Major Banks Ban Buying Bitcoin With Your Credit Card

Major Banks Ban Buying Bitcoin With Your Credit Card

 

Most major U.S. credit card issuers have now banned

the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin or other digital currencies, in a move intended to decrease both financial and legal risk. Bank of America began blocking cryptocurrency purchases on Friday, according to Bloomberg. JPMorgan did the same on Saturday. Citigroup also says it is halting cryptocurrency purchases on credit, and Capital One and Discover had already enacted their own bans. That means all of the top five credit card issuers have announced or implemented bans.

The moves are above all in the banks’ self-interest. As Fortune previously reported, the mania surrounding cryptocurrency late last year appears to have motivated many retail investors to use credit cards as leveraging tools, buying more cryptocurrency than they could afford. With Bitcoin down roughly 50% from December highs, many of those investors are likely underwater right now, and may not be able to pay off their initial Bitcoin purchases soon, if ever. Further, as Bloomberg points out, banks may be responsible for monitoring customers’ behavior to prevent money laundering after they make a credit-backed Bitcoin purchase, a tough standard for them to comply with.

The bans — or more to the point, the news of the bans — may exacerbate ongoing declines in cryptocurrency prices. After a hefty bounce Saturday morning, crypto markets broadly retreated on Sunday. Bitcoin is now trading at around $8,500 from a December high near $20,000. In the longer term, however, tighter cryptocurrency investment controls, whether from regulators or lenders, seem likely to help mitigate the consequences of both hype and scams. For much of 2017, those threatened to overshadow the underlying promise of blockchain technology, which is still in the very early stages of evolution.

Chuck Reynolds

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Unconfirmed: Circle In Talks To Acquire Crypto Exchange Poloniex

Unconfirmed: Circle In Talks To Acquire Crypto Exchange Poloniex

According to an exclusive report on Blockchain technology

blog Modern Consensus, Circle, a multi-currency money-sending app, is reportedly in the works to acquire Poloniex, a major US-based cryptocurrency exchange. Modern Consensus cited two unnamed sources that had information about the potential deal. However, when asked about the reported acquisition of Poloniex, Raj Date, a board member of Circle, told Modern

Consensus:

“I can’t comment on anything like that. I’m actually in Europe right now. Thanks for the reach out.”

Ari Paul, the CIO at digital currency hedge fund BlockTower Capital, denied the legitimacy of any deal on Twitter, citing his own source at Circle and calling

the Modern Consensus article “fake news”:

I just posted a link to an article asserting that Circle was acquiring Poloniex. Someone helpfully replied that the article was fake news. I confirmed with Circle that the article is not correct. Circle is not acquiring Polo (according to my circle source.)

Modern Consensus is a blog founded by Ken Kurson, former editor-in-chief at the New York Observer, that covers technology news in the cryptocurrency and Blockchain spheres. Another twitter user responded to Paul casting doubt on his alleged Circle source, given that Kurson put his reputation at stake in

publishing the news:

Do you think there is any possibility that your source at Circle is wrong or intentionally denying? Asking because the post on modern consensus is by Ken Kurson, who appears to be someone who would care for their reputation.

Kurson cited one of the sources, who he referred to as “highly placed”, with apparent access to the acquisition discussions

as saying:

“Circle and Poloniex agreed to terms and Circle has already approached the regulators. The regulators came back with a list of KYC demands [Know Your Customer] and Circle has agreed to meet all the conditions.”

Both Circle and Poloniex did not respond to Cointelegraph’s requests for comments on the pending deal by press time. Circle, which received $50 mln from Goldman Sachs in a funding round in 2015, contains Circle Pay for fiat transfers, Circle Trade as a liquidity provider of cryptocurrencies, and soon will add Circle Invest, an app allowing retail customers to invest in crypto markets.

