Scammers and Fraudsters Are Now Everywhere
With the rise of bitcoin, “cryptocurrency” (or “crypto currency” or “altcoins”) has become the latest hot item for investors worldwide, which means that scammers are not far behind. It has already been called “the next mutation of binary options.” When you are victimized by fraud, you are generally entitled to receive a refund or, in certain circumstances, apply for a chargeback.
Wikipedia defines cryptocurrency, as “a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses cryptography to secure its transactions, to control the creation of additional units, and to verify the transfer of assets. Cryptocurrencies are classified as a subset of digital currencies and are also classified as a subset of alternative currencies and virtual currencies.”
Unlike cash, cryptocurrencies are not issued or regulated by governments. They are electronically generated by a peer-run system with encryption to ensure (varying degrees of) anonymity and security. Moreover, they are designed to gradually reach a maximum amount over a pre-set time period, after which generation will cease. It is that built-in deadline that has generated unprecedented interest among investors.
As a result, the entire virtual currency market reached a capitalization of nearly $2 trillion dollars in just 12 years. Since Bitcoin was introduced in 2009, its value increased by over 25,000 percent at one point. Within five years from mid-2013, the complete market cap for all cryptocurrencies grew by 10,000 percent.
According to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, which issued the world’s first global cryptocurrency benchmark study in May 2017, more than three million people worldwide were then actively using digital currencies as an alternative for everything from purchases of goods and services to gambling platforms known as “cryptocurrency lottos.” That figure, which was three-times higher than previous estimates, represented a critical mass that had turned cryptocurrency into an integral part of the global financial system.
Since the advent of bitcoin, a number of other virtual currencies have been created, or, in the terminology of the trade, have undergone a cryptocurrency ICO (initial coin offering). These include Litecoin, introduced in 2011, and Ethereum, introduced in 2015.
These bitcoin alternatives are now attracting attention from people interested in investing in cryptocurrency, especially if they are seeking a lower entry price into the market. Since the beginning of 2017, therefore, bitcoin’s share of the market has fallen from 90 percent to 40 percent.
Cryptocurrency consultants are usually the first stop for new investors. The challenge for the investor is that cryptocurrencies are, by definition, free from government regulation. A cryptocurrency consultant, therefore, does not have to be licensed by anyone. To weed out the scammers, check to see if they have professional histories in finance as investment consultants, stockbrokers, commodity traders, or some other related field that actually does require government registration. And then confirm that they remain in those capacities certified before you buy cryptocurrencies.
As is the case with traditional scams, fraudulent cryptocurrency consultants and fraudulent cryptocurrency trading sites generally disguise their address by renting out a mail drop in an unusual location for international commerce, either on a remote and underpopulated island or in a remote and underpopulated country behind what was once the Iron Curtain. Due to demographic factors, such countries usually lack the governmental infrastructure to effectively monitor brokerages and other financial services. This is matched by lax enforcement of whatever legislation does exist and a legal system that has no experience in investigating and prosecuting online scams.
How to Invest in Cryptocurrencies
The next step to buying cryptocurrencies is to find an exchange. But the selection of an exchange for investing in cryptocurrencies poses unique risks. This is because even if a cryptocurrency exchange claims it is incorporated in a large Western country, it will not be registered with the national financial oversight agency. Again, that is because cryptocurrency is, by definition, free from government control and supervision.
Financial regulation is the most important aspect of a brokerage’s credibility, since if it is unregistered it is also unmonitored, which means there is no governmental oversight. This typifies all fraudulent brokerages. If the cryptocurrency exchange also trades other commodities, check with your national financial oversight agency that it is registered to do so. In the event that it is, it has everything to lose if it is engaging in a cryptocurrency scam. If it isn’t, that’s a red flag. Stay away.
Cryptocurrency can be traded like any other asset. The cost of trading cryptocurrency should be published on an exchange’s website. If it is not, that can be a sign the site is a scam. If cryptocurrency trading costs are intentionally hidden from the public, that probably means they are either unnaturally high, linked to the size of the investment or even arbitrary − which, of course, would enable the scammer to maximize the rip-off.