Bitcoin Is A Pyramid Scheme, Economist Says


Assuming more people searching for Bitcoin correlates with more people buying it, then it is possible to track the number of buyers. The Bitcoin price swings violently because the public fall in and out of love with the narrative that Bitcoin is the future of money. Google search interest is nearing the highs of the 2017 bull run at the moment. As more and more people became aware of Bitcoin it captured the attention of entrepreneurs looking to build sleek Bitcoin exchanges and investors looking to make money. OneCoin’s inventors used the usual cryptocurrency jargon, proclaiming it would empower ordinary consumers and let them take on big banks and governments. Other cryptocurrencies supposedly paled in comparison with OneCoin which called itself “the Bitcoin killer,” Bitcoin being the first and most famous cryptocurrency. Creating a new account on the exchange is a simple process.

  • For its fans this is a revolutionary new form of currency, with the potential to sideline the banks and national currencies, and provide banking for anyone with a mobile phone.
  • In the dying days of the Soviet Union, he set up a firm selling computer kit and pirated videos, which morphed into a voucher business promising a 10% weekly return.
  • At first she was told it was something she didn’t need to know, but when she persisted she finally got the truth in a voicemail in April 2017.
  • However, the fast and abnormally high returns that cryptocurrency allows fraudsters to promise has seen a massive rise in crypto based Ponzi schemes over the last 2 years.

The stranger was Timothy Curry, a Bitcoin enthusiast and cryptocurrency advocate. He thought OneCoin would give cryptocurrencies a bad name, and he told McAdam bluntly that it was a scam – “the biggest scam in the world”. Over the next hour or so she listened carefully to people talking enthusiastically about this exciting new cryptocurrency – how it could transform her fortunes. All of them were “very up-tempo, full of beans, full of passion”, she remembers. “You are so lucky that you’re seeing this webinar right now,” she was told.

Between August 2014 and March 2017 more than €4bn was invested in dozens of countries. From Pakistan to Brazil, from Hong Kong to Norway, from Canada to Yemen… even Palestine. She told the cheering crowd that OneCoin was on course to become the world’s biggest cryptocurrency “for everyone to make payments everywhere”. When asked if people could use Lyfcoin to buy goods and services, Mr Rezaie mentioned a scheme allowing people to use it at restaurants, but there’s no evidence of this getting off the ground. Mr Hussain says the owners accepted people had been scammed in the past under the previous ownership and said that existing coins they held ‘were worth zero’. However Lyfcoin is now trading at 8 cents, according to its website. He said that around the end of March 2019, Mr Rezaie mentioned a ‘buy back’ scheme where people would be able to sell the coins back to Lyfcoin, but this failed to materialise.

We already knew that Dr Ruja spent some of her childhood in Schramberg, southern Germany. We had also visited the town of Waltenhofen in Bavaria, not far away, where she and her father bought a steelworks around a decade ago, an episode that led to her being tried for fraud. (She received a fine and a suspended sentence in October 2016.) While in Waltenhofen, we learned that she had a German husband, a lawyer for the well-known firm, Linklaters. This is clearly a question for a professional, which is why Georgia and I went to see private investigator Alan McLean. Finding people is his speciality, and there is one thing above all he says we should focus on. Igor Alberts, the MLM kingpin, said he’d heard she has Russian and Ukrainian passports and travels back and forth between Russia and Dubai. It’s also been suggested that there are powerful people who might protect her in her native Bulgaria – and that she could hide in plain sight because of plastic surgery that makes her unrecognisable.

The FCA says these types of products are ill-suited for retail consumers due to the prevalence of market abuse and financial crime within the sector. “I’m still regularly contacted by scammers trying to get me to trade. But following my experience I can now tell fraudsters a mile off. I’m contacted because once you’ve fallen for one scam, you are put on a list where other fraudsters can access your details. In court it was revealed that Ignatov signed a plea deal on 4 October, in which he pleaded guilty to several fraud charges. Georgia suggests we tell Daniel’s mother that we are journalists, and that we are investigating OneCoin because a lot of people aren’t getting their money.

How To Use Bitcoins And Cryptocurrencies

With Facebook about to launch its own coin in 2020, there is more investment in the eco-structure of cryptocurrency than any known Ponzi scheme. The question is whether to jump on board now in the hope of gaining the most benefits, or wait to test the waters. Another way to lose money is by signing up to a fraudulent binary options trading platform. Binary options trading allows investors to bet on the price of a digital currency going up or down.Users don’t actually own any of the currency, but are instead betting on whether the price of the asset will rise or fall over a specified amount of time. There are many legitimate exchanges where people can buy and sell crypto. But there are also plenty of fake exchanges that will take your money without giving you anything in return. Another common tactic is to make it almost impossible for users to withdraw their funds, or they may charge high withdrawal fees.

