How to Identify ICO Scams

in scam-ico •  last year

There are certainly numerous scams embedded in the current ICO ecosystem as more and more people seek out novel altcoins hoping to hit it big. People are literally throwing money at a whole host of new tokens without a second thought.

This is the anti-thesis to smart-money, this is dumb-money.

Those who missed out on the rise of Bitcoin and Ethereum are falling over themselves to invest in the next big thing, unfortunately, many of these fine folks don’t even have a grasp on the basics of blockchains, crypto-markets and have no concept of how to determine the value of new offerings.

The current crypto currency landscape is being inundated with ICOs seeking funding for blockchain based altcoins. They're popping up in various economic fields promising to revolutionize the way business is done.

I think there’s little doubt that crypto-currencies have awesome potential to transform our understanding of money and how we'll be using digital assets in the future. Yet, just as important and perhaps the true transformation that is taking place is the underlying blockchain technology that will enable innovation and empower individuals across all walks of life.

ICO Scams

With new coins being launched at an accelerated pace, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to identify legitimate coins worthy of investment from elaborate hoaxes designed to capitalize on investor FOMO.

With initial coin offerings all the rage, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for projects with little more than a basic concept, a flashy name and some fluffy marketing and packaging has never been easier.

To be sure, a certain percentage of these projects will likely become success stories but we can also be certain that many of these blockchain based tokens are pure smoke and mirrors and nothing more.

Scanning the ICO landscape, one is particularly struck by the sheer number of ICOs that are currently underway and followed by another wave of new ICOs preparing for launch in the near future. Even though government regulators in China and Korea are clamping down on ICOs, there’s still no end in sight when it comes to novel token offerings.

Avoiding ICO Scams

In such a saturated market, many are rightfully becoming wary of ICOs that are promising to deliver a revolutionary product without even a modicum of proof. Even so, many are willing to invest in obscure tokens with the dream of striking - black gold or should we say – block gold.

Knowing what to look for when evaluating the potential viability of a brand new ICO is key in avoiding scams aimed at defrauding investors. Remaining calm in the midst of the ICO storm and doing your own research is paramount. Be critical and ask yourself a lot of questions.

Be critical, use common sense and explore any new venture from different angles . This can help you avoid getting swept up in the moment, making poor decisions and help you determine whether a project is legitimate or not.


The Team

Are they real people?

Investigate the core team behind the project. Find out if the team members actually exist.

Do they have a track record or experience that is relevant to the project that is verifiable?

Searching social media sites is a good place to start but perhaps more important is establishing if the individual in question is involved with any other projects or discussions related to the project’s development. If the person presented to the public seems too generic, their profiles have little social activity or if their association with the project is unclear then this should arouse suspicion.

The Technology

For the more technically inclined, check whether the project’s code is open for scrutiny on github.

If it appears to be cloned/copied from another token/app then it is likely to be a scam.

For many people, investigating the technology behind the project may be a daunting task. But you need not be a technical geek in order to gain some insight into the proposed endeavor. (Like many of you, I’m not well versed in code, at all. So, it's even more important for us to investigate other areas for potential clues).

Another place to look are forums dedicated to discussions about the project or similar projects. Put questions towards the project team and draw conclusions from the types of responses you receive or discussions you read in these forms.

Are the project developers open to dialogue?
Are they forthcoming or are they evasive?
Are responses specific or do the parties involved speak in generalities?
Do they come off as overly optimistic?

Some company’s may be trying to force their projects onto the blockchain although their main concept behind the venture does not necessarily require a blockchain. This is done in an effort to capitalize on the ‘buzz’ around the technology itself.

Similarly, it is important to ask oneself :

“Could this project be accomplished using a token that is already in existence, such as Ether?
"Is the creation of a new token necessary?”

The Concept

Another excellent place to start is to determine if there’s a market for this type of themed project. Discovering if competitors already exist in the market and how the new project can gain traction in this area is a good question to begin with. It’s important to try to attempt to determine if the project will be able to acquire a share of the market space with their product innovation or services.

Furthermore, is there a descriptive plan of how the blockchain based project will eclipse the existing/traditional models in their specific field? If traditional models are absent, then it may be another bad omen.

How long has the project been in development?

If a project has no substantial record of progress over several months and has only recently appeared, this is a sign to be very cautious.

