Cryptocurrency Market Manipulation: How to Protect Investors and Safeguard the Market

16 MIN

Discover what cryptocurrency market manipulation is and how it affects traders and the cryptocurrency ecosystem as a whole. Explore the strategies you can use to prevent crypto market manipulation, such as improved transparency, surveillance systems, and education initiatives.

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Cryptocurrencies have become more popular and widely recognized in recent years, providing both individuals and businesses with a digital and decentralized form of currency. However, market manipulation has emerged as a key concern as the popularity of cryptocurrency keeps growing.

Cryptocurrency market manipulation is a menace that traders, investors, and regulators need to be aware of. The crypto market is prone to manipulation because the market operates 24/7, has higher volatility, and has less liquidity than traditional financial markets. Understanding the different crypto market manipulation techniques will help you make informed investment decisions, preserve market integrity, and foster trust in the cryptocurrency space.

This article extensively explores the different methods of cryptocurrency market manipulation, including their potential impact on the market and preventive measures that can be taken to protect investors and the market.

What is Cryptocurrency Market Manipulation?

Cryptocurrency market manipulation refers to measures taken to intentionally influence the price or trading volume of a cryptocurrency for financial gain. It comprises different deceptive methods that individuals or groups use to manipulate market conditions, generate information, or exploit weaknesses for personal gain. Such manipulation may have an impact on supply and demand dynamics, deceive investors, and result in losses.

Cryptocurrency market manipulation is a serious issue that can have serious consequences for investors and the market as a whole. As a result, retail investors may incur financial losses, the market may become unstable, and the credibility of the crypto ecosystem may be affected. Market manipulation is an illegal practice, and anyone found guilty may face regulatory and legal consequences.

Types of Cryptocurrency Market Manipulation

Authorities and investors alike need to be aware of the different crypto market manipulation methods to maintain the integrity of the cryptocurrency market. Here are some of the common types of cryptocurrency market manipulation:

Pump and Dump Schemes

Pump-and-dump scheme is a popular method that is used in manipulating the cryptocurrency market. In this method, manipulators artificially raise the price of a specific cryptocurrency by creating excitement among investors and making them feel motivated to buy. After the price reaches a high point, these manipulators sell their assets for a huge profit, causing the price to fall. Investors that bought the cryptocurrency during the hype typically suffer significant financial losses.

Real-world examples of this type of crypto market manipulation include VikingsChain, Space Vikings, and Viking Swap. Following Musk's tweets about the moon and Vikings in early November 2021, the value of these coins surged by around 350%, 600%, and 3,700% respectively. Elon claimed that the Vikings were the first to set foot on the moon. However, there was no evidence that his tweets had any connection with these coins.

Source: LiteFinance

Wash Trading

Wash trading is another type of cryptocurrency market manipulation in which individuals or institutions arrange trades among themselves to wrongly inform retail investors about the trading volume and activity. During these trades, the perpetrators simultaneously buy and sell the same cryptocurrency. This is done to deceive other investors into believing that there is real market liquidity and interest, thereby attracting more buyers.

Wash trading can give the illusion of a thriving market, thereby causing unsuspecting investors to believe that cryptocurrencies are in high demand. This form of manipulation can artificially increase prices and provide a false picture of the condition of the market, luring investors into making uninformed investment decisions.

Spoofing and Layering

These cryptocurrency market manipulations involve placing and canceling large buy or sell orders to artificially cause market imbalances. Manipulators place large orders at specific price points to control how the market perceives supply and demand. The manipulators cancel these orders and then execute smaller orders at more favorable prices after other market participants respond to them.

In spoofing, large orders are placed on one side of the order book to look like a strong buying or selling interest.

Layering, on the other hand, involves creating different layers of orders at different price levels to deceive unsuspecting traders.

Insider Trading

Although insider trading is illegal in traditional financial markets, it occurs in the cryptocurrency market. In insider trading, people with access to private information take unfair advantage of the other market participants by using the information they have access to to place trades.

