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Fake crypto scam sends ransomware, then malware once you pay

(FINANCE) Buying unheard of ICOs just got much riskier as scammers find new ways to scam people out of their crypto investments while stealing their identities. Great.

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Cryptocurrency is hot right now. And while cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are supposedly more secure than regular currency, that doesn’t mean that hackers aren’t looking for ways to take advantage of the trend.

A newly discovered ransomware scam banks on people’s desire to get rich quick by buying cryptocurrencies. The scam advertises a new cryptocurrency called SpriteCoin.

SpriteCoin isn’t a real currency; it’s just a ruse to get people to install ransomware. Often, SpriteCoin ads appear on forums where people learn about and discuss other cryptocurrencies, making SpriteCoin seem like the real deal (hence why social media sites are opting to nix all ads about cyrpto).

The ransomware is disguised as a wallet containing SpriteCoin. While your computer appears to be downloading the blockchain for your SpriteCoin, it is actually encrypting all of your files, while also raiding Chrome and Firefox for your stored passwords. Next, you receive a ransom note demanding that you pay up in order to get a decryption key, or else your files will be locked forever.

The ransom note demands payment in Monero, a cryptocurrency, to the tune of about $100. The note claims that “only we can decrypt your files. Don’t worry, we’ll give you your files back if you pay.”

To add insult to injury, once the Monero ransom has been paid, the hackers install additional malware that harvests personal data and gives hackers the power activate your webcam.

This ransomware scam was discovered by cyber security company Fortinet. Fortinet’s experts think that this scam, which is demanding a (relatively) inexpensive ransom, could be a pilot program for hackers to test out new delivery mechanisms for ransomware and malware. They want to see how many people will fall for the scam before scaling up.

Fortinet also explains that Monero is becoming the new cryptocurrency of choice amongst thieves using ransomware, because Bitcoin transaction fees have gone up and there is typically a delay on payments.

Cryptocurrencies could be a good investment – but make sure you do your research and only buy legit cryptocurrencies, lest you fall victim to such a vicious and repetitive scam.

Ellen Vessels, Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Business Finance

Credit card companies crap on cryptocurrencies

(FINANCE NEWS) Credit card companies are now trying to make customers slow their roll when purchasing crypto – and it’s kind of shady.

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Visa and Mastercard and now making it more difficult for their customers to purchase cryptocurrency by slapping additional fees on transactions. This month, Bitcoin investors using Coinbase noticed additional fees on bank statements and were like, wait what?

Turns out, the credit card companies decided to reclassify cryptocurrency transaction type from “purchase” to “cash advance.”

Coinbase confirmed the change in an email to its customers, noting “the MCC code for digital currency purchases was changed by a number of the major credit card networks.”

A Mastercard spokesperson claimed the change “provides a consistent view of such purchases for both merchants and issuers.”

This means an additional five percent fee is slapped on to every transaction from the credit card company in addition to the four percent credit card processing fee Coinbase already passes on to its users.

Right now, if you want to buy Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies instantly, your only option is using a credit or debit card. Transferring funds from your bank can take days, and since crypto prices can change in an instant, this isn’t a great option. Although there are lower fees for transferring funds via ACH, investors may get stung by fluctuating prices.

So basically, you’re going to use a credit or debit card for efficiency, but Visa and Mastercard want to make this harder on you. Unlike purchases, transactions labeled as “cash advances” don’t fall under an interest-free grace period. As soon as the purchase goes through, it accrues and compounds daily, so that’s pretty neat.

In addition to the new fee, cash advances carry higher interest rates as well.

Adding insult to injury, using a card for crypto purchases does not earn credit card points.

The card companies are equivocating bitcoin to withdrawing money from an ATM. This conflicts with the IRS’s stance that bitcoin is not currency, but rather taxable property.

Until everyone gets their stories straight, investors get stuck in the middle with more barriers to purchasing crypto, and conflicting regulation and processes.

And for Visa and Mastercard, that’s kind of the point. Their aim is to slow the rush of investment, even at the risk of losing potential millions in additional revenue. Assuming Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency don’t total crash and burn, eventually financial middlemen like credit card companies will be cut out of the picture.

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Business Finance

Don’t mess with Texas – especially when it comes to crypto

(FINANCE NEWS) The State of Texas is cracking down on crypto companies, and this won’t be the last cease and desist issued.

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After a one month undercover sting of crypto-currency startup DavorCoin, the Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) issued another cease-and-desist letter, ordering the cryptocurrency company to stop all operations in the state immediately; this is the state’s fourth emergency cease-and-desist in just one month regulating cryptocurrency companies.

Jason Rotunda, director of enforcement division at the TSSB told CNBC, “We confirmed our suspicion that they were being marketed toward retirees. [DavorCoin] was not disclosing the information that needs to be disclosed to an investor.”

Other cryptocurrencies being issued cease-and-desists include companies r2b coin, BitConnect, and USI-Tech Limited. All of these companies either were promising implausible or impossible returns on investment, low risk investments coming from Bitcoin mining–without the evidence to back it up, or not disclosing information required by state law.