Given the returns dangled by Mavrodi’s “social financial network” you can see the appeal, says Bloomberg. The global version of the MMM site offers monthly returns of 100% (the more “modest” China scheme a mere 30%). Sergey Mavrodi is one of Russia’s most infamous fraudsters in recent history; millions have lost their savings because of his MMM pyramid schemes. Russia’s Infamous fraudster, Sergey Mavrodi, has pulled off a masterpiece of a scam using Bitcoin and a veneer of Marxism. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.

Crypto Funds Also Banned

The FCA banned the sale of binary options to consumers in April last year, so if you are offered binary options it is probably a scam. This is when strangers threaten you, demanding bitcoin as payment. The demand often comes through email, with the scammer saying they have hacked into your computer webcam to record you doing something private. However, this is simply a scam and the fraudster will have sent this email to hundreds or thousands of email accounts.

Eventually the scheme runs out of new “greater fools,” the bubble pops, and a lot of people are left holding the bag. This is, again, why “market cap” is a misleading and useless number. If someone bought a fraction of a bitcoin at $19,000 per BTC, that doesn’t make anyone else a “Bitcoin billionaire” whose bitcoins could be sold at $19,000 each — the total actual money recoverable from the system hasn’t gone up. This makes Bitcoin a zero-sum investment — the actual money coming out can never be more than the actual money coming in. (Or a bit less, as the miners cash out their reward from each block mined to pay for their electricity.) X amount of actual money goes into Bitcoin — the same amount of actual money, X, is immediately returned to a different person.

For several months, a French journalist called Maxime Grimbert tried to unpick OneCoin’s corporate workings, collecting as many company names and bank account details as he could. I show his results to Bullough, who immediately notices how many British companies there are. “British companies are the companies of choice,” he comments. The problem, he explains, is that following the money isn’t as easy as it sounds, because criminals structure their companies and bank accounts in such a way that their assets seem to disappear. “They still exist”, he says, in his garden near the village of Hay-on-Wye. “You can still use them to buy things, you can still use them to buy political influence and nice houses and yachts. But when it comes to someone trying to find them – whether that’s a journalist or a police officer – they are invisible.” It’s hard to know how much money has been put into OneCoin.

is cryptocurrency a ponzi scheme

At Selachii, our tenacious, commercially-minded solicitors provide expert advice and assistance in all manner of investment fraud matters. We have a proven track record helping creditors and investors recover funds, both in the UK and abroad, with particular expertise in cases involving cryptocurrency fraud. As lawyers who specialise in cryptocurrency fraud, we have all of the experience required to manage the legal action required to recover any funds lost to a scam or a Ponzi scheme. They are named after Charles Ponzi who, as far back as the 1920s, ran fraudulent investment schemes in which a company would pay the returns it promised its original investors using capital provided by new investors. It’s all too easy for fraudsters to create social media accounts impersonating other people or to make it appear that celebrities are endorsing the investment. Many victims are lured in through adverts posted on social media. GPay Ltd, which traded as XtraderFX and formerly as Cryptopoint, targeted victims through advertising its services online and via social media channels with false testimonials from Martin Lewis and other entrepreneurs.

Russia’s Infamous Fraudster, Sergey Mavrodi, Has Pulled Off A Masterpiece Of A Scam Using Bitcoin And A Veneer Of Marxism

Around the same time, the US authorities charged Dr Ruja in absentia for wire fraud, security fraud and money laundering. When you’re dealing with a scam worth billions of euros, it’s not unusual for shadowy groups to get involved. Several of the people Georgia and I interviewed spoke darkly about mysterious people and connections they didn’t want to name.

is cryptocurrency a ponzi scheme

Documents leaked to the BBC say €4bn between August 2014 and March 2017. I’ve also been told by more than one person that it could be as much as €15bn. She feels guilty towards those who she introduced to OneCoin, she says, but also towards her late father, a miner, who worked hard all his life in horrible conditions, and left her the money that she then gave away. After Dr Ruja’s non-appearance in Lisbon, a point came when Igor Alberts, like Jen McAdam, asked to see evidence of the blockchain. Fairly soon Igor Alberts was making more than €1m a month from OneCoin, which quickly became the biggest product in network marketing. Then he got into network marketing, or multi-level marketing as it is often known, and started making money. The opening of a long-promised exchange that would allow OneCoin to be turned into cash kept being delayed – and investors were growing more and more concerned.

