Worldcoin: A Bridge to the Future or a Grand Scam for Kenyans?

Is Worldcoin a grand scam? Let's dive in and uncover how unsuspecting victims in Kenya lost millions in a mere hour.

Carson O.
10 Min Read
Worldcoin Orb Used To Register PeopleDecrypt

In the ever-evolving realm of technology and innovation, the most brilliant minds sometimes clash like celestial titans.

How it started

Take, for instance, the fabled tale of Sam Altman, who blazed his trail after honing his genius at Stanford, while the enigmatic Elon Musk soared to new heights in Tesla, Space X, Twitter etc. Their paths, once separate, crossed when they converged at OpenAI, a melting pot of visionaries dedicated to developing safe and beneficial artificial intelligence. However, their partnership was short-lived as Musk’s ethical convictions clashed with Altman’s audacious vision. One heated argument later, Musk stormed out, leaving Altman free to craft his destiny.

A few years after their fallout, Bill Gates came in and funded an operation that saw the birth of ChatGPT. This large language model (LLM) managed to cross over 1 million users in its first week of launch. The chatbot was such a success that Tech Giants like Google’s Alphabet had to release their version that performed dismally on its first demo. This led to a 9% ($100 billion) drop in its market value in a single day.

As if not satisfied by his great strides, Sam Altman proceeded to co-found his cryptocurrency: Worldcoin. He did this alongside theoretical physics student Alex Blania and Max Novendstern, a former investment associate at Bridgewater Associates.

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The launch of World Coin

Determined and undeterred, Altman co-founded Worldcoin, a company with a seemingly futuristic vision—a global identity system that utilized iris scans for verification. This innovative approach was met with mixed reactions; some hailed it as a groundbreaking bridge to a more secure future, while others criticized it as a potential big scam, especially for Kenyans.

Regardless of the controversies surrounding Worldcoin, Altman’s passion and drive garnered the attention of 19 investors, resulting in an influx of billions in funding, $125 Million, to be specific.

Worldcoin is an attempt at global scale alignment, the journey will be challenging and the outcome is uncertain, but finding new ways to broadly share the coming technological prosperity is a critical challenge of our time.

Co-founders Alex Blania and Altman wrote.

World Coin in Kenya

As the new cryptocurrency gained traction internationally, Kenyans were not left out!

A few days after its launch on the 24th of July, 2023, one could notice that Kenyans were excited about it and were lining up in huge malls or market streets just to get registered for a Worldcoin account.

The turnup was so large and yet, some remained behind, with suspicions that it could be a scam of some sort.

Why though?

You see, Sam Altman, had a bold idea: to give everyone in the world a free crypto token, just for registering for a Worldcoin account. The tokens, called Worldcoin, would have monetary value and could be used to make payments, store value, or even be traded for other cryptocurrencies.

The catch?

To get registered, you had/have to get your iris scanned so that your identity as a human being could be verified.

This is where problems began.

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First of all, Worldcoin was restricted in the US and Canada by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) due to regulatory uncertainty regarding crypto, according to a post done by Fortune.

Secondly, the scanning of the iris raised many eyebrows as many speculated that Altman had sinister motives with people’s biometric data.

Nevertheless, Worldcoin shipped its orb-shaped devices to people in 35 countries, Kenya included.

Testers in Kenya got users to sign up by having their iris scanned. The iris data/image, according to CNBC was then encrypted to become a unique code, while the original data was deleted to protect users’ privacy.

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Following that, users were given a free share of Worldcoin’s cryptocurrency, with which they were free to convert to actual money through popular cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance, Bybit, OKX etc.

This is where the drama began…

Many Kenyans are pretty ignorant on matters relating to cryptocurrency, so as you would imagine, they didn’t know how to convert their tokens to Kenyan Shillings.

In a matter of weeks, thousands of Kenyans had 20-50 tokens, each valued at $3.

Simple arithmetic will show you that if you had 20 tokens, you could convert them into Ksh12,600 via peer-to-peer money exchange on Binance.

As soon as the cryptocurrency was listed on major exchanges such as Binance, the few individuals who knew how to manoeuvre through cryptocurrencies and exchanges offered these seemingly unknowing Kenyans $10 in exchange for the login credentials to their Worldcoin accounts.

Thinking that they were being offered a too-good-to-be-true deal, Kenyans gave up their tokens worth Ksh.10k and higher, for a meager payment of Ksh.1,400/$10.

In just an hour, anyone who could convince 10 ignorant Kenyans to give them their login credentials for a $10 payment could make Ksh.100,000 by just investing Ksh.10,000. Increasing the number of victims to 100 could make you a millionaire in just an hour!

The victims of this fraudulent transaction, came to know of this a few hours later when details of this sort of ‘heist’ got trending on Twitter, or rather, X.

A few social media influencers like OmwambaKe, got wind of this deal and asked Kenyans not to get scammed.

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Victims and scamming aside, a few national agencies and organizations and agencies were mainly concerned with data privacy issues.

Data & Privacy

Standard Media Group, had this to say:

“The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) has asked Kenyans to be vigilant even as they engage with Worldcoin.

Worldcoin, which was launched on Monday, July 24 is an international cryptocurrency agency awarding its users with free tokens referred to as WLD once they verify their humanity by scanning their eyeballs.

To get the money, users transfer their tokens to official crypto exchanges where they can buy other cryptocurrencies, which can then be cashed out through liquidity agents on those platforms or sold to other users.

It is for this reason that the Data Commission in a statement on Friday advised that Kenyans should do due diligence before disclosing any personal or sensitive data.”

Should you be concerned?

According to Yahoo Finance, some people have raised privacy concerns about Worldcoin collecting sensitive biometric data from people, but the company claims that a person’s biometric information is not stored.

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While no one in Kenya has the financial capability to verify the truth of that matter, all you can do is be careful with your biometric data.

This is not financial advice, but just an exposé into Worldcoin and the scams running behind it.  

In Summary, is Worldcoin Legit?

The Kenyan government has temporarily restricted access to Worldcoin due to concerns about data privacy, and the legitimacy of the cryptocurrency project is a matter of debate.

On one hand, Worldcoin has been backed by some big names in the tech industry, including Sam Altman, the former CEO of OpenAI, and the company claims to be committed to protecting user privacy.

On the other hand, there are concerns about the security of iris scans and the potential for Worldcoin to be used for surveillance or other nefarious purposes.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) is still assessing the company’s practices and will decide on whether to allow Worldcoin to operate in Kenya in the future.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to participate in Worldcoin is a personal one, and Kenyans should carefully weigh the risks and benefits before deciding whether or not to share their iris scans with the company.

It is important to do your research and make an informed decision before participating in Worldcoin.

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I am a multi-faceted professional with a strong foundation in Business and Finance, honed since 2020. Additionally, I possess a deep passion for automobiles, serving as an avid car enthusiast. In parallel to my diverse interests, I am also a dedicated student pursuing a career in the medical field.
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