Poloniex is currently the 14th largest crypto exchange by 24-hour volume on CoinMarketCap, trading a total of almost $300 million on the day to press time. The exchange allows users to trade in 68 different coins, a huge number as compared to Coinbase's popular crypto exchange platform GDAX, which offers only four, but is in 7th place by trading volume. The Poloniex exchange faced problems this year with incorrect user balances and a very slow withdrawal waiting period.

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Crypto Has What it Takes to Break the Flawed Financial System

Crypto Has What it Takes to Break the Flawed Financial System

Bitcoin, when it first hit the presses in its own white paper,

was heralded as this peer-to-peer cashless system that could revolutionize the financial world and break the shackles of banking hegemony. However, as the cryptocurrency market has evolved, it has attracted a new crop of investors and speculators who have strayed somewhat from its original purpose, rather happy to cash in on the unprecedented gains which attracted them in the first place. Really, those entering the crypto economy should be doing so for the right reason, reveling in the potential it holds to be a disruptive technology, rather than a quick get rich scheme.

The flawed financial system

A look at the generations shows how today’s generation is sitting under the yoke of a financial service sector that was set up by the baby boomers, who still run the central banks. The end of the Second World War in 1945 sparked a new revolution of banking, but that system still remains nearly totally intact.

This system of banking and finance is dated and obsolete, and not even functioning properly, with a number of major crashes sending the globe into dire straits on a few occasions; the 1987 crash, the 2000 dotcom bubble burst and 2008 global financial crisis all down to a broken system. There is huge amounts of skepticism that has been born from being put under the financial quash that was built by generations before. Millenials are now starting to fight back and ask why things are the way they are, and what can they do to change it.

Blockchain revolution

The technology of the Blockchain is revolutionary, not only in name but in nature too. Those who understand the technology behind Bitcoin know what cryptocurrencies can become. But, those who only understand that Bitcoin has a chance of doubling its value every three months, are pushing it into bubble territory. The evidence is there though, the threat that Blockchain and cryptocurrencies pose can be seen in the way in which most central banks and regulators are reacting to it, knowing their monopoly is under threat.

But as it stands, even with the exponential expanding of the crypto community, which is also an intellectual expansion, there needs to be a balancing out of the financial speculators, and the technological innovators. When Bitcoin was chugging towards making fiat currency obsolete, it was doing so with a much lower number of users who were more focused on the technology. Now, as the network has swelled, the direction of Bitcoin, as the lead example, has changed, and the community is a different demographic.

Useless digital gold?

Bitcoin is in a precarious position. It is the most popular and well known, and thus the most likely to be disruptive in any sense of the word, but it has gone down a pretty useless path in terms of revolution. The fact that Bitcoin is an asset, a store of value – digital gold – because of its scaling issue and other reasons, makes it much less of a revolutionary, more of a bloated get rich quick scheme. This is not the fault of the coin, the technology or those driving its development, and it is the fault of those who use it for the wrong reasons.

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Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico

Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico

Brock Pierce inside the former Children’s Museum

in Old San Juan, P.R., which he and his colleagues hope to make part of a crypto utopia where the money is virtual and the contracts are all public. Credit Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York TimesSAN JUAN, P.R. — They call what they are building Puertopia. But then someone told them, apparently in all seriousness, that it translates to “eternal boy playground” in Latin. So they are changing the name: They will call it Sol.

Dozens of entrepreneurs, made newly wealthy by blockchain and cryptocurrencies, are heading en masse to Puerto Rico this winter. They are selling their homes and cars in California and establishing residency on the Caribbean island in hopes of avoiding what they see as onerous state and federal taxes on their growing fortunes, some of which now reach into the billions of dollars. And these men — because they are almost exclusively men — have a plan for what to do with the wealth: They want to build a crypto utopia, a new city where the money is virtual and the contracts are all public, to show the rest of the world what a crypto future could look like. Blockchain, a digital ledger that forms the basis of virtual currencies, has the potential to reinvent society — and the Puertopians want to prove it.