The existence of a Whitepaper is another critical element but don’t simply gloss over this aspect, read it!

Do you come away with a better understanding of the blueprint for success after reading?

Are you confident that the team has the ability to deliver versus what is promised and are the goals achievable?

This line of inquiry refers to a project or company’s Roadmap, and how they aim at accomplishing their goals by projecting short term and long term milestones. Be sure to check the past track record of the team and learn about any of the completed projects that are available to you.

Do a search for any promotional material or advertising you can find, there may be additional clues in the way a product is being pitched.

The Token

Is the token supported or projected to be supported on more than one exchange now or in the near future?

If a token is listed on an exchange ahead of their ICO, double check by comparing the listings of other exchanges.

Has an immediate Use Case been identified?

How will the tokens be used, by whom and are there any indications of support coming from the market?

At what stage the project is currently in can also be very useful.

Is the project in the idea stage, development stage or perhaps the project has already been launched?

Will there a cap on the maximum amount of coins that will ever be produced, like bitcoin, or will there be a steady increases in the number of tokens issued over time that could effect the value of all tokens in the future?

How will the token be used in the network and is it even necessary?

There are many more aspects that can be explored that can potentially shed more light on projects we know little or nothing about but by following this line of inquiry, it's possible to gain a better understanding of any ICO.

Finally, a useful video I came across on YouTube offers similar advice and urges potential investors to take pause and ASK QUESTIONS! Questions, questions, questions.

How To Avoid ICO SCAMS - Do Your Research!! by Bitcoin for Beginners

I will be following up this post with a few obvious Scam Alerts concerning current ICOs. We will have a quick look at:

  • Beer Token

  • Wounded Warrior Coin

  • 0x2x Exchange Protocol

  • Synthhorn

and a few more eyebrow raising projects.


Source 1 -

Source 2 -

Hacker News



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Thank you for this, I been warning people of the dangers of these ico's over and over. It's hard to identify legit projects from scams. What puzzles me the most are the most blatant scams sometimes get huge investments based on marketing ploys. People need to educate themselves about this more as no amount of advice is enough to replace self restraint and caution. I applaud you for bringing this up, most people sing praises of garbage because they invested in it for their own benefit, every time I buy a token I tell people exactly why I bought it, whether it's a long term hold or a short term dump for profit. Holding a token indefinitely is a sure brew for trouble. Invest wisely and take ROI whenever the chance presents itself. Thank you for a great read...


@joseph and @v4vapid , I couldn't agree more with you. It is very important that people research about projects before being an initial investor at an ico stage. I thought you would be interested in taking a look at a post I made about the importance of research: . Thanks for your suggestions. @gold84


The markets are overrun by people with only one goal. To take your money and never increase it in value. Common thieves they are, and they should not be allowed to continue.

So many people got a lot richer just by holding bitcoin in the past year or two. And when they started investing in startups, the scammers were drawn in by the smell of money, and no legal regulations that would see them answer for their schemes!

I find it curious to say at least, that people buy into ICO-s based on the quality of their webpage. It is creating an ICO bubble, and that bubble will burst. Of those remaining standing after that happens, only a few will develop into respectable companies. And you can not judge the probability of that happening based on a web page's "professional" look.

If this makes sense to you, take a look at my blog post about the historic price of Bitcoin. You might find it an interesting read

Have a good one :)


Invest wisely and just invest in some amount you can afford to lose. This is a gambling world, your plane can either go to the moon or hit the ground hard, that's it.

You have put together an excellent list of questions for any serious investor. Unfortunately the reality is that most investors don't have the skills to critically analyze the offers. The evidence is in the tens of millions being raised, as we speak, for coins which promise virtually nothing.

It's a very fine line between outright scams and ICOs which are not even investments.

Have a look at the blog I wrote about a token offering currently in progress:

I pointed out to a couple of the Steemit bloggers who were promoting this one that the investment merits didn't exist. I suffered some serious abuse, down votes and flags from the promoters on a number of my posts in what was a revenge attack.

You can see an example revenge attack here:

I decided not to reply to the abuse nor flag it. No point in war. I will just move on and let the blogger lose all his money.

thanks, ICOs these days remind me of the shit-coin launches back in 2013 after Litecoin started. Everyday there were about 20 new coins, I even mined "FryCoin" for a while named after Fry from the pic you used for this article!


