Trade or Trick? Detecting and Characterizing Scam Tokens on Uniswap Decentralized Exchange

Pengcheng Xia, Haoyu Wang, Bingyu Gao, Weihang Su, Zhou Yu, Xiapu Luo, Chao Zhang, Xusheng Xiao, Guoai Xu

Research output: Journal article publicationConference articleAcademic researchpeer-review


The prosperity of the cryptocurrency ecosystem drives the need for digital asset trading platforms. Beyond centralized exchanges (CEXs), decentralized exchanges (DEXs) are introduced to allow users to trade cryptocurrency without transferring the custody of their digital assets to the middlemen, thus eliminating the security and privacy issues of traditional CEX. Uniswap, as the most prominent cryptocurrency DEX, is continuing to attract scammers, with fraudulent cryptocurrencies flooding in the ecosystem. In this paper, we take the first step to detect and characterize scam tokens on Uniswap. We first collect all the transactions related to Uniswap V2 exchange and investigate the landscape of cryptocurrency trading on Uniswap from different perspectives. Then, we propose an accurate approach for flagging scam tokens on Uniswap based on a guilt-by-association heuristic and a machine-learning powered technique. We have identified over 10K scam tokens listed on Uniswap, which suggests that roughly 50% of the tokens listed on Uniswap are scam tokens. All the scam tokens and liquidity pools are created specialized for the "rug pull" scams, and some scam tokens have embedded tricks and backdoors in the smart contracts. We further observe that thousands of collusion addresses help carry out the scams in league with the scam token/pool creators. The scammers have gained a profit of at least $16 million from 39,762 potential victims. Our observations in this paper suggest the urgency to identify and stop scams in the decentralized finance ecosystem, and our approach can act as a whistleblower that identifies scam tokens at their early stages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Measurement and Analysis of Computing Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021

Cite this