In the growing, global culture of technology, even the poorest countries in the world have profound abilities for complex cybercrime – but every level of society seems to actively partake. Among the most prevalent trends to develop has been Bitcoin fraud – generating numerous academic case-studies and significant government concern in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia and virtually the whole of the European Union.
A prominent English think-tank, The UK Serious Fraud Office, recently announced a study designed to formally establish Bitcoin fraud as among the least understood and fastest developing forms of international crime. The UK SFO explains, “[Bitcoin] might, for instance, represent a new or emerging type of fraud.”
Bitcoin and cybercrime, in general, have rapidly rose to prominence within professional crime circles and are no longer being treated as minor annoyances. With the explicit goal of bringing to bare enough force to weed out this type of cybercrime in the United Kingdom, the Serious Fraud Office claims they have been awarded “a remit to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute serious and complex fraud, including bribery and corruption.”
While this is a wide umbrella, Bitcoin sits atop the list of primary concerns – brandishing a security classification alongside the likes of top-level government operations. Bitcoin is closely tied to other concerns in England, including limiting new types of fraud, controlling public awareness of the risks involved in cyber currency, preventing financial loss to individuals and safeguarding the economy of the United Kingdom as a whole, with a particular focus on the wellbeing of the City of London.
Indeed, Bitcoin fraud has already become a “mainstream” white-collar crime; most recently, a high-profile case, in Texas, resulted in the 18-month imprisonment of the convicted Ponzi-schemer, Trendon Shavers. By promising investors upwards of 7% weekly returns, this Bitcoin criminal amassed over $4.5 million in fraudulent profits.
Naturally, he paid these promised dividends to the early investors with monies generated from new investors; after purchasing himself a fancy-pants BMW for a quarter of a million dollars, Shavers blew most of the remaining dough in Vegas and used to scraps to pay off his family’s burgeoning bills. When there was no money left for the new investors’ payments, the pyramid came crashing down on the Texan’s head. This guy was clearly no Einstein…yet, he was capable of mastering Bitcoin fraud.
Certain financial gurus have discredited Bitcoin as a total farce, claiming that all Bitcoin investors suffer the inevitable fate of falling prey to Shavers-style cyber fraud. The Chief Executive Officer of Marathon Asset Management, Bruce Richards, claims an inherent lack of security – based in having no physical existence – renders Bitcoin, “a Ponzi scheme; I think it’s a fraud. I don’t think it has legitimate scope within society and I don’t think it is a viable currency.”
Essentially, the key weakness to Bitcoin is that only a few people, with no government vetting whatsoever, have any idea how to create, move, and administer these Bitcoins. Furthermore, with no official government support, the Bitcoins are clearly less secure than greenback money – no individual or business has any incentive to recognise the monetary value of a Bitcoin. Thus, invest as much money into a “Bitcoin” as you like, it still may not be worth any more than the play money in your favourite board game, when you take it to the bank.
It is the very physical existence of minted coinage which supports its value; at the end of the day, unlike a gold bullion investor, no Bitcoin investor can hold cyber 1’s and 0’s in the palm of their hand. The conundrum can be simply recapitulated in layman speak: “No market can ever assess the value an ounce of Bitcoins when no amount of Bitcoins can ever weigh an ounce.”
It is this very existence in limbo which will forever doom the Bitcoin to vulnerability for fraud. The select few with the abilities to create Bitcoins and manipulate the Bitcoin market will never have an incentive to use their powers for good; to the contrary, with little fear of being discovered – or, with enough naivety to not utilise such a basic degree of foresight – the Trendon Shavers of the world will continue to exploit the particular niche for specialised fraud, which Bitcoin provides.