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CFTC Uncovers Ponzi Scheme in My Big Coin Pay Cryptocurrency

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U.S. regulators have stepped up their surveillance of crypto fraud by filing formal complaints against My Big Coin Pay, a digital currency that funneled millions of dollars to the operators in an apparent Ponzi scheme.

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Formal Complaints Filed

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has lodged complaints against Randall Crater and Mark Gillespie, who allegedly used funds generated from the My Big Coin Pay ICO to purchase real estate, jewelry and vacations. Regulators said a total of $6 million was “misappropriated” and used to buy indulgences. In an attempt to cover up the Ponzi scheme, the cryptocurrency’s operators tried to issue additional tokens.

The U.S. commodities regulator filed the case on Jan. 16, citing misappropriation charges that include “transferring customer funds into personal bank accounts, and using those funds for personal expenses and the purchase of luxury goods.”

According to the CFTC filing, the operators of the cryptocurrency made several misleading claims to lure unsuspecting investors. This included false claims that the cryptocurrency was actively traded on the major exchanges, and that it had daily price quotes. The scam coin’s operators also said they were supported by major companies like MasterCard. None of these assertions were true.

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Regulators described My Big Coin Pay’s results as “illusionary,” and said the setup took money from investors fraudulently.

Regulators Step Up Oversight Efforts

The CFTC is one of two main U.S. regulatory bodies tackling the growing and often mischievous world of cryptocurrency. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is also scrutinizing token sales for possible violation of federal securities laws. Several funds have shelved plans for bitcoin ETFs on grounds that the SEC would not approve the application.

As one might expect, the CFTC is handling several cases of fraud involving cryptocurrency. Just last week, it filed fraud charges against three other crypto operators, according to Engadget, a technology news portal.

The commodities regulator is also facing criticism for allowing the CME and CBOE exchanges to launch bitcoin futures. Opponents of the move, which include the Futures Industry Association (FIA), say bitcoin futures may introduce unwanted complications to the clearing process.

Meanwhile, fraudsters have permeated every corner of the ICO market in hope of stealing a slice of an ever expanding pie. Coin offerings are generating record inflows at the moment, with startups easily raising tens of millions of dollars on the back of a whitepaper and PR campaign. Although the market is scrutinizing ICO projects much more closely, huge appetite remains. Some companies are said to be rushing their crowdsale while the regulatory climate is still favorable.

On the other side of the token raise, hackers are stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from ICOs, according to new research by big-five consulting firm Ernst & Young.  The researchers concluded that nearly $400 million in ICO funds raised last year were stolen through phishing and other common tactics.

The report indicated that “flawed token valuations, unclear regulations, heightened hacker attention and congested networks” were the biggest catalysts behind the widespread security breaches. Clearly, this is one corner of the financial market regulators will need to monitor much more closely.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 161 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Telegram Officially the World’s Biggest ICO With $850 Million Raised So Far

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It didn’t take long for Telegram to shatter the ICO record for biggest crowdfunding campaign of all time. According to a recent filing, the popular messenger app has already raised $850 million out of an expected $2 billion.

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Telegram ICO Underway

The Tether company disclosed an amount of $850 million in a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The document indicated that the funds are being used “for the development of the TON Blockchain, the development and maintenance of Telegram Messenger and the other purposes described in the offering materials.”

The $850 million figure matches an earlier estimate of the total amount Tether intends to raise via private sale. Based on the same estimates, the company plans to raise an additional $1.15 billion via public crowdsale. A firm date for the sale is still unknown.

Funding is expected to hep Telegram expand its operations and devote more resources to development. Roughly half a billion dollars will be allocated toward infrastructure costs, such as data center, equipment and bandwidth. An additional $120 million will go toward staff, legal and office fees.

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The amount raised by Telegram easily shatters the ICO record previously set by Tezos, which raised $232 million. The only other coin projects to raise more than $200 million are Filecoin and Bancor.

ICOs Getting a Bad Rap

Initial coin offerings have received criticism from those who feel the crowdfunding model is a quick way for businesses to cover their bills. At their worst, ICOs feed on investor appetite without actually providing much of a business case. The tokens themselves become speculative investments, with the “utility” aspect dependent entirely on user adoption.

By offering up an ICO, Telegram has opened itself up to similar criticism. Although the company is an established brand with hundreds of millions of active users, it is struggling with high operating costs and an uncertain financial future.