There are many more thousands of brilliant minds who have never entered the crypto space for exactly the reasons David is describing. A stash of bitcoins isn’t a useful pile of capital that you can invest in profitable economic activity and grow the wealth with — all you can do is sell them again. For all practical purposes, Bitcoin works only in terms of the conventional currency system. Bitcoin is not the bloodflow of a functioning economy — there’s no circular flow of income. You can buy very few things with bitcoins — even the drug market is abandoning it, as transaction fees go through the roof. If you bought in at $19,000, you paid for someone else to cash out. And now that person will call you an idiot if you panic about losing your money.

Bitcoin is also a popular platform for Ponzis and Ponzi-like schemes. The story of Pirateat40 is detailed in chapter four of the book, but “high-yield investment programmes” were stupidly popular in the early days. And it’s attracted experienced Ponzi operators such as Sergei Mavrodi of the MMM scheme of the 1990s, who started new schemes based around bitcoins. This means that more money has to come into the system — new people have to join the scheme. This is obvious to everyone “investing” — they have to recruit. “Now the main trend in the scams is that the ‘crypto’ scams don’t even use crypto. However, as Bitcoin momentum rises investors have been reminded of the risks associated with cryptocurrencies, especially as people may start looking for the “next” Bitcoin.

Criminals can use the names of well-known brands or individuals to make their scams appear legitimate. She believes that cryptocurrency, and Bitcoin in particular, has awakened since the winter freeze of 2018 and is now once again gaining international attention as it reaches $8,000 – a 55% increase on the last month alone. While it is now shedding owners as retail investors take their profit, this volatility is equally a sign of a renewed interest in the market. The regulator estimates retail investors will save around £53m from the ban on these products. Britons should avoid any company promoting ETNs from January next year, as they are likely to be fraudulent. Binary trading was born out of the financial crisis in 2008 and investors are attracted by the simplicity of the trades.

The currency first hit the mainstream not for being a savvy investment, but rather because it was the tool of choice for online drugs websites hidden in the dark web, a collection of anonymous internet webpages. To really understand Bitcoin and what makes its fans tick , prospective investors have to go back to the online drugs markets and underground computer programmers. But they must also look forward to the prospects of ultra low interest rates for decades, money-printing policies from central banks and good old fashioned supply and demand. Some think it is the future of money while others claim it is a giant Ponzi scheme sucking in fools with no real understanding of investing, merely looking to get rich quick. Unbacked – Bitcoin has the backing of the cryptography that requires vast computing processing power and large electricity supplies that could have otherwise been directed elsewhere.

The UK began to insist recently that companies must enter the name of the person with “significant control” – the real owner. The nature of MLM networks – where people often recruit others who are close to them – creates a blurred sense of responsibility. And if sellers have invested their own money, they are victims too. “She was on her way. Nobody knew why she wasn’t there,” recalls one delegate. The head office in Sofia, where she was such an imposing presence, didn’t know anything either.

is cryptocurrency a ponzi scheme

By 2011, Mavrodi was back in business with a new scheme, MMM-2011, that ran as a kind of social network making it harder for prosecutors to move against him. “It’s not Mavrodi’s problem if people are willing to trade money for a non-currency and then send it to each other in exchange for another non-currency.” When it goes bust as it surely must he can “just start a new one”.

And McAdam’s leader prepared her carefully for conversations with OneCoin sceptics. “You’re told not to believe anything from the ‘outside world’,” she recalls.

Cryptocurrency Scams And Frauds You Can Avoid

A Ponzi scheme is an investment scheme where the operators will attract investors by offering unusually high returns. Returns are generated for older investors through the revenue coming from new investors, rather than from the legitimate profits from the investment itself. The scheme will continue to grow until no more recruits can be found and the whole scheme collapses, with the newest investors losing everything.

But they have always failed because no-one could trust them. They would always need someone in charge who could manipulate the supply, and forgery was too easy. All over the world, people were already investing their savings into OneCoin, hoping to be part of this new revolution. Documents leaked to the BBC show that British people spent almost €30m on OneCoin in the first six months of 2016, €2m of it in a single week – and the rate of investment could have increased after the Wembley extravaganza.

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