How to Stay Safe on Discord

Beginner Feb 24, 2022 · 7 min read

Key Takeaways:
— Discord is an essential part of crypto exploration, especially if you’re interested in an NFT or crypto project and want to get to know more about it before buying.

— It’s a seamless, real-time communication platform that has been essential to the success of the crypto ecosystem, enabling projects to be developed and communities to form by uniting people spread across the planet.

— Discord allows communities to flourish by connecting individuals from across the planet – but this also comes with risks

— Here, we explain how to use Discord for DYOR, common risks to be aware of – and how to stay safe as you explore.

Community is the foundation of the expanding raft of NFT projects, and Discord is a fantastic resource for getting to know them – but do you know how to use it?

Imagine a place… Where you can belong

Do you feel like a Bored Ape, a Doodle or a Fluf? Maybe you’re checking out a new DeFi protocol that sounds promising, or even itching to be part of our very own Ledger community (it’s pretty exclusive).

Crypto might have started as digital currency for the tech savvy, but in 2022, community is what’s driving the industry and its projects forward, as well as bringing newcomers into the ecosystem in droves. 

Yet unlike traditional businesses and groups, blockchain projects don’t have a storefront or a head office – instead they use Discord as the main social interface to connect with their community. It is where you can ask questions, vibe with other people in the community and get key alpha on upcoming events.

Discord is an indispensable tool for your crypto research – but is also a hotbed for scammers posing as well meaning community members. So here, we present the ultimate guide to Discord: its utility, its risks and how to stay safe as you get involved with new projects in the ecosystem.

Why is Discord so important for crypto?

Discord is everywhere in crypto – more or less every project has its own server. And you might be wondering how it became so important to the industry.

Crypto is a space where lightning fast innovation bursts from a decentralized ecosystem. A successful project could well be launched by developers who never met each other. Meanwhile, the success and legitimacy of that project rests on the engagement of its community, who are also scattered across the planet. 

With so much riding on staying connected, a fast, secure and effective communication platform was always going to be crucial to the space.

This is where Discord comes in. Having started life as a social hub for gamers and developers, its unique proposition was to offer a tool for real-time, reliable, seamless communication. 

With the NFT and DeFi spaces being driven forward by many of the same gamers and developers who were already using Discord regularly elsewhere, it was quickly adopted by the crypto industry. This was the genesis of Discord’s OG status in the crypto scene.

What can you learn from Discord?

Would you buy a place in a new city without hanging out with the locals first? If the answer is “no”, then you already understand the premise of the platform.

Whether you’re into DeFi, NFTs or DAOs, joining a project’s Discord can yield some valuable insights in relation to its development, legitimacy and future opportunities. Here, developers and creators will share information related to their roadmap, IRL events, new functionalities, partnerships or upcoming token drops, for example; all of this is valuable knowledge for anyone looking to know a bit more about a crypto project for themselves.

We’ll discuss this below – for now, let’s get to grips with the Discord interface so you can get started.

How do I find a project on Discord?

Step 1) Download Discord

Discord is an app, and can be downloaded to both desktop and phone. Before starting your research, the first step should always be to install the Discord interface, so you’re ready to go.

Step 2) Wait – it says I need an invitation?!

One of the specific features of Discord is that users require an “invitation” to join a community.

This may sound complicated, but don’t let it deter you. You’ll find Discord links in a number of places, and these links are the “invitations” that will allow you to become a community member.

On a marketplace 

For NFT projects, one place to spot and dig deeper into a project is by heading to a well-established marketplace like OpenSea or Rarible. The beauty of doing this is that you’ll often be able to see if the project is “verified” by looking for a tick next to the project name – this means a real person from the marketplace has taken measures to confirm the project is legitimate, which offers a layer of credibility during those crucial first steps.

On the project’s website or Twitter

If you’re on the website or Twitter page of a project, first things first: make triple-sure it’s the official page. (Some scammers might duplicate a project’s page with a tiny almost unnoticeable difference in the web link.) Once you’re sure, look for a Discord – this will link you directly to their server.

Through friends

If you’re hearing about a project through friends, you can then ask for an invitation link. Here’s our very own Discord link, to show you an example: Discord.gg/Ledger

You can either click this link to open the app and go to the server, or simply paste it into the “add server” tab in Discord. Both options will take you to the project you’re interested in.

Step 3) Navigating Discord for Newcomers

Discord has its own lingo and structure, and knowing how to navigate the interface is key to you finding what you need.

Servers

On Discord, the community for each project exists on a “server”, which you can think of as a community chat room. These are spaces for groups to communicate and chat, and have their own rules set by the admins – each one is sort of like a little digital society. 

Servers can be made private – a feature you might want to use if you set up a chat group among friends, for example – but generally speaking, crypto and NFT community servers are free to join for anyone. Don’t be deterred by the “invitation” system, this is normally just a link that anyone can click on.

Once you’re a member of a server, you’ll see it displayed in the bubbles at the far left edge of the page; this will allow you to navigate between all the different servers you’re engaging with.

Channels

Within every server, there are channels – you’ll see these displayed underneath the name of the server you’re currently in, with a # at the beginning. 

So what are channels for? They’re designed to organize each server into different “rooms” where specific things can be discussed, be it developer chat, news or upcoming drops – you can see that in action in the image above. This enables you to filter out the noise and get to the hub of whatever you want to discuss.

Now you know the basics of how it all works, the world is your oyster! Go ahead and ask questions, explore channels and keep an eye out for interesting announcements – you are now part of the community.