For more than a year, the entrepreneurs had been searching for the best location. After Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure in September and the price of cryptocurrencies began to soar, they saw an opportunity and felt a sense of urgency.So this crypto community flocked here to create its paradise. Now the investors are spending their days hunting for property where they could have their own airports and docks. They are taking over hotels and a museum in the capital’s historic section, called Old San Juan. They say they are close to getting the local government to allow them to have the first cryptocurrency bank.

“What’s happened here is a perfect storm,” said Halsey Minor, the founder of the news site CNET, who is moving his new blockchain company — called Videocoin — from the Cayman Islands to Puerto Rico this winter. Referring to Hurricane Maria and the investment interest that has followed, he added, “While it was really bad for the people of Puerto Rico, in the long term it’s a godsend if people look past that.”

Puerto Rico offers an unparalleled tax incentive: no federal personal income taxes, no capital gains tax and favorable business taxes — all without having to renounce your American citizenship. For now, the local government seems receptive toward the crypto utopians; the governor will speak at their blockchain summit conference, called Puerto Crypto, in March. The territory’s go-to blockchain tax lawyer is Giovanni Mendez, 30. He expected the tax expatriates to disappear after Hurricane Maria, but the population has instead boomed. “It’s increased monumentally,” said Mr. Mendez, who has about two dozen crypto clients. “And they all came together.”

Cryptocurrency investors have flocked to San Juan in recent months, hunting for property where they could have their own airports and docks, and taking over hotels and a museum in the Puerto Rican capital’s historic district. Credit José Jiménez-Tirado for The New York TimesThe movement is alarming an earlier generation of Puerto Rico tax expats like the hedge fund manager Robb Rill, who runs a social group for those taking advantage of the tax incentives.

“They call me up saying they’re going to buy 250,000 acres so they can incorporate their own city, literally start a city in Puerto Rico to have their own crypto world,” said Mr. Rill, who moved to the island in 2013. “I can’t engage in that.” The newcomers are still debating the exact shape that Puertopia should take. Some think they need to make a city; others think it’s enough to move into Old San Juan. Puertopians said, however, that they hoped to move very fast. “You’ve never seen an industry catalyze a place like you’re going to see here,” Mr. Minor said.

The Monastery

Until the Puertopians find land, they have descended on the Monastery, a 20,000-square-foot hotel they rented as their base and that was largely unscathed by the hurricane. Matt Clemenson and Stephen Morris were drinking beer on the Monastery’s roof one recent evening. Mr. Clemenson had an easygoing affect and wore two-tone aviators; Mr. Morris, a loquacious British man, was in cargo shorts and lace-up steel-toed combat boots, with a smartphone on a necklace. They wanted to make two things clear: They chose Puerto Rico because of the hurricane, and they come in peace. “It’s only when everything’s been swept away that you can make a case for rebuilding from the ground up,” Mr. Morris, 53, said.

“We’re benevolent capitalists, building a benevolent economy,” said Mr. Clemenson, 34, a co-founder of Lottery.com, which is using the blockchain in lotteries. “Puerto Rico has been this hidden gem, this enchanted island that’s been consistently overlooked and mistreated. Maybe 500 years later we can make it right.” Other Puertopians arrived on the roof as a pack, just back from a full-day property-hunting bus tour. From the middle, Brock Pierce, 37, the leader of the Puertopia movement, emerged wearing drop crotch capri pants, a black vest that almost hit his knees and a large black felt hat. He and others had arrived on the island in early December.

Mr. Pierce, center, with Josh Boles, left, and Matt Clemenson on the roof of the Monastery, a San Juan hotel that has been rented out as the entrepreneurs’ temporary headquarters. Credit José Jiménez-Tirado for The New York Times“Compassion, respect, financial transparency,” Mr. Pierce said when asked what was guiding them here. Mr. Pierce, the director of the Bitcoin Foundation, is a major figure in the crypto boom. He co-founded a blockchain-for-business start-up, Block.One, which has sold around $200 million of a custom virtual currency, EOS, in a so-called initial coin offering. The value of all the outstanding EOS tokens is around $6.5 billion.