That's hilarious, I've seen weedcoin and gaycoin advertised! WTF?! 😂


very nice thanks... thanks. thanks.


Haha, yep these are some of the coins I mined and held back in the goldrush of Crypto days:
SEXCOIN - SXC - Meant for use on porno websites! (I did NOT actually use them I just thought they would go up in value)
EarthCoin - EAC - Dubbed as the "Flagship" coin for 2013...somehow they were going to help save the planet. I think i have about 50,000 of these in an old wallet somewhere.
MaxCoin - MAX - Named after crypto host Max Kaiser - Pretty much a pump n dump
BOOST - just sounded good!
And then the one good one - DarkCoin (now known as DASH) - This was the one coin I mined and believed in and held and now it's gone from 10 cents to USD$400!! Evan Duffied (the creator) you sir are a Genius!!!


Lol, FryCoin! Yeah, there's an incredible amount of tokens out there these days - madness.


What's madness is that even though you advise people to do their research most won't or they'll do a half ass job of it. I thought I learned the hard way 18 years ago but this is a much more violent game.

If you can't afford to gamble (like a college student or someone in a country with a failing currency) never play the ICO/altcoin game, stick to the top 3 and hodl.


ICOs these days remind of the early days of Kickstarter. Wild west with nobody considering consequences but regulations will kick in sooner or later!


Dont forget AnalCoin!

In all seriousness though, it is sad though how many people are falling for these traps.
Also hackers who try to pishing and other methods to get coins.

And we still are in the middle of it.

A lot more people are going to get burned, but this will not stop the blockchain revolution.

Nice read!

Good post about scams - many thanks

Solid advice @v4vapid ! I was talking to a friend yesterday who was totally hyped up about a new ICO that he has gone almost all in on! Whilst he said he had checked it out and it was solid... a pretty quick google search revealed big holes in the whole concept..

I think he wanted it to be a winner so much that he had blindsided himself. That is maybe the first rule in investing is to be open to it not actually being that good.. even if it has unlimited potential! You have to make the effort to pick it apart and find the issues if there are any.

Anyways,, my trading days are over now as im almost all in on Steem Power and my life is all the more peaceful for it! ;-)


Actually, this post was inspired by a friend of mine who feels like he's the last to know about crypto and is preparing to dive in head first without doing any real research. He wants to put all his savings into crypto and I've been trying to calm his FOMO (fear of missing out) and advising that he should slow down and do his homework first.

Thanks for the great comment.

Hope your latest Earthship is coming along ;)


yep.. its hard not to FOMO when you see some new coins jump up 50% .. !!

I'm not building right now.. The last workshop I did was a couple of years ago now.. but im surely enjoying my solar power right now in Earthship Karuna ;-)

These days im trying to find a bit of security and new direction after a big change in my employment status. I've been working for one company as a web developer for the last 11 years and now its all change to... something!?

I used to work in speculative mining stocks here in Australia. It's similar to appraising ICO's but not quite the same. You have been very thorough here @V4vapid.👍

All the bases have been covered.

Personally, I am just ignoring everything except Bitcoin and Verge Currency.


Cheers, thanks for the feedback.

I think it might be wise to make a short list of coins you've researched and believe in. Can't really go wrong with Bitcoin...just incredible how resilient it has been over the last few months.


I was very close to buying bitcoin when it was $US0.003. After that I became skeptical of it.

Then one day last year I saw the chart when it was at $1,800. From there I had a premonition. I shared the chart with my friend and told him that this was going north in a very big way, and would not stop.

Some are even predicting $1 million. Time will tell I guess.

As for Verge Currency, I have researched it, and it looks very undervalued to me. The team behind this are capable and committed.

This is a really solid post. Simply because you are using pure logic, reason and dillagecne to find the truth.

I have found that this same technique can be applied to just about anything and the truth shall be revealed!

Really nice write up and much needed. IMO 90% ICO are either scams or just pump and dump tokens of which 1 year from now will be basically non existent.

Cryptocurrency is truly revolutionary and there are indeed great investments to be had but honestly its one of the biggest money making scheme out there these days. I really don't have respect for 95% of them.

