How to Prepare For Crypto Airdrops: Examples, Risks, & More

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Crypto airdrops offer free token rewards and have emerged as an engaging wealth creation strategy. However, risks like pump-and-dumps, scams, and unclear eligibility may preclude gains. Success requires proactive scouting, strategic ecosystem participation, and realistic expectations about uncertain payouts.

Cryptocurrency airdrops have gained prominence as a risk-free, straightforward, and engaging mechanism for wealth creation. This view has gathered steam in the crypto community, especially after the highly successful Arbitrum airdrop that reinforced the belief in the profitability of these events.

Described by some as a pivotal part of the industry, crypto airdrops have several implications and reasons for their growing significance.

Acting as a potent marketing and user acquisition strategy, blockchain projects utilize crypto airdrops to distribute complimentary tokens among their communities. Such airdrops serve multiple purposes, such as rewarding early backers, pulling in new users, and stirring excitement around a project.

The rumored airdrop for the users of Polygon‘s zkEVM, a zero-knowledge Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), validates this trend. The event was hinted at by Sandeep Nailwal, the founder of Polygon, back in May and has driven immense interest and hype to the project.

Rumor has it that zkSync (a separate project) could also potentially see a portion of its native tokens distributed in this manner as well. Additionally, with rumors surrounding the possibility of a MetaMask token, airdrop hunters are also hopeful of an airdrop from the crypto wallet platform.

Before delving deeper into the specifics of these potential crypto airdrops, this article will first explain what exactly airdrops are, then elucidate the potential risks tied to them, and finally offer advice on how to adequately gear up for such events.

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Airdrops: The Why and the How

An airdrop refers to the distribution of free tokens or coins to multiple wallet addresses. This marketing tactic serves multiple purposes, such as acquiring users, rewarding early adopters, incentivizing specific actions, joining social media channels, or participating actively in the project’s ecosystem.

Meeting the prerequisites set by the projects is essential for airdrop participants. Upon meeting these requirements, the chosen participants receive the free tokens or coins directly in their wallets. They can then hold them as long-term investments, use them in the project’s ecosystem, or sell or trade them on cryptocurrency exchanges.

The success of a crypto airdrop depends on the careful selection of eligibility criteria and incentives. These parameters could be as simple as owning a specific token or more complex tasks, such as certain on-chain behaviors. They should, however, align with the airdrop’s objectives.

For example, if the aim is to reward loyal users, then the eligibility criteria might include users who have held a certain token for a specific duration. Alternatively, if the goal is to promote a new protocol, the criteria could be tied to interaction with it.

Incentives can adopt various forms – ranging from direct token rewards to exclusive access to new features or services. Striking a balance between attractiveness for user engagement and economic feasibility for the project is essential.

Timing plays a pivotal role in the success of highly-rated crypto airdrops. Initiating an airdrop too early in a project’s lifecycle could lead to token distribution among uninterested users. A late-stage airdrop might not create the desired excitement either or may waste resources for little gain.

Ideally, airdrops should coincide with a project’s token launch, facilitating initial distribution and liquidity. As highlighted in research by Yukun Liu and Aleh Tsyvinski, market momentum significantly influences token prices.

Delving Into the Past: Significant Crypto Airdrops

The Arbitrum Airdrop

March 23 marked a milestone in the history of crypto airdrops when the Arbitrum Foundation released a substantial sum of 1.162 billion ARB tokens to 600,000 wallets. These ranged from 625 to 10,000 tokens per wallet, with 75% of the airdrop tokens claimed within the first three days. The price of ARB tokens on the close of airdrop day was $1.379 each, leading to a distribution worth approximately $1.6 billion.

Eligibility for the airdrop revolved around a points system focused on activity within Arbitrum One and Arbitrum Nova, the foundation’s platforms. Users could earn a maximum of 15 points through a variety of qualifying actions, such as bridging funds into Arbitrum One or Nova, conducting transactions during specific time periods, or interacting with a certain number of smart contracts.