A former child actor, Mr. Pierce got into digital money early as a professional gamer, mining and trading gold in the video game World of Warcraft, an effort funded partly by Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump adviser. Mr. Pierce is a controversial figure — he has previously been sued for fraud, among other matters. Downstairs, in the Monastery penthouse, a dozen or so other expats were hanging out. The water was out that night, so the toilets and faucets were dry. Mr. Minor lounged on an alcove chaise.

“The U.S. doesn’t want us. It’s trying to choke off this economy,” Mr. Minor said, referring to the difficulties that crypto investors have with American banks. “There needs to be a place where people are free to invent.” Mr. Pierce paced the room with his hands in fists. A few times a day, he played a video for the group on his phone and a portable speaker: Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 “The Great Dictator,” in which Chaplin parodies Hitler rallying his forces. He finds inspiration in lines like “More than machinery, we need humanity.”

The former Children’s Museum. For entrepreneurs, Puerto Rico offers an unparalleled tax incentive: no federal income taxes, no capital gains tax and favorable business taxes without having to renounce American citizenship. Credit Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times The force of Mr. Pierce’s personality and his spiritual presence are important to the group, whose members are otherwise largely agnostic. Mr. Pierce regularly performs rituals. Earlier that day while scoping out property, they had stopped at a historic Ceiba tree, known as the Tree of Life.

“Brock nestled into the bosom of it and was there for 10 minutes,” Mr. Nygard said. Mr. Pierce walked around the tree and said prayers for Puertopia, holding a rusted wrench he had picked up in the territory. He kissed an old man’s feet. He blessed a crystal in the water, as they all watched. He played the Chaplin speech to everyone and to the tree, Mr. Nygard said.

That wrench is now in the penthouse, heavy and greasy. Later on, at a dinner in a nearby restaurant, the group ordered platters of octopus arms, fried cheese, ceviche and rum cocktails. They began debating whether to buy Puerto Rico’s Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, which measures 9,000 acres and has two deepwater ports and an adjacent airport. The only hitch: It’s a Superfund cleanup site.

Mr. Pierce had fallen asleep by then, his hat tilted down and arms crossed. He gets two hours of sleep many nights, often on a firm grounding mat to stay in contact with the earth’s electric energy. Josh Boles, a tall, athletic man who is another crypto expat, picked him up, and the group headed back to the Monastery. They walked past a big pink building in an old town square, the start of their vision for Puertopia’s downtown. Once a children’s museum, they plan on making it a crypto clubhouse and outreach center that will have the mission “to bring together Puerto Ricans with Puertopians.”

The Vanderbilt

Workdays are casual in Puertopia. One morning, Bryan Larkin, 39, and Reeve Collins, 42, were working at another old hotel, the Condado Vanderbilt, where they had their laptops on a pool bar with frozen piña coladas on tap. “We’re going to make this crypto land,” Mr. Larkin said. Mr. Larkin has mined about $2 billion in Bitcoin and is the chief technology officer of Blockchain Industries, a publicly traded company based in Puerto Rico.

Mr. Collins, an internet veteran, had raised more than $20 million from an initial coin offering for BlockV, his app store for the blockchain, whose outstanding tokens are worth about $125 million. He had also co-founded Tether, which backs cryptocurrency tied to the value of a dollar and whose outstanding tokens are worth about $2.1 billion, though the company has generated enormous controversy in the virtual currency world. “So, no. No, I don’t want to pay taxes,” Mr. Collins said. “This is the first time in human history anyone other than kings or governments or gods can create their own money.”

Mr. Pierce and Mr. Boles sitting with Robert Anderson, right, at the Monastery, which was left largely unscathed by Hurricane Maria last year. Credit José Jiménez-Tirado for The New York Times  He had moved from Santa Monica, Calif., with just a few bags and was now starting a local cryptocurrency incubator called Vatom Factory. “When Brock said, ‘We’re moving to Puerto Rico for the taxes and to create this new town,’ I said, ‘I’m in,’” Mr. Collins said. “Sight unseen.” They soon went back to work, checking out Coinmarketcap.com, a site that shows the price of cryptocurrencies. “Our market cap’s gone up $100 million in a week,” Mr. Collins said. “Congrats, man,” Mr. Larkin said.