I am so thankful to be here on Steemit cause at the end of the day I am mostly invested here and I can USE it every single day regardless of if the price of $teem goes up or not! Plus this is obviously a REAL community and has an acutual working concept!

The price is still low IMO and a viable profitable investment of which is about as safe as can be in the crypto world.

Love your work, you really are a gem here. One of the most direct no fluff intelligent peeps on here.




Useful @v4vapid, thanks!

I think it's also worth being very wary of the potential for 'pump-and-dump' when a newly launched coin hits the exchanges. There can be lots of hype and price rises based on thin volumes.


Thanks for responding, great comment.

I think pump and dumps are equally as bad and many people are not able to control their emotions when they see coins rising sharply.

Another reason to remain calm when people are losing their shit.

This is becoming a huge issue. We have guidelines of our own which we have published here . They largely overlap with your own although we are quite interested by your observations in relation to github. We're going to have a closer look at that one. Upvoted and followed. Feel free to follow back if you take an interest in our ICO articles. Thanks.


This is inspirational......

When an ICO will crunch for names, we may find CATICO, DOGECO, BATCO ICOs. I wonder Bitshares is an established crypto that already have established products and struggling. A new glossy ICO without any product going for moon. Investing in real ICO requires lots of research. Thanks for posting such a valuable and timely post.

Block Gold, Nice!
Really great advice V.
I'm certain many ICO's will turn out to be scams set up to trap those desperate to get in on something early, or just die on the vine.
I invested in Tezos XTZ a few months ago and to be fair the investment is doing ok thus far. However the group of us that invested went into it after a decent amount of research and we all believed in the tech and team involved. I guess we'll see whether it was good idea or not in the coming weeks and months.
Great analysis and advice as ever buddy.


Yeah, there's just so many tokens atm and it takes a lot of time to research projects properly. I've heard of Tezos but I haven't look into it. Smart move taking the initiative to do the proper research, so important. Time will tell, hope it does well for you!


Thanks mate.


I think you'll find you're into a good thing with Tezos, assuming you bought in the ICO and not on the futures market. Once it is available on a real exchange that is. Certainly not a scam


Thanks buddy.
Yeah I bought into the ICO months ago, we did a fair bit of research and were confidant it was worth a punt, so I threw a couple Bitcoin's at it. Hopefully it'll do well.


That's a generous investment. Depending on how much you have to throw around of course. I'm trying to put no more than 1BTC in. I figure if it goes 10x or 100x I'll still be very happy. If not it is still not much to cry about. However as BTC gets more pricey... I'm being more conservative except ones I really really believe in. I like the Tezos team and their blockchain concept is novel and solves a lot of governance issues. They also had so substantial big names backing them who clearly have an idea for where it will be useful.


I think BTC was about $2000 at the time of the launch so the investment in XTZ has done roughly twice as well as BTC in the same time. So far so good.

Thank you for the tips. This is really helpful in choosing the right ICO to invest.

Great info!
Thank you ;)

its like .com's - I still remember IPO :(

Be aware from fake ico be clever be safe.
Thank you sir

I would recommend folks look at CoinCheckup

I discovered it today and they seem to be making an effort to quantify ICO "health" by various categories of information as this post describes. I haven't had a chance to look into who is running it yet or look at too many assessments but they are collecting a bunch of info you can reference for your own analysis.

It's amazing what shit-coin is will try to deprive you to your cash. ICO these days remind the madness. All the same, it is sometimes difficult to understand a promising project.


I had a question about an ICO starting Oct. 6th. It is called Wyrify ICO.
The coin is called WYR token.
Is this ICO an Scam?

Thanks for such Info ...

It is always good to be alert to all kind of scams. Thanks for the alert and tips.

Is there already the ICOcoin? :D Or is this an opportunity for me? :D

The best ico are always gone in the past :(

Cheers for info, it is mind boggling how many ICO's are coming out...i still think tenx and Monaco are goers...and EOS i am stacking...has to be a winner for sure!

Awesome article. I have a similar article to share. Please take a look and upvote if you like it.

very good post my friend..

I started following you a week ago. All your publications are wonderful and useful. Thank you

now thats what i call content #1 :)

Thank you very much for warning of his knowledge. this is very useful for me. Success always for you @v4vapid

Unfortunately where there is money, there will be scams.