An example of insider trading was seen in Coinbase and Bitcoin Cash in 2017. Coinbase stated in December 2017 that it would start supporting Bitcoin Cash on its network. However, just hours before the formal announcement, the price of Bitcoin Cash skyrocketed on other platforms. As a result of the price increase, there were rumors of insider trading.

It was later discovered that Coinbase employees and subcontractors who were aware of the upcoming Bitcoin Cash listing may have engaged in insider trading. They may have purchased Bitcoin Cash ahead of time to profit from the price increase that would occur once the news became public. As a result, they obtained an unfair advantage over other traders that did not have access to this private information.

After an internal investigation that was conducted by Coinbase, several employees were fired for violating the policies of the company.

Effects of Cryptocurrency Market Manipulation

Cryptocurrency market manipulation may have consequences that extend beyond the immediate financial impact on individual investors. It is important to understand these effects so that we can see the need to prevent crypto market manipulation and safeguard the overall integrity of the cryptocurrency space.

Financial losses for retail investors

Cryptocurrency market manipulation techniques (such as pump-and-dump) can result in significant financial losses for retail investors. These techniques involve artificially increasing the price of a cryptocurrency through mass purchases and then immediately selling it off as the price reaches a peak. Retail investors who fall victim to these schemes typically pay high rates for cryptocurrencies, only to see them lose value within a short period. These losses might have serious financial consequences and undermine public trust in the cryptocurrency industry.

Market instability and loss of trust

Crypto market manipulation causes a significant disruption in the market. Manipulative strategies provide a misleading image of the condition of the market by altering supply and demand dynamics. As a result, investors base their decisions on false signals, thereby increasing volatility and unpredictability.

Market manipulation also undermines trust in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. When investors perceive that markets are constantly manipulated, they become apprehensive and may withdraw from them. This loss of confidence may prevent the crypto market from growing since potential investors will see it as a shelter for fraud rather than a reliable source of investment opportunities.

Regulators and law enforcement agencies face unique challenges due to the manipulations in the crypto sector. Since cryptocurrencies are decentralized and pseudonymous, it is difficult to identify and hold manipulators accountable. Hence, finding those responsible for market manipulation schemes becomes a complex task that usually requires collaboration across multiple jurisdictions.

Nonetheless, authorities and regulators have taken action to combat market manipulation. In recent years, regulatory agencies have focused more on the cryptocurrency sector, enacting measures to increase monitoring and enforcement.

However, the global nature of transactions and the ever-evolving nature of the cryptocurrency market make it difficult for regulators to keep up with new crypto market manipulation methods and effectively fight them.

How to Deal With Cryptocurrency Market Manipulation

Although dealing with market manipulation might be challenging, there are several steps you can take. Highlighted are some of the things you can do to fight crypto market manipulation:

Educate Yourself

To effectively deal with market manipulation, you must first have a detailed grasp of the market in question. Learn the principles of trading and investing, as well as different trading strategies and market dynamics. Keep up to date on relevant news, economic information, and price-influencing factors. This will help you recognize potential manipulation attempts and make reasonable decisions.

Identify Signs of Market Manipulation

Pay attention to market activity and watch out for signs of market manipulation. The spread of false rumors, unusual trading volumes relative to historical averages, coordinated buying or selling by a group of traders, and abrupt, large price fluctuations not supported by fundamentals can all be evidence of manipulation. You can increase your ability to detect potential manipulation attempts by staying informed and monitoring market activity.

Diversify Your Investments

Diversification is a risk management technique that involves spreading your investments over many asset classes, industries, and geographic areas. It can help you mitigate the impact of market manipulation on your portfolio. The presence of many investments reduces the impact of a single market or asset manipulation on your overall portfolio. Diversification can lower your risk exposure and protect you from huge losses.