Welcome, Puertopians?

All across San Juan, many locals are trying to figure out what to do with the crypto arrivals. Some are open to the new wave as a welcome infusion of investment and ideas. “We’re open for crypto business,” said Erika Medina-Vecchini, the chief business development officer for the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, in an interview at her office. She said her office was starting an ad campaign aimed at the new crypto expat boom, with the tagline “Paradise Performs.” Others worry about the island’s being used for an experiment and talk about “crypto colonialism.” At a house party in San Juan, Richard Lopez, 32, who runs a pizza restaurant, Estella, in the town of Arecibo, said: “I think it’s great. Lure them in with taxes, and they’ll spend money.”

Andria Satz, 33, who grew up in Old San Juan and works for the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, disagreed. “We’re the tax playground for the rich,” she said. “We’re the test case for anyone who wants to experiment. Outsiders get tax exemptions, and locals can’t get permits.” Mr. Lopez said the territory needed something to jump-start the economy. “We have to find a new way,” he said. “Sure then, Bitcoin, why not,” Ms. Satz said, throwing up her hands. Mr. Lopez said he and a childhood friend, Rafael Perez, 31, were trying to set up a Bitcoin mine in their hometown. But electricity has been inconsistent, and mining even a single Bitcoin takes a lot of power, he said.

Chuck Reynolds

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Bitcoin tumbles as cryptocurrency sell-off intensifies

Bitcoin tumbles as cryptocurrency
sell-off intensifies

Cryptocurrencies plunged on Friday,

with bitcoin at one point sliding below $8,000 and headed for its biggest weekly loss since December 2013, as worries about a regulatory clampdown globally sent investors scrambling to sell.The currencies have come off their lows but analysts said the sell-off was probably not over.

This week’s slump brought the total market value of cryptocurrencies down to around $400 billion, half the high it reached in January, according to industry tracker Coinmarketcap.com. The market value of cryptocurrencies is calculated by multiplying the number of digital coins in existence by their price, although many question whether that is the right way to value them. Bitcoin, the biggest and best-known cryptocurrency, fell as much as 15 percent on Friday to a two-month low of $7,625 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange BTC=BSP. It clawed back some losses and was down around 4.1 percent at $8,623.50 in mid-morning New York trading. The virtual currency is down by close to 25 percent this week and almost 40 percent in 2018.

The second and third largest virtual currencies, Ethereum and Ripple, also plunged more than 20 percent at the session low, Coinmarketcap.com said. Ethereum was last down 18.2 percent, at $913.37, while Ripple last traded at 80 U.S. cents, down 16.7 percent. Retail investors have poured money into digital coins, enticed by the huge run-up in prices. Regulators say cryptocurrencies are highly speculative and dangerous investments. On Thursday, India vowed to eradicate the use of crypto-assets, joining China and South Korea in promising to ban parts of the nascent market where prices have boomed in recent years.

Social media website Facebook (FB.O) said this week it would ban cryptocurrency advertisements because many were associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices. U.S. regulators have sent a subpoena to two of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency players, Bitfinex and Tether “The growing confusion revolving around the Indian government’s view on cryptocurrencies sparked uncertainty, consequently exposing bitcoin to downside risks,” said Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM. “Price action suggests that bears are clearly in control, with further losses on the cards as jitters over regulation erode investor appetite further,” he added.

A massive $530 million hack of a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange last week renewed worries about the security of the industry. Critics of virtual currencies have called the run-up in prices a speculative bubble, but supporters of cryptocurrencies say short-term price volatility is to be expected, and the blockchain technology underpinning these assets maintains its power and value. Going back to 2011 and including the current selloff, bitcoin’s price has been halved nine times on the Bitstamp exchange before recovering. The last time was from November 2014 to January 2015.