Very true, hopefully this post can help a few people spot scams more quickly.

I'm still waiting for chimpcoin

Great post really helpful to find which ico is scam but nowdays ico are scamming people after china ban

I've got one for you... Blasteroid. Sounds like a bunch of unknown actors with a shitty affiliate marketing plan masquerading as a "whitepaper" want us to give them $1.3B to finance their giant Ethereum mining operation.

Real good article. thanks for your effort.

Nice point, but i think only programmer who can investigate the technology or source code while most investor have to decide the developer or trust verification from programmer.
Also, few scam/crap ICO usually use unneeded complex words in technology/concept page to make investor confused and think it's something awesome while the fact it's nothing special/useful.

Thanks it adds to my knowledge. Not that I'm anywhere near understanding alt. Perhaps ignorance is bliss! Seriously the more we learn from people like yourself the better. Enough scams in this world without this. Remind people they should be aware of being secure on the internet as well.

Thank for your information.
It will be helpful for ICO beginner.
Have a good weekend.

What do you think about the steemit tokens coming in 2018?


To be completely honest, I haven't had time to look into this yet. I haven't read the Whitepaper either.

I think it sounds interesting but I don't have enough information about how it's suppose to work yet.

A positive element is that we do know the team and they have a history/track record for comparison.

If it's implemented properly, it could very well be an amazing development.


When/if you do look into it could you let me know what you find? I am so new to this stuff I don't even understand exactly what tokens are.


Lol, well it's quite the learning curve. It took me months to wrap my head around the steemit ecosystem, so don't feel bad.
There are some much more knowledgeable authors than me here on steemit, I recommend following some popular posters in the crypto/bitcoin tags, or doing searches for steemit articles in google for the topics you're trying to understand. You'll soon find authors that are very well versed in everything crypto.


Ok thanks I will...🤗

Thanks from a newbie.

Thanks for the helpful article! I'll definitely be sharing this with friends :)

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims that the companies RECoin and DRC World deceived investors and did not engage in commercial activities, despite the fact that they said they expect significant profits for their investors. Today, the agency charged the businessman Maxim Zaslavsky and his two companies.

Keep Good Work and Going Well Please Follow Me I will Follow You Back Thanks

Even after all these measures, you could still get scammed in ICO launches.

this idea might not be a scam analysis but checking the token cap is a good idea. If the team is looking for just any amount, the tokens wouldn't have value. A medium of exchange should be rare.
Nice one V4vapid

Glad I followed you @v4vapid

I'm here still ===>>> "many of these fine folks don’t even have a grasp on the basics of blockchains, crypto-markets and have no concept of how to determine the value of new offerings"

But learning. And learning about ICOs is on my to-do list.

Fortunately, I have someone who's been there done that in the crypto world so I'm not so concerned (and in no hurry either).

My question is...

Where would you send someone to learn about ICO's and new ones coming out? I saw the follow-up to this first and that was some great stuff.

Great post!
This will be helpful to all those people just getting started on the ico world
Will start following you, hope to see more good posts

Excellent post. Many thanks. I've not entered any ICO so far mostly because I don't get why the token will be necessary for most projects.

Others promise too much ROI and require an upfront investment, which one cannot sell for x years. That screams fraud to me.

This is very informative Upvoted.Please follow me and upvote my blogs

This post is really ontine. ICO nowadays comes like mushroom . They are everywhere and seems promissing.

A well written article about ICO scams.... ICOs are great if you do your homework well . However some token do dip in price the first or 2nd week they come on coinmarket cap so waiting a bit might payoff. Do you use any website for your analysis?

YOu are right dude, we are being really bombarded on FB with these new tokens adds, so much new tokens :/

thanks of rat info amazing.

nice article... resteem


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They are all scams. Every last one!!!!

Thank you for the headsup. always good to stay informed :-)

Yes sound advice - thanks. I would perhaps add that it is worth checking if the ICO funds are vested for a period of time using a smart contract.

good post for helping it...thanks for sharing

Hi! I represent the official ICO bounty program

We really like your activity on Steemit and I want to invite you to our automated Steemit bounty program.

You can get Stakes easily for every repost or post.

