What Does Shill Mean in Crypto: Best Definition

Published: October 23, 2023 | Last Updated: September 24, 2023

Markos Koemtzopoulos

Markos Koemtzopoulos is the founder and main writer of ElementalCrypto. He has been a lecturer at the University of Nicosia on cryptocurrencies and DeFi and has taught two courses on crypto and blockchain technology.

In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about the word shill: what it means, where it originates from, the types of shilling, and some juicy gossip on celebrity shillers.

Meaning of shill in crypto

To shill a coin in crypto circles means to endorse a particular cryptocurrency or project for personal gain.

The word shill is also used as a noun to describe people who spread exaggerated claims, false information, or even engage in manipulative tactics to pump up the price of a specific cryptocurrency.

The term shill has a negative connotation in that you are promoting a new project not because you genuinely believe in it but because you expect some financial gain.

Apart from financial incentives, shilling can also sometimes be driven by the desire for fame and recognition within the crypto community.

By creating hype and attracting attention, individuals hope to establish themselves as influential figures and gain a following.

Etymology of the word

According to etymonline the word shill first came about in the early 20th century and was used to describe decoys who bid the price up in auctions.

Similarly, a casino shill is a decoy that makes playing against an opponent or a game easy.

The auction game … is a sordid affair… The list of employees is made up of one backer, or proprietor, two auctioneers, one pretty girl cashier, and from two to ten “shills,” whose business it is to stand around in the crowd and make fake bids for the articles on sale.

The Chicago Sunday Tribune, May 12, 1912

Types of shilling in crypto

Shilling can take various forms in the world of cryptocurrency.

  1. One common tactic used by Shills is to spread false information or exaggerated claims about a cryptocurrency to attract potential investors. They may manipulate social media platforms, and online forums, and even create fake accounts to amplify their message and deceive unsuspecting individuals. Once everyone buys the coin they do a rug pull whereby they sell their coins at a higher price and disappear.
  2. Another common type of shill is the “celebrity shill.” This involves influential figures endorsing a project and leveraging their broad reach to attract crypto investors.
  3. Another type is the “paid shill.” In this scenario, individuals or groups receive compensation to promote a particular cryptocurrency. Whether it’s through social media posts, videos, or articles, these paid shills aim to create a positive buzz around the coin and encourage others to invest.
  4. Additionally, there are “sock-puppet shills.” These are individuals who create fake accounts or personas to deceive others into thinking they are genuine supporters of a coin. They engage in discussions, create positive narratives, and attempt to manipulate opinions to favor the digital currencies they are shilling.

Examples of how to use “shill” and “shilling”

  • “I’m skeptical about that new cryptocurrency project; it seems like they have a lot of shills on social media promoting it.”
  • “Don’t fall for the shilling tactics of self-proclaimed crypto experts who promise guaranteed returns. Make sure you do your own research.”
  • “The sudden surge in price was likely due to coordinated shilling efforts on Reddit and Twitter.”
  • “Investors should be cautious when they see someone aggressively shilling a token; it could be a pump-and-dump scheme.”
  • “The ICO comments were just part of a shilling campaign to attract unsuspecting investors.”
  • “Be sure to distinguish between genuine recommendations and shilling attempts designed to manipulate the crypto market.”
  • “Shill which coins you are betting on below”
  • “It’s essential to have a discerning eye in the crypto space because shilling is common.”
  • “The SEC accused of her shilling her own token”

Below are some examples of people accusing others of being shills on Twitter (now “X”)

how to use the word shill
usage of the term shill on twitter
shill example 2

Celebrity crypto shills

Here are some of the most infamous cases of celebrities shilling various crypto projects.

#1. FTX celebrities

The most recent cases of celebrities getting into trouble for shilling relate to the collapse of FTX.

FTX imploded in November 2022 when crypto investors found out that its founders were using customer funds to take on risky bets.

FTX was one of the flashiest crypto exchanges at the time.