Fact Or FUD’? Pressure Drives Crypto Markets Down Almost 20

Fact Or ‘FUD’?
Pressure Drives Crypto Markets
Down Almost 20%

All of the top 50 cryptocurrencies fell by as much as 18.05 percent

in the 24 hours to press time, Thursday, Feb.1, as fresh volatility in Bitcoin undermines previous sideways growth. Cross-exchange data from CoinMarketCap shows the broad copycat effect of Bitcoin’s drop on altcoin markets. Only six altcoins in the top 50 had made 24-hour gains at press time, with these nonetheless trending downwards.

Bitcoin faces renewed pressure after India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley announced a crackdown on “illegitimate activities” involving cryptocurrency in his 2018 budget speech this morning. Jaitley also stated that the government does not recognize crypto as legal tender and would seek to freeze out crypto from the “payments network”.  However, industry participants claim his words do not mark any real change in India’s regulatory perspective.

Others, such as BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen, decried negative press attention on India as “FUD”, short for fear, uncertainty and doubt. Nonetheless, alternative viewpoints were enough to send Bitcoin below $10,000 again Thursday, with new lows centring just below $9600 on averaged readings. Bitcoin is trading at an average of $9,609 at press time, down almost 7 percent today.

Running parallel to the news from India is an ongoing narrative surrounding the impact of Tether’s token supply on Bitcoin prices. After a curious second market reaction to news that Tether and associate exchange Bitfinex had received subpoenas from regulators in December, analysts are casting doubt on previous assumptions that Tether’s issuance was artificially raising BTC/USD rates.

“Given $USDT stores $2.2B in value — currently 0.4% of aggregate crypto value & 1.3% of total bitcoin value — have a hard time believing it could be systematically propping up these markets,”  Placeholder VC partner Chris Burniske wrote earlier Thursday in a series of tweets on the subject.

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India: Bitcoin Prices Drop As Media Misinterprets Govt’s Regulation Speech

India: Bitcoin Prices Drop As Media Misinterprets Govt’s Regulation Speech

Bitcoin markets are reacting to fresh regulatory comments

on crypto from India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley, made during his most recent budget speech in the Parliament today, Feb.1. After Jaitley noted in his speech that cryptocurrency is not legal tender in the country and promised a crackdown on “illegitimate activities” involving crypto, a flood of misinterpreted comments warning of an outright ban appeared across the mainstream press and social media.

Markets in turn fell in trading on Thursday, Bitcoin dipping below $9,512 after breaking $10,300 Wednesday, Jan. 31, data from Bitstamp shows. India has been sporadic in its attempts to formalize cryptocurrency regulation over the past two years. Since the country’s currency reforms, interest in Bitcoin especially has skyrocketed, with local exchanges reporting huge growth. At the same time, India’s central bank has issued repeated warnings on cryptocurrency investment, some of which appeared tantamount to calling it illegal.

During his budget speech today, Jaitley stated:

“The government does not recognise cryptocurrency as legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate the use of these cryptoassets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payments system.”

While Jaitley’s speech noticeably avoided any mention of legality of crypto in and of itself, commentaries by third parties and mainstream media journalists controversially claimed that a ban was imminent. “Arun Jaitley has just killed India’s cryptocurrency party,” Quartz’s article on the subject proclaims, citing a lawyer who expects “a legislative mechanism or… suitable amendment in existing legislation to ensure that dealing and trading in cryptocurrency is made illegal and to penalise entities and individuals who are involved in their trade and circulation.”