About project: /

Official bounty page and bounty thread –
Please, let me now about your decision in return message 😉

Good information, I'm trying my best to understand blockchain, cryptocurrencies and the whole basis around them but it's a little too much for my tired old brain to process.

I like your post. I have followed you. Please follow me @teukurahmatpolem a good webpage,where people report cases of money loose or at least attention alarm. also i saw a good note at how to detect scam.hope I helped you to stick the true ICOs like Waves,Coliving,Civic etc

Thanks for posting this article. This was much needed for the community. :)
Wonderful read.

If it sounds too good to be true... then it probably is.

Congratulations @v4vapid!
Your post was mentioned in the hit parade in the following category:

  • Pending payout - Ranked 8 with $ 273,7

nice post @v4vapid. It was hard to identify scam ICO

From my pt of view, reading, not skimming, the white paper of the ICO is the most effective and easy way to check out whether it's a scam. Be patient if you don't want to be cheated.

Also, thanks for @v4vapid' s suggestions.

Hi @v4vapid! A friend and I have built a tool to have ICOs right in your Google Calendar:

We are thinking about a solution to filter ICOs curated by the community. We would love to get your feedback!

The only tool to avoid these scams is the proper knowledge and how do these coins work and why there is need of these coins and what makes them different from others?

Thank you for writing this. I have seen coins that are only for the exchange and renting of apartments with zero connection to blockchain technology despite mentioning the buzzword everywhere.

I'm currently worried about Ten - X. I don't believe its an outright scam, but I may have sipped the kool-aid on this one because i recently found out they lied about having partnerships with major card issuers. Anyone have clarification on Ten-X?

I think you are stop on

good blog - thank´s

Thanks for the heads up this really can help a lot of people not get scammed. Due diligence is key within this investment. Crypto Currency BABY!!

Great post with excellent points. Investors should definitely research the projects in which they plan to invest but ICOs require extra research in the midst of lack of as well as changing regulations. While looking for third-party advice, even more effort must go into research since other investors may mislead people to benefit themselves.

On the flip side, legitimate companies holding ICOs must provide this information in a transparent way so that potential investors can easily find it. There's a guide on my account for companies that explains how to be transparent and avoid being called a scam here.

Great read! Thanks for the clearly set out thought process that I'm sure many can benefit from.

scam is such a fickle definition

Thank you for sharing this information!

certainly it was much needed post with the ever growing number of ico daily it would help a lot to identify the good ones would like to conclude it by saying thanks for sharing the points and explaining it very easily and nicely thanks a lot :)

Thank you for this... I am a new investor and I am still finding it tough to sort the shitcoins from the actual good ideas...

I will be following, hoping for some good advice!

This is excellent advice, thanks for posting this. Hopefully we can keep a few people from losing money!

Just go through their whitepaper and the team working in backend and you will know

It can be found easily by how any ICO operates, as if you are into genuine ICO, they will have long term plans and have very much clarity in their process and one such example for me is Cryptonetix, which got exactly that way. Now, if we talk about scam one then you will see mouth-watering stuff initially but no follow up plans, it’s crystal clear that such ICO are just there to steal your money not anything else!

IMO as long as there is no material value for coins, there will always be those WEEDcoins etc. ;)

A lot of people don't do proper research before investing! A lot of money are gone every year.

Thank you for providing such very important knowledge.

Great info! Thank you very much!

Great info! Thank you very much!

I did saw beer token ICO and i can totally tell that its a scam. So guys, please be careful on what you invest, due dilligent checks and happy ico-ing!

great thanks for the info! ive only invested a bit of money into 1 ICO and now just waiting for it to hit the "market" so to speak

How to spot a scam ICO.
When you see ICO it means scam, even if the people who run it mean well, the best scammers are the ones who don't know that they are scamming.

with great opportunity comes great risk and with the potential of blockchain comes all the con artists out of the woodwork to take advantage of you if you let them...if we all do our homework and do not let ourselfs get hood winked some of us are going to be filthy rich.

If they are out to scam, only when they didn't fulfill their plans.. you will never know are they the real scammers (they really made good effort in white paper and etc), those ONE LOOK scammers are too easily to spot on with their 1-2pages white paper. But these days the scammers are more than what you thought. made good choices. =D

Its a risk to join an ICO ...
A huge one ....
Be careful.