The Twitter thread told the story of the rise and fall of crypto in four simple tweets. On Dec. 28, @LittleShapesNFT posted a brief message to his followers. “Hey Little Shapes fam, this might sound crazy but I got into a car accident 5 months ago and just got out of a huge coma,” he wrote. “I don’t know what’s been going on since then but we’re coming back harder than ever.”
@LittleShapesNFT, who had been touting an NFT project consisting of 4,444 images of different shapes he said were generated with a physics engine, subsequently tweeted a photo showing him “walking out the hospital.”
Then came the gut punch. “what the fuck happened to my FTX account,” he tweeted, followed in quick succession by “oh my fucking god.” During the period @LittleShapesNFT said he was in the coma, the crypto exchange FTX had collapsed spectacularly, ripping him and many other investors from their cash.
The tale went viral, and a series of crypto publications credulously covered @LittleShapesNFT’s story. One site ran an exclusive interview with the victim, who told them that he was T-boned by a Ford F-150 and had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in FTX while in the coma.
“The story of the owner behind the Little Shapes reads more like the script of a Hollywood thriller than a real life story shared on Twitter,” that piece began, “so I reached out the accounts’ owner for some much-needed context into his insane experience.”
The reason the story sounds “like the script of a Hollywood thriller” is because, BuzzFeed News can now reveal, the tale was completely fabricated.
But the deception wasn’t, as one might expect, designed to drum up interest in the Little Shapes NFT project. The 23-year-old Miamian behind @LittleShapesNFT, who asked to use the pseudonym Atto, told BuzzFeed News that he made everything up as part of a plan to gain attention for his allegations about the way the NFT industry is corrupted — claims he is going public with today.
Atto first admitted to BuzzFeed News that his story was fictitious on Jan. 5, after we approached him to talk about his incredible story. (BuzzFeed News did not publish that the coma story was made-up at the time as a condition of gaining access to the findings of Atto's investigation ahead of release.) He said the hospital bed photo that started the whole saga was supplied by an NFT world friend of his. The tweet featuring the handwritten proof of date was shot outside a local hospital. He didn’t have any money in FTX either.
And the evidence he presented to naysayers in subsequent days, including medical bills, were forgeries created using online image-manipulation sites. Tweets he posted about struggling to tell his wife about his financial loss were also untrue. “Yeah, bro, I’m 23,” he said when asked if his spouse was fabricated. “Fuck a wife.”
“I needed a story that sells to make sure no one would ignore a story that hurts.”
Atto described the subterfuge to BuzzFeed News as “performance art.” “People don’t pay attention unless you give them a reason to,” he said. “I needed a story that sells to make sure no one would ignore a story that hurts.” Atto revealed that the Little Shapes NFT project itself is a ruse designed to help “expose a network of botted NFT projects.”
The self-styled “crypto detective” said he’d been investigating bot-supported NFT projects, and how they allegedly spam and scam gullible users out of money. Atto suggested that hundreds of NFT projects use bot accounts to give off the impression that they are more popular than they actually are in order to attract more investors.
“Then [investors] get rug-pulled or fucked over, usually in the course of a few months, and the people behind the project make 3 or 4 million,” Atto said. “What I found frustrating is we’re in a space ranked completely by social capital and fake Twitter engagement where nothing’s real,” he added. “NFTs are kind of bullshit, from what I’ve seen over the last few months.”
Atto said his research found that a small group of botters have been artificially inflating interest in at least 300 NFT projects in the last year. (Some of the bots used ended up “winning” supposed giveaways promoted by NFT projects, he said.)
To back his claims, Atto cited data analysis he conducted of tweet view-to-like and reply-to-like ratios. To show how easy he believes it is to artificially inflate engagement with NFT projects, Atto himself deployed bots to engage with a video he created in June 2022 to promote Little Shapes.
Atto isn’t able to say for certain who is behind what he calls the “biggest organized NFT pump and dump or market manipulation scheme in history.”
One of the accounts he identified as a bot, @PatDelores, has since been suspended from Twitter. The researcher also pointed the finger at Dmister, a website that produces what it calls “NFT panels,” which an associated ProductHunt page says help “NFT projects Grow on Twitter, Discord and much more….” Atto alleges in his report that “Dmister uses his bot network to sell engagement to NFT projects and help them look hyped, for $100 per 1k likes/rts/replies.”
Atto said he used Dmister to promote the Little Shapes NFT video above. The developer behind Dmister, Karim Merahi, did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment for this story.
Atto told BuzzFeed News he is coming forward with his findings in order to try to bring some legitimacy to the world of NFTs. “I get to settle a score I have with the rampant corruption and greed in a space that’s fucked over hundreds of thousands, while also showing people that they should have higher standards for the NFTs they invest in,” he said.
As for why he felt the need to lie about being rendered unconscious for five months, Atto has a simple answer. “The coma was just page one of a, like, 20-page plan,” he said. “On Twitter, attention spans are like five minutes. You have to draw people in deeply.
“No one really gives a fuck about research, and a lot of people are bagholders” — people who hold onto their investments, even in the face of massive losses, in the hope that they’ll come good tomorrow — “so even if you’re right, they’ll shit on you,” Atto continued. “You’ve got to force people to look in your direction if you want your work to be read.”