The participants who met the minimum requirements earned approximately $850 USDT in ARB tokens. Those positioned on the higher end, however, received a staggering $14,000 USDT worth of ARB tokens. It’s important to note that these figures all depend on the volatile valuations of the token.

Aptos Foundation’s Surprise

In another example of how an airdrop can be rolled out, in October 2022, the Aptos Foundation conducted an unannounced crypto airdrop, rewarding early network participants with an allocation of 20.1 million APT tokens. Based on the APT market price at the time, this represented a substantial value of $200 million to $260 million.

This airdrop was open to 110,235 crypto wallets on Aptos, with users either having applied to the Aptos incentivized testnet or having minted an Aptos Zero NFT on the testnet eligible for the reward.

Disregarding common practices towards excluding Sybil attackers, the Aptos team didn’t implement any such mechanism.

Users, on average, walked away with close to $1,000 each.

Optimism’s Double Airdrops

Optimism, an Ethereum-centric Layer 2 blockchain solution, has a history of rewarding its users with crypto airdrops.

The first of these, in May 2022, saw 200 million $OP tokens being distributed among 248,699 eligible addresses. Each address received between 409.42 and 27,534.98 $OP tokens, rewarding active users of Optimism and L1 Ethereum with handsome bounties. Some participants received up to $20,000 worth of tokens on the day of the event.

On 20 January, Optimism rolled out their second airdrop, distributing nearly 12 million $OP tokens to 307,965 crypto wallets. The airdrop was aimed at those who had delegated their OP tokens and users who had spent significant amounts on gas fees, with eligibility and final multipliers being determined by a variety of additional attributes related to governance and protocol usage.

The second wave, however, saw more modest rewards. The average qualified user received about 39 tokens, translating to less than $100 at the time of the airdrop.

Understanding Risks and Challenges

Crypto airdrops, despite offering a lucrative opportunity to amass tokens, come with an array of challenges and risks. The gravity of these issues varies, but their effects can severely compromise the integrity of the distributed tokens and the wallet safety of the recipients.

Sybil attacks pose a significant threat to the equitable distribution of airdrop tokens. In these deceptive attacks, malicious actors create multiple identities to claim an undeserved share of tokens. Sybil attacks are often inside jobs or at least require insider information, as nearly all airdrops are kept secret until after the snapshot has been taken.

The strategy depends on the projects’ inadequate capability to detect and filter out fraudulent accounts, allowing the culprits to drain tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars from each airdrop.

The best defenses against such underhanded maneuvers include implementing upfront user whitelisting, bolstering entry barriers, and employing Sybil attack detection mechanisms.

The concept of crypto airdrops often revolves around the allure of “free money,” but this appeal can lead to problems. A pervasive risk stems from pump-and-dump schemes, where token creators leverage hype to drive up their token’s price.

Once the token starts trading, the creator offloads their substantial holdings, triggering a price crash. Recipients of these types of airdrops often find themselves holding tokens with significantly reduced or non-existent value.

Unfortunately, scam airdrops and dusting attacks also loom large in the crypto airdrops space. Scammers frequently request personal information or wallet private keys under the guise of airdrop participation, subsequently plundering funds.

A dusting attack, on the other hand, involves scammers depositing a tiny amount of cryptocurrency into unsuspecting users’ wallets. They then track the transaction activity of the distributed tokens to de-anonymize the wallet holder, potentially breaching privacy.

Before participating in crypto airdrops, one should carefully research the project, ensuring that it comes from a credible source. Also, being wary of requests for sensitive information can help ward off such scams.

Crypto airdrops, particularly in the last two years, have found themselves entangled in a complex regulatory web as well. The Securities and Exchange Commission has been keenly scrutinizing such token distributions that claim to reward participants with future profits, which can lead to legal risks for the companies issuing the airdrop. This is because the expectation of profit is a requirement of the Howey Test, the U.S. government’s definition of security.