Set Realistic Expectations

Market manipulation typically focuses on creating excitement and false expectations to entice investors. It's important to have a realistic perspective and to avoid schemes that promise huge returns. Understand that markets can be volatile and that consistently significant returns with no accompanying risks are rare. To avoid falling for the hype that the manipulators create, ensure that your financial decisions are based on reasonable analysis and long-term goals.

Conduct Due Diligence

Conduct in-depth research on the assets that you want to invest in. Study financial papers, understand the patterns of the market, and evaluate the fundamental principles of investment. You should also check the reputation and performance history of the parties involved. Due diligence reduces your vulnerability to deception and increases your confidence in making sound investment decisions.

Seek Professional Advice

It is advisable to talk to a financial advisor or seek advice from professionals in the market or asset class in which you are interested. They can help you navigate difficult situations, analyze market signals, and develop an investment strategy that aligns with your goals and risk tolerance. 


The prevalence of cryptocurrency market manipulation is a serious issue that should not be ignored. Throughout this article, we have considered the different strategies that are used in manipulating the crypto market; such as pump-and-dump schemes, wash trading, spoofing, layering, and insider trading. These techniques not only harm individual investors but also undermine the stability and integrity of the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Market manipulation has a series of consequences. Retail investors regularly suffer financial losses as a result of artificially inflated or deflated prices, thereby undermining their confidence in the market. Furthermore, market instability caused by manipulation may deter new participants from entering the crypto business, thereby limiting its expansion and potential.

It is important to address market manipulation for the long-term stability and growth of the cryptocurrency market. We can build a more strong and reliable ecosystem that attracts greater participation and supports innovation by implementing effective countermeasures, increasing transparency, and increasing investor education.

As the cryptocurrency market evolves, regulators, industry participants, and investors must collaborate to avoid market manipulation. We may be able to create a cryptocurrency market that is more open, equitable, and long-lasting for the benefit of all players by working together to solve this issue.

In the fight against cryptocurrency market manipulation, it is also important to investigate the manipulation strategies that are simultaneously used across different cryptocurrency exchanges. Furthermore, it is important to explore the problems exchanges have in detecting and preventing cross-exchange manipulation as well as identify possible solutions.


  • The practice of pumping and dumping cryptocurrencies entails artificially boosting their value through coordinated acts, which usually leads to unlawful conduct and market manipulation. The legality of pump and dump activities depends on the jurisdiction where they occur.

    Market manipulation is illegal in traditional financial markets, but that is not always the case with cryptocurrencies. Regulators and law enforcement are increasingly focusing on illicit conduct in the crypto industry. It is best to seek legal professionals or regulatory authorities for up-to-date information on the legality of pumps and dumps in your specific country.

  • Market manipulation on crypto exchanges is illegal everywhere and has serious consequences. These manipulative activities include price manipulation, providing misleading information, and insider trading among others. Such acts distort market prices and impede investors from making sound decisions.

    Regulatory and law enforcement entities are responsible for enforcing policies that protect investors and maintain honest and open markets. Market manipulation not only has legal consequences, but it also affects the reputation of the crypto market, reduces investor trust, and limits its expansion.

  • Bitcoin manipulation may be illegal if it includes fraudulent activities or violates securities laws. The legality is determined by the applicable legislation as well as the specific acts carried out. In the United States, the SEC has taken legal action against individuals and businesses involved in cryptocurrency fraud. Among the activities that have been targeted are spoofing and wash trading.

    Manipulating the Bitcoin price can affect investors, destabilize the market, and result in significant financial losses. It is, therefore, important that investors exercise caution and conduct extensive research before investing in cryptocurrencies.

  • The crypto market is prone to manipulation due to the lack of regulation and its infancy. Manipulation includes pump-and-dump schemes, spoofing, wash trading, and insider trading. These actions artificially increase prices, create erroneous perceptions of market supply or demand, and take advantage of private information.

    However, not all crypto market activity is manipulative because prices are impacted by factors such as true supply and demand, news events, and investor sentiment. Investors should exercise caution, do their research, and be aware of the risks associated with the low level of regulation in the cryptocurrency sector.