Speaking of community, let’s have a chat about that. When we hear the word community, it’s likely that “security” is one of the first things that comes to mind. And it’s understandable; the whole point of forming a community, both in the physician and digital realms, is to feel we are safe among like-minded people. But this can also leave you vulnerable.

The best scams in any industry rely on social engineering – making you feel safe so you let your guard down. And when you think about it, Discord is a ready-made paradise for this type of activity – members arrive with high hopes and lowered suspicions, because here, you’re already among friends. Right?

Why scammers love Discord

But first, a quick haiku: 

YOU DON’T KNOW WHO YOU’RE

TALKING TO ON DISCORD, FREN 

DO NOT FORGET THIS

the fact is, anyone can pretend to be anything on Discord. There is no process of verification to be a community member, or even to prove a project is real.

In addition, the user base is also more vulnerable than average. We are all adapting to a relatively new system of self-custody, while navigating a fast paced ecosystem where ideas often spring out of nowhere and gain traction quickly. Inexperience and FOMO are a lethal combination for eagle eyed scammers, and there’s no better place to find them than Discord.

So let’s take a look at a few of the key dangers you might encounter, and how to avoid them.

1) A Server Promoting a Bogus Project

The existence of a Discord server might seem like confirmation that a project is real. People are talking about it – so it must be legitimate, right?

Well, no. Remember, you never really know who you’re talking to online, and staying conscious of this will serve you well for analysing the information you’re receiving.

A genuine server will be about questions, community and advice. If you find yourself on a server where there’s a lot of hype and pressure to buy into the project – or if all buzz on that server seems to come from just a few users – it’s worth doing some more digging. It could be a sign that the server is part of a broader scam, and is trying to compel you to buy in.

You should also pay close attention to how the creators engage – are they happy to answer your questions, or do they avoid them? On a genuine project, creators will have no problem engaging with your questions. This is another opportunity for you to learn about who you’re dealing with.

2) Direct Messages

“WHY?”

This should be the first question that pops into your head when you receive a direct message on Discord. If it’s not, read this article again.

Your Discord Spiritual Guide

Believe it or not, direct messages are a pretty common vector for crypto scams to be deployed. Let’s take a look at the most common tactics.

  • A DM containing a Link

If you’ve received a DM that contains a link to an exciting new project – you should be seeing some red flags. As you’ll know from our previous articles, links are a classic way of deploying malware onto your device; this malware could have multiple functions, from scanning your device for records of your private keys or seed phrase and showing what passwords you’re typing, to allowing the hacker to tamper with your screen.

  • An opportunity not to be missed!

A stranger is contacting you with an amazing opportunity! You’re about to be airdropped some valuable coins from a brand new project – all you need to do is send them some crypto first, in order to verify your wallet address. 

Sounds legit, right?

Yes, unmissable opportunities are another reliable source of income for clever scammers, so be prepared for a few of these messages to come your way.

In summary, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Especially when a stranger is taking the time to offer it to you for no reason. Your best course of action is to simply turn off your DMs via the control panel in Discord – since there’s no good reason for anyone to reach out to you personally, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time dealing with spam

3) The Community Bot or Dev Team Needs your Seed Phrase

You’re looking for help with a technical question, and see a private message come through from the community support team. Great news – they can help. All you need to do is give a few personal details…including your seed phrase.

Are you crazy??!

No matter who is contacting you – and it sure isn’t the support team – you will never be asked for your seed phrase. If you are, it’s a scam. Remember, no matter what type of wallet you’re using, your seed phrase can be used to recover all of your crypto accounts via any other 

wallet. It’s sort of a skeleton key for your most precious assets, so under no circumstances should it ever be given out on Discord

4) Blind signing a transaction 

OK so this scam is not specific to Discord, but it’s something to be aware of nonetheless. Smart contracts are at the heart of dApps, DeFi and NFTs, and we interact with them frequently, but they can also be an attack vector, especially when our guard is down. Why? Because we can’t read them, and our wallets often cannot show their full details. 

The result is that we often approve transactions based on “context”: what platform we’re using, how the situation came about and if we’ve built trust in the other party. If you’ve been chatting to other community members on Discord and one offers to send a token drop your way, you may feel like you’re in safe hands – but with no way of reading what you’re approving, you could be agreeing to anything, including a transaction that cleans out your wallet. Check out our article on blind signing for a deeper dive on that.

The Value of Discord

To truly harness the value of anything, you must understand both its strengths and its limitations. And now you’ve had a full 360 of Discord, you’re in the driver’s seat – you can start tapping into this brilliant resource to explore digital communities and research new possibilities as they arise.

If you take just one key message from this article, it should be this: Discord is an important part of your crypto research and experience, but  it is just one part. It is absolutely essential to use other resources to build an accurate picture of projects that interest you – in other words, DYOR.

Among the most useful are Etherscan (which you can use to find details on the fundamentals of an ethereum based project), a project’s white paper and roadmap which will tell you relevant details about the technology and mission, Twitter and of course, Ledger Academy itself, where we explain key concepts and things to be aware of.

Now go forth and find your tribe!

In the age of NFTs, DAOs and DeFi, community is at the very centre of the crypto story, and Discord is the hub of the action where you can find your digital tribe and connect. But in this exciting new space, there is no substitute for good judgement – so keep learning, ask questions and make sure you’re familiar with all the tools available to you. Welcome to digital sovereignty, where you are in charge of your story.

Trust yourself – keep on learning! Check out our guided tour inside the head of a scammer for more key tips on how to stay safe as you explore the cryptoverse. Thanks, School of Block!

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