Additionally, given that most significant blockchain networks operate publicly, privacy concerns might surface, potentially revealing sensitive data about airdrop recipients.

How to Prepare for a Crypto Airdrop: A General Guide

The first step to prepare for crypto airdrops is owning a cryptocurrency wallet. Receiving or claiming airdrops simply isn’t possible without a valid wallet address. Using an exchange address may seem appealing due to its convenience; however, exchange wallets are a poor choice for airdrops since the address may change at any given moment, and exchanges are not a safe place to store one’s cryptocurrency.

Airdrops often require the completion of certain tasks from potential recipients, ranging from following a social media account to retweeting a post with specific hashtags, making a transaction using a particular crypto platform or wallet, or creating an account for receiving project updates.

As simple as these tasks may seem, receiving any significant returns from crypto airdrops is far from guaranteed. Announced airdrops often don’t involve significant token distributions to a lot of wallets, or they may operate as draws, reducing the chances of winning.

There are cases, though, where crypto airdrops are distributed without the need for users to perform any additional tasks. These instances present the most potential for gain.

The Airdrop Hunt: Scouting and Participation

To increase the odds of receiving free tokens, users should proactively scout for potential airdrops, keeping an eye out for notable projects that hint at future token creation. Typically, these projects reserve around 5 to 10% of their token supply for early users during token generation events.

Online resources like dedicated crypto airdrop websites, social media groups, and forums can be invaluable in this effort. Prominent platforms like DeFi Airdrops on Twitter and DeFi Llama’s airdrop page consistently highlight tokenless projects that might organize airdrops in the future.

Simultaneously, users can engage actively with projects that don’t yet have tokens on major blockchains, such as Ethereum, to raise their chances of receiving an airdrop. Tokenless applications across niches like DeFi, NFTs, and GameFi may also launch future airdrops. For instance, adding tokens to the liquidity pools of a new lending protocol on Ethereum might qualify a user for an airdrop.

Although the bulk of historical airdrops has occurred on Ethereum, exploring other ecosystems and technologies can only increase the chances of a future payout.

Users must remember that becoming an early adopter of new protocols is just the starting point – merely making a few transactions might not qualify one for airdrops. As airdrop eligibility criteria have tightened over time, active engagement with a platform is the best-proven strategy.

Interacting with the NFT space can also increase a user’s chances of qualifying for crypto airdrops. Holding NFTs or being a part of a strong NFT community might make a user eligible for new airdrops in the form of governance tokens or new NFTs. Being prepared for an airdrop involves more than just waiting for a windfall; it’s about active participation, strategic engagement, and vigilant scouting.

Over recent months, the crypto airdrops landscape has evolved a lot. Successful airdrop recipients from projects like Uniswap, Ethereum Name Service, and dYdX can attest to this, having only made one or two Ethereum transactions. Yet, the tightening of airdrop eligibility criteria, prompted by cases like the 2021 Divergence Ventures saga that involved allegations of insider trading, illustrates that the airdrop space is becoming more competitive.

Verifying oneself with tools like Gitcoin Passport, a system to ensure proof of humanity and curb bot activity, can also tip the scales in favor of airdrop seekers. The tool distinguishes genuine wallets from Sybil wallets and adds an extra security layer.

Rumoured Airdrops: zkEVM, zkSync, MetaMask

zkEVM

Polygon zkEVM, a prominent zero-knowledge scaling solution, has recently drawn considerable attention from crypto airdrops followers.

Polygon zkEVM’s FAQ indicates they expect to use MATIC for future staking and governance in the future. In May, Polygon’s founder Sandeep Nailwal heavily hinted at a possible airdrop on Twitter, suggesting a potential delivery of MATIC to early Polygon zkEVM users. Since Nailwal’s tweet, TVL on Polygon zkEVM has grown by more than $30 million, reaching $33.1 million in the past 2 months.

Although the community is still speculating whether a new token might be introduced, the prospect of a double bounty is present.

