin without an escrow, so we feel it would be negligent to not point out the continuing and seemingly credible accusations.