A whole bunch of celebrities are being sued for promoting FTX

  1. There are eight YouTubers accused of failing to disclose compensation: these include Paffrath, Nash, Graham Stephan, Andrei Jikh, Jaspreet Singh, Brian Jung, Jeremy Lefebvre, and Erika Kullberg.
  2. Then there is Larry David, the creator of the TV shows “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
  3. A lawsuit also seeks damages from the Golden State Warriors an NBA team that promoted FTX.
  4. Other celebrities include NFL quarterback Tom Brady, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, NBA star Stephen Curry, tennis player Naomi Osaka, baseball superstar David “Big Papi” Ortiz, and Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary
tom brady shilling FTX
Tom Brady shilling FTX in an ad

#2. Kim Kardashian

In October 2022 the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Kim Kardashian for shilling a crypto project called EMAX on her Instagram profile without disclosing that Ethereum Max had paid her $250,000 to do so.

As a result, she was fined $1.26 million.

kim kardashian shill
Kim Kardashian’s Shill on Instagram

#3. Elon Musk

Elon Musk has not been fined for shilling yet.

After all, he would unlikely be interested in getting paid to promote a specific coin.

However, one of his favorite coins to shill is Dogecoin.

Whenever Elon Musk mentions or promotes Dogecoin, the price of DOGE moves.

After Elon promoted Dogecoin on Saturday Night Live on May 8th, 2021 its price shot up by 10x.

The most recent publicity was when Elon switched out the logo of the Twitter bird with that of the Shiba Inu Mascot for a few days.

elon musk shills DOGE

#4. Lindsay Lohan

In a Twitter post in April 2022, self-proclaimed Crypto detective ZachXBT revealed that Lindsay Lohan had shilled a cryptocurrency while not disclosing that she was paid $25,000 for it.

Lindsay Lohan shill
Lindsay’s shill on Twitter

#5. Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled

In November 2018 the SEC fined Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled for shilling a crypto company called CentraTech.

According to the SEC Floyd pocketed $100,000 and $DJ Khaled 50,000 without making those payments known to the public.

They got fined $600,000 and $150,000 respectively

mayweather shill
Mayweather shill

#6. John McAfee

In October, John McAfee was arrested in Spain facing charges of tax evasion and shilling crypto projects.

McAfee later passed away before being extradited to the US.

The coin whose logo he apparently tattooed on his back was called Skycoin.

mcafee tattoo shill
McAfee’s Skucoin tattoo

What’s a pump and dump scheme

A pump and dump happens when members of a crypto community promote the heck out of a coin on public forums before selling everything and abandoning it.

If you suddenly find yourself feeling the crypto FOMO make sure you do thorough research so as not to become a victim of a pump scheme.

Is shilling illegal in crypto?

Yes promoting a coin without disclosing that you are being paid to do so is illegal.

What is SHILL Coin?

Like with many other crypto vocabulary terms that go viral the term Shill has been appropriated by a number of coins.

Currently, there are 6 coins that are named after Shill

The most prominent of these is called SHILL token with a market cap of $9Mn at the time of writing.

Coins like these hope to gain meme status and grow based on the virality of the term.

However, most of them are unsuccessful.

You might also be wondering about the following terminology

Up Next

The Ultimate List of the 25 Best Crypto Advisors to Follow in 2023

Best Crypto Advisors to Follow

Welcome to my ultimate list of the 25 best crypto advisors to follow in 2023! These experts will provide you with the insights and analysis you need to stay ahead of the curve in crypto. Without further ado, let’s dive into our top picks for 2023. Read more.

1. Anthony Pompliano

Anthony Pompliano, known as “Pomp”, has over 1.6 million followers on Twitter and over 468k subscribers on YouTube. “Pomp” is an Army veteran, investor, and entrepreneur.

anthony pompliano

2. Vitalik Buterin

As the crypto billionaire and co-founder of Ethereum, Buterin has a massive 4.6 million following on Twitter.

vitalik buterin

3. IvanOnTech

Ivan Liljeqvist is a software developer, blockchain educator, and international speaker. He has over 492k subscribers on YouTube and over 394k followers on Twitter.

Ivan Liljeqvist IvanonTech

Review the complete list of top crypto advisors here.

Markos Koemtzopoulos is the founder and main writer of ElementalCrypto. He has been a lecturer at the University of Nicosia on cryptocurrencies and DeFi and has taught two courses on crypto and blockchain technology.

Learn About a New
Coin Every Week

Learn About a New
Coin Every Week

Master Crypto Basics

Join over 7,300 subscribers. It’s free.

elementalcrypto newsletter benefits