What Does Shill Mean in Crypto?

Published Aug 15th, 2022
Updated Mar 21st, 2023

“Shilling” is a negative term in the cryptocurrency space that refers to the practice of a malicious actor excessively promoting a specific cryptocurrency with the aim of inflating its value so as to dump their crypto at a high price.

Shilling, also known as ‘pumping,’ is where someone tricks people into investing in a particular altcoin or token by making them believe that it will become extremely valuable in the future. This is a very common technique used by scammers in the cryptocurrency space, since the anonymity and lack of regulations makes it that much harder for adversaries to be held legally accountable for their cons.

Some methods typically involve spamming promotional content, lying about the project or using fake volume building. It was often employed during the ICO bubble of 2017, which led to many people losing their investment money, either through the event runners simply disappearing with the capital, or the m just dumping the project once it was complete. A recent public example of this was the $WGMI memecoin that started out as a scam, with the developer retaining and then dumping most of the altcoin thereby completely devaluing it. However, the community members decided to continue rallying around it anyway.

The term can also just be used to refer to someone who is excessively into a coin to the point where people feel that the person is unrealistic in their expectations of it. An example of this can be of Elon Musk who heavily promoted and invested in Dogecoin (DOGE), prompting many of his followers to invest in the coin themselves. But the coin’s value instantly plummeted in May 2021 after he himself referred to the coin as a ‘hustle’ on Saturday Night Live. But he is a public figure though, so someone has actually decided to take him to court over his claims.

It should be noted that not all shilling is meant maliciously, as during the ICO days, a common method for promoting an ICO was to offer coin awards to those who posted promotional material on their social media feeds. Although spammy, it was just a method of low-cost advertising and increasing visibility in search engines.