To improve one’s chances of cashing in on a potential zkEVM crypto airdrop, early engagement with the platform is key. Some of the things you can do to boost your chances include:

  • Visit the Polygon zkEVM homepage
  • Add the zkEVM network to your wallet
  • After acquiring ETH for transactions, transfer it from the Ethereum network to zkEVM using their bridge
  • Explore their ecosystem and use the available dApps
  • Branch out to other dApps to further increase potential airdrop chances

Note that these actions (along with all others in this article) may not necessarily win you an airdrop. Furthermore, you should do your own research and seek the advice of a trusted financial advisor if necessary first.

zkSync

zkSync, a zero-knowledge rollup solution, seeks to enhance Ethereum’s transaction capabilities by providing scalable and affordable options. With the zkSync Era Mainnet Alpha now accessible to the public, there’s heightened anticipation about a native token launch. When these tokens are introduced, a portion might be distributed through an airdrop.

For those eyeing the zkSync airdrop, the following steps could boost eligibility:

  • Incorporate zkSync Era Alpha Mainnet into your MetaMask or other wallet
  • Engage actively with both zkSync Lite and zkSync Era Mainnet Alpha
  • Embark on quests via zkSync’s Crew3 platform
  • Engage with elements of the zkSync ecosystem, such as Orbiter Finance or ZigZag

The last step is especially important since certain zkSync dApps may not have launched their tokens yet, potentially offering the chance for double crypto airdrops.

MetaMask

MetaMask has made its mark as a go-to wallet for Ethereum and other Ethereum-compatible blockchains, reaching 30 million users by 2022. While the project doesn’t have its own token yet, unlike other major crypto players, there are indications that a token could be on the horizon. The crypto community has speculated on the chances of a MetaMask airdrop for years, but there are no assurances yet.

On 16 March 2022, the announcement came that MetaMask plans to introduce its own token named MASK. While specifics are unknown, a few preparatory steps could increase the likelihood of receiving tokens if a MetaMask airdrop happens:

  • Establish a MetaMask wallet and initiate an Ethereum transfer
  • Actively use the MetaMask wallet for dApp interactions
  • Make use of MetaMask’s built-in token swap functionality
    • Bonus tip: One of the cheapest swaps you can make in terms of gas fees is between Ethereum and wrapped Ethereum
  • Leverage MetaMask’s bridging service, facilitating token transfers across various blockchains

Crypto Airdrops: What to Keep in Mind

While the potential rewards of crypto airdrops can seem enticing, there are some important factors to keep in mind.

Crypto airdrops often have uncertain eligibility criteria that may exclude even some active users from receiving tokens. Promised airdrops also frequently turn out to be speculative and never materialize.

It’s wise to calculate the value of an airdropped token against the fee required to claim it and the time required to engage in your qualification attempt. Some tokens end up having little to no market value, making them not worth claiming. It could also be dangerous to use a small (or large) project’s unaudited smart contracts to complete potential eligibility contracts in case of bugs or malicious code.

Chasing down every rumored crypto airdrop will likely lead to letdowns, as not all rumors result in actual airdrops. Tokens given away without qualifying criteria also tend to gain insignificant value.

Although hunting for crypto airdrops requires effort, those willing to actively explore the crypto ecosystem and experiment can potentially reap substantial returns. With the proper expectations and evaluation, airdrops can be an exciting way to expand your crypto portfolio.

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Trent Alan
Crypto & Blockchain Writer

Trent has an educational background in journalism and communications, and he has spent twenty years honing his writing and editing skills on various subjects. Recently, his interests have leaned towards blockchain, DeFi, and the Web3 sector, underscoring his belief in the importance of decentralizing the financial system and the internet. He has contributed to prominent Web3 publications such as Business2Community, Cryptonews.com, InsideBitcoins, and BSC News. Additionally, Trent has collaborated with numerous fintech enterprises, assisting them in producing web content, whitepapers, and marketing resources. His primary goal is to provide clear and factual information about cryptocurrencies and Web3 technologies, propelling the…