Manila Times - - OPINION -

ex­er­cis­ing over­sight on the use of vir­tual cur­ren­cies. Still oth­ers have adopted a wait-and-see stance.

Le­gal recog­ni­tion of bit­coin and other cryp­tocur­ren­cies in Ja­pan fu­eled trad­ing in vir­tual cur­ren­cies. But traders and in­vestors in most other coun­tries, while watch­ing de­vel­op­ments in the cryp­tocur­rency mar­ket closely, are tak­ing a cau­tious stance. Yet some in­vestors who have closely been keep­ing track, see cryp­tocur­ren­cies as wor­thy in­vest­ments. Ini­tial Coin Of­fer­ings have raised quite size­able amounts of fund­ing, of­ten for tech star­tups.

Is it hype or a fad? Or, will cryp­tocur­ren­cies go main­stream The mar­ket will have to wait for de­vel­op­ments while govern­ments and mone­tary au­thor­i­ties move ever so slowly and cau­tiously.

But as the world awaits, dan­ger lurks. Cy­ber­crim­i­nals have taken no­tice and they in­vest time prob­ing and search­ing for likely vic­tims.

Fear, un­cer­tainty, doubt. The ap­proach was used on a Cana­dian woman who re­port­edly fell vic­tim to a scam (see: www.yorkre­gion. com/ news- story/ 7879946- scared- and- vul­ner­a­ble- rich­mond- hill- woman- vic­tim- of­bit­coin-fraud/). Re­ceiv­ing a call from some­one who claimed to be from the Canada Rev­enue Agency, the vic­tim was told that she was be­ing charged with tax fraud and that she had to pay up oth­er­wise she would be ar­rested. She was in­structed to de­posit the pay­ment via a Bit­coin ATM. It was only later, when she had quite set­tled, that she re­al­ized she had fallen vic­tim to a scam. The scam­mer ap­par­ently had de­tails about her iden­tity, in­clud­ing her name, ad­dress and other in­for­ma­tion and used a spoofed phone num­ber of the po­lice to con­vince her.

Phish­ing schemes also abound. An Aus­tralian man had just come home from work and wanted to make a quick trade be­fore go­ing to bed. He searched for the trad­ing web­site he uses, clicked on the link on the top of the list, logged in, and made the trade. Turns out that he ac­cessed a phish­ing site and his ac­count de­tails were stolen. His bit­coin stash was wiped clean soon af­ter. ( See: bit­coin-scams-warn­ing-is­sued-on­bit­coin/9114534)

Ponzi or pyra­mid­ing schemes are also on the loose, en­tic­ing vic­tims of high re­turns on in­vest­ment. Fall for it and you could likely lose the in­vest­ment. Play it right, get in early and pull out early, then you might earn some. But those who get into it last are highly likely to lose. But then, how do you know that you are get­ting in early?

There are bit­coin scam sites that of­fer high re­turns. The web­site in­vites you to put in a bit­coin in re­turn for bit­coins 10 times over within a pe­riod of time. The le­git­look­ing web­site has le­gal no­tices and a list of pay­outs made, which are all bo­gus, of course. Fall for it and you lose your bit­coin.

Some­times a phone num­ber is all that it would take. A thief can sim­ply hack into an email ac­count linked to a bit­coin wal­let and re­trieve the phone num­ber. Then, by ex­ploit­ing the telco net­work’s Sig­nal­ing Sys­tem No. send and re­ceive SMS mes­sages and even get phone num­bers re­as­signed to an­other de­vice. A per­pe­tra­tor, af­ter hav­ing re­as­signed the phone num­ber to his de­vice, ini­ti­ates a trans­ac­tion, re­ceives the au­then­ti­ca­tion code to ac­cess the bit­coin wal­let, and pro­ceeds with his evil deed. ( See: for­tune. com/ 2017/ 08/ 22/ bit­coin- coin­base- hack/ and www. forbes. com/ sites/ thoma s b r e w s t e r / 201 7 / 0 9 / 1 8 / ss7- google- coin­base- bit­coin­hack/#2421d0f­b41a4).

Cryp­tocur­rency value has ex­po­nen­tially been driven to dizzy­ing heights in the past 12 months. Govern­ments and mone­tary au­thor­i­ties have taken no­tice. So have fi­nan­cial and in­vest­ment com­pa­nies. New cryp­tocur­ren­cies are also be­ing cre­ated and of­fered. There has been growth in de­mand and many have in­vested in it. But some ex­perts have ex­pressed cau­tion. Is it turn­ing out to be an­other bub­ble about to burst?

The un­der­ly­ing tech­nol­ogy, the Blockchain, main­tains an im­mutable trans­ac­tion­ledger, copies shared by every­one into it. There are no re­ports that it has been hacked. But there are those who have been vic­tim­ized by cy­ber­crim­i­nals. And be­cause anonymity is one of its fea­tures, there is no way for any­one to trace where the bit­coin goes. And no chance of re­cov­ery.

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