On Twitter, the curious reading of Jaitley’s words continued, with declarations of Bitcoin being “illegal” and soon to be “eliminated.” From within the industry, however, sources told an altogether different story. Crypto exchange Unocoin summarized that there had been “no change” in government perspective since the budget speech. “It is business-as-usual,” it added in its most recent twitter activity. Cointelegraph correspondant Joseph Young also posted on his personal Twitter about the FUD in mainstream media surrounding the finance minister’s comments:

India on Blockchain

In line with previous government initiatives, Jaitley similarly produced no surprises with his commitment to expanding the use of Blockchain technology at the state level going forward. “The government will explore use of blockchain technology proactively for ushering in the digital economy,” he said in his speech.

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South Korea says no plans to ban cryptocurrency exchanges uncovers 600 million illegal trades

South Korea says no plans to ban cryptocurrency exchanges, uncovers $600 million illegal trades

SEOUL (Reuters) –

South Korea’s finance minister said the government has no plans to shut down cryptocurrency trading, welcome news for investors worried that authorities might go as far as China’s tough action in blocking virtual coin platforms.

FILE PHOTO:

Broken representation of the Bitcoin virtual currency, placed on a monitor that displays stock graph and binary codes, are seen in a illustration picture, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo. The comment by Kim Dong-yeon on Wednesday comes as traders at home and around the world have been spooked by conflicting comments from government officials in South Korea, a major hub for cryptocurrency trade, that Seoul was planning to ban local digital coin exchanges.

“There is no intention to ban or suppress cryptocurrency (market),” Kim said, adding the government’s immediate task is to regulate exchanges. Reinforcing Seoul’s intent to tighten the screws on a market widely seen as opaque and risky by global policymakers, the country’s customs earlier on Wednesday announced it had uncovered illegal cryptocurrency foreign exchange trading worth nearly $600 million.

“Customs service has been closely looking at illegal foreign exchange trading using cryptocurrency as part of the government’s task force,” it said. South Korea has been at the forefront of pushing for broad regulatory oversight of cryptocurrency trading as many locals, including students and housewives, jumped into a frenzied market despite warnings from policy makers around the world of a bubble. Seoul previously said that it is considering shutting down local cryptocurrency exchanges, which threw the market into turmoil and hammered bitcoin prices. Officials later clarified that an outright ban is only one of the steps being considered, and a final decision was yet to be made.

CRYPTO CRIMES

Customs said about 637.5 billion won ($596.02 million) worth of foreign exchange crimes were detected. Illegal foreign currency trading of 472.3 billion formed the bulk of the cryptocurrency crimes, it said in a statement, but gave no details on what action authorities were taking against the rule breaches. In one case, an illegal FX agency collected a total of 1.7 billion won ($1.59 million) from local residents in a form of “electric wallet” coins to transfer it to a partner agent abroad. The partner agent then cashed them out and distributed the settlement to clients based in that country, according to the statement.

In South Korea, only licensed banks and brokers can offer foreign exchange services. Local companies and residents who move more than $3,000 out of the country at a time must submit documents to tax authorities explaining reasons for the transfers. Annual overseas transfers of more than $50,000 must also be reported with similar documents. Effective from Jan. 30, authorities imposed rules which allow only real-name bank accounts to be used for cryptocurrency trading designed to stop virtual coins from being used for money laundering and other crimes. Among other breaches, Customs said there were also cases where investors in Japan sent their yen worth 53.7 billion won to their partners in South Korea for illegal currency trade.

It said authorities will continue to monitor for any violations of foreign exchange rules or of money laundering activities. Bitcoin stood at $10,123.13 as of 0842 GMT on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange. The heightened regulatory scrutiny around the world, however, has seen bitcoin dive about 27.1 percent so far this month, on track for its biggest monthly decline since January 2015. Cryptocurrencies got another jolt last week after Tokyo-based exchange Coincheck said hackers stole over $500 million in one of the world’s biggest cyber heists.

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Samsung’s now making chips designed for cryptocurrency mining

Samsung’s now making chips designed for cryptocurrency mining

An ethereum mining rig in South Korea.