To date, the details surrounding the Telegram ICO have come from third-party sources, with the actual team failing to provide much information.

Billions of dollars flowed into ICO projects last year; depending on who you ask, that trend intensified in 2018. Recent figures from ICOData suggest that startups raised nearly $1.2 billion in January. The same source reported more than $6 billion in total funding last year.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 161 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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CFTC Warns Crypto Investors About Pump-and-Dumps

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Washington’s top commodity regulator has issued a stern warning to investors about cryptocurrency pump-and-dump schemes, which have become more prevalent in the wake of the ICO boom that began last year.

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CFTC Issues Warning

In a strongly worded release, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on Thursday urged investors not to participate in pump-and-dumps, which are classified as a form of security fraud. The regulator said this form of fraud is easier to implement than ever before, with mobile chat groups and internet message boards becoming the go-to method for disseminating false or misleading statements about a particular asset.

“The same basic fraud is now occurring using little known virtual currencies and digital coins or tokens, but thanks to mobile messaging apps and Internet message boards, today’s pump-and-dumpers don’t need a boiler room, they organize anonymously and hype the currencies and tokens using social media,” the CFTC said.

The regulator added the following:

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“Some pump and dumps use false news reports, typically about a famous high-tech business leader or investor who plans to pour millions of dollars into a small, lesser known virtual currency or coin. Other fake news stories have featured major retailers, banks, or credit card companies, announcing plans to partner with one virtual currency or another.”

Lesser Known Coins the Target

In the world of cryptocurrency, pump-and-dumpers often target lesser known coins that can be bought for pennies. The hype machine then goes to work convincing speculators to enter trades as quickly as possible. In a market that added 3,300% in the span of a year, convincing the masses that it’s now-or-never is fairly easy.

Although it’s not always easy distinguishing which cryptocurrencies have been artificially inflated by fake stories, some possible recent candidates include UBIQ, Golem Dragoncoin, DigiByte and Verge.

Others argue that all cryptocurrencies are pumped and dumped because it’s almost impossible to determine their intrinsic value (if they even have one at all). The author believes this argument conflates true pump-and-dump schemes from the common perception that cryptocurrencies are in a bubble (it’s possible to be in the latter without being a product of the former).

That being said, investors should be especially weary of obscure coins that surge unexpectedly without cause or explanation. Although it may not be an apparent pump-and-dump, it could be a case of excessive speculation.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 161 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Barely Any Cryptocurrency Traders Have Paid Their Taxes

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2017 was an earth shattering year for cryptocurrencies as the total market appreciated by 3,300%. However, a new survey suggests the vast majority of U.S. traders haven’t reported their gains. In fact, the number of traders who have reported their crypto-related capital gains to the IRS is less than 100.

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Nothing for Uncle Sam

Credit monitoring company Credit Karma has released a report showing that, of the first 250,000 tax filings it received, less than 100 filers reported owning digital currency. Cutting through the FUD, it’s not entirely clear whether this number refers to 250,000 cryptocurrency traders or simply 250,000 American tax filers.

Given the extent of last year’s price rally, there should be more Americans reporting a hefty increase in their capital gains. Various news sources have reported that nearly 57% of respondents in a recent Qualtrics survey said they made money from crypto investments. The survey’s sample size was 2,000.

Cryptocurrency investments that result in profit are considered a form of capital gains by the Internal Revenue Service.

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Americans have until Apr. 17 to file their taxes. The IRS expects 156 million individuals will file returns this year.

Market Concentration

Although Credit Karma said it expects more people to report crypto-related earnings later in the tax season, nobody was counting on so few numbers. While gains were relatively easy to come by for “hodlers” – traders in it for the long haul – speculators may have had a more difficult time converting deposits into profits due to the market’s heavy volatility.

If we use bitcoin as a proxy, it’s easy to see that the market’s value is highly concentrated in a few hands. In the case of bitcoin, about 1,000 people own 40% of the supply.

One way to alleviate market concentration is to democratize cryptocurrency as an investment. The introduction of bitcoin futures last year was seen as a watershed moment for wide scale adoption, at least in the institutional sense. Several fund managers have also been pushing for bitcoin ETFs, but have so far been unable to overcome the SEC’s scrutiny.

The cryptocurrency market has been in a funk as of late, but finally appears to be showing signs of recovery. At the time of writing, a single bitcoin was worth nearly $9,500, the most since Feb. 1. The total value of all cryptocurrencies was $460.4 billion, according to latest data.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 161 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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