  Samsung’s semiconductor business is booming, with the company recently overtaking Intel as the world’s biggest chipmaker. But the South Korean firm is not resting on its laurels, and is currently looking to expand into the buzziest contemporary market for processors: cryptocurrency mining.As reported by TechCrunch, Samsung has confirmed it’s in the process of making hardware specially designed for mining cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. A spokesperson for the firm told TechCrunch: “Samsung’s foundry business is currently engaged in the manufacturing of cryptocurrency mining chips. However we are unable to disclose further details regarding our customers.”

These chips are known as ASICs, or application-specific integrated circuits. ASICs are processors that have been specially designed for a single computational task, as opposed to the multi-purpose processors we use in computers and phones. As the valuation of cryptocurrencies has shot up, so has the demand for these sorts of chips. In the case of bitcoin, the currency is created by solving mathematical problems, with these calculations also maintaining the integrity of bitcoin transactions. As more bitcoins are mined, these math problems become increasingly difficult. This has led to miners moving on from using normal integrated graphics cards, to GPUs designed for gaming, and now to specially built ASICs.

It’s not clear exactly what sort of products Samsung will be making, but according to reports from Korean media, it’ll be working with Taiwanese firm TSMC. The company currently supplies chips for a number of firms set up solely to mine cryptocurrencies, including the China-based Bitmain. Meeting the demand for these chips has added around $350 million to $400 million to its quarterly revenue, says TSMC. That’s nothing to be sniffed at, but it’s a small sum compared to the $69 billion revenue generated annually by Samsung’s chip business. Mining cryptocurrencies is buzzy, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be extremely profitable for those selling the silicon shovels.

Samsung made a special chip for mining cryptocurrency

Maybe don't expect GPU prices to drop anytime soon, though.

Samsung has a chip designed specifically for mining cryptocurrency.

Rather than repurpose a GPU to do the dirty work, Samsung made an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), which is a specialized processor that is more efficient at mining than, say, an NVIDIA 1080 card. The company has entered into a distribution agreement with an as-of-now anonymous Chinese partner for distribution. As TechCrunch notes, this is significant for at least one reason: This gives the Korean company a way into the Chinese ASIC market, where local firms dominate. It's too early to tell what sort of impact (if any) this could have on Samsung's bottom line, or how it could affect cryptocurrency and China's local players.

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Marketing Dept
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UK: Cryptocurrency Trader Robbed At Gunpoint’ Amount Stolen Unknown

UK:
Cryptocurrency Trader Robbed ‘At Gunpoint’, Amount Stolen Unknown

Four masked robbers have broken into the house

of a cryptocurrency trader in Moulsford, Oxfordshire and forced him to transfer all of his bitcoins to them “at gunpoint”, The Telegraph reports Sunday, Jan. 28. According to The Telegraph, this is the first case of cryptocurrency robbery in the UK. The criminals entered the house of a crypto trader and forced him to transfer his entire Bitcoin stash. The exact amount of bitcoins stolen has not yet been specified. Fortunately, the incident did not cause any serious injuries to anyone. The police immediately launched an investigation into the case, however, no arrests were made as of press time.

The police have also asked for help from local citizens:

"Officers are particularly interested in speaking to anyone travelling through [Moulsford] on the A329 Reading Road between 7.30am and 10.30am on Monday who has Dashcam footage or anyone with mobile phone footage.”

Due to their relatively anonymous nature, cryptocurrencies are becoming an increasingly popular target for robberies. Back in December 2017, Cointelegraph covered another case: the managing director of the cryptocurrency exchange EXMO Pavel Lerner was kidnapped in Kiev by an group of unidentified people. Fortunately, Lerner got out safely just two days later, albeit having to pay a ransom of $1 mln in bitcoins. Another robbery has taken place in neighboring Russia in mid-January, in which a locally famous cryptocurrency blogger was deprived of $425,000 worth of bitcoins. The latest news shows that cases of Bitcoin robbery aren’t limited to Russia and surrounding countries, as even the citizens of UK can be targeted by the criminals.

Chuck Reynolds


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