After the TSSB pulled the plug on BitConnect, they started their investigation of DavorCoin for promising extremely similar ROI. DavorCoin also has another strike against it, a potentially more serious one: Investment fraud. DavorCoin, according to CoinDesk, has “intentionally hidden material information of its business–including its principles and business location, as well as how it plans to realize investment promises for investors.”

The lack of transparency on not just the basic information regarding the business itself, but also an investor disbursement plan violates sections of the Texas Securities Act.

Texas currently is leading the way regarding the regulation of cryptocurrenty investment opportunities, in which other states as well as the federal government are following suit. Other states filing formal complaints against cryptocurrency companies include Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Kansas.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is taking note of the heightened amount of activity surrounding cryptocurrencies as well. Rotunda, also in his role as the vice chair of North American Securities Administrators Association, is trying to encourage regulatory agencies to adapt to this new way of doing business and investing.

“In both of those roles we’ve been monitoring cryptocurrencies quite a bit,” said Rotunda. “I think what we’re doing right now is we’re adapting to a new way of selling securities.”

The old adage is, after all, “don’t mess with Texas.” Especially when it comes to potentially defrauding investors through cryptocurrencies — but that’s kind of a mouthful.

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Business Finance

10 cryptocurrency news stories that tickle our fancy

(FINANCE) Everything you wanted to know about recent cryptocurrency stories in a nice little list so you don’t have to lift a finger. You’re welcome.

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Cyrptocurrency is the buzz here at AG, and we’ve collected some of our favorite crypto stories all in one place for your reading pleasure. Full disclosure, I wrote like, half of these. But I swear I didn’t pick the list — it was curated by the higher ups. Get all caught up on the latest in digital currency and have fun rabbit-holing down whatever catches your attention:

How to keep the IRS off of your ass when you invest
So you bought some Bitcoin because all your friends were doing it, but now tax time is coming up and you’re like wait what do I do with this? Does the IRS need to know about my awesome digital currency investment? Yes, they do. Good news though, you can stay out of tax jail using Token Tax, a tool that helps report your cryptocurrency investments. Think of it as the Turbo Tax of crypto, and your personal tax savior this year.

AI can spot crypto investment opportunities
Take most of the thought out of investing your crypto with TokenAI, a decentralized investment platform powered by artificial intelligence. Advanced algorithms anticipate market trends, and users have access to Wall Street-level tools to execute democratic investment opportunities.

TokenAI converts money into Total Market Tokens, which can be bought in bulk and converted into any form of crypto. Its creators note, “AI does not feel fear, does not get greedy, does not have an ego,” so the emotional nature of trading is removed making for better investment opportunities.

Crypto beats historic market cap
Cryptocurrency’s total market capitalization spiked over $600 billion on December 18, 2017 according to data tracking site CoinMarketCap. At the time, this broke a historic market cap record. Since then, the total market cap has roller coastered, reaching peaks of over $830 billion in mid-January and lows around $425 billion just a few weeks later.

Blockchain has a competitor that could already obsolete the tech
Blockchain better watch its back, there’s a new kid on the block…chain. Data structure and consensus algorithm Hashgraph offers an alternative to blockchain, with a decentralized platform that uses Asynchronous Byzantine fault tolerance, faster transactions, and could maybe even use your smartphone as a node. Since Hasgraph uses every container in a chain, transactions could be up to 50,000 times faster than blockchain.

Millennials prefer bitcoin to stocks
Last November venture capital firm Blockchain Capital conducted a survey that found participants in the 18-34 age range preferred Bitcoin to stock. Respondents said they would rather own $1000 of Bitcoin than government bonds or stocks. As cryptocurrency becomes easier to buy, trade, and sell, its popularity rises.

Plus, the decentralized yet transparent nature of transactions gives crypto a leg up on banks, since many millennials are wary of traditional banking methods (hi, Wells Fargo).

Debit card that lets you spend crypto lke cash
In November, London Block Exchange (LBX) announced plans for a cryptocurrency debit card dubbed “Dragoncard” because why not. Dragoncard will be powered by Visa, allowing users to spend crypto like cash by converting digital currency to sterling with the LBX app. Currently, the app will support Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, and Monero.

LBX will handle conversions when using Dragoncard at retailers to (hopefully) speed up transactions. Due to release sometime this month, pre-registration for the digital wallet app is still open to the public if you’re lucky enough to be in the UK.

Space crypto
It’s a bird, it’s a place, it’s…space crypto? Nexus cryptocurrency aims to team up with the aerospace industry to broadcast its network from space instead of Earth. By throwing up a ton of satellites into the atmosphere, crypto infrastructure would theoretically be free from government and telecommunication regulation.

Nexus cryptocurrency founder Colin Cantrell’s father Jim Cantrell is a space entrepreneur, because that’s a thing we can be now. With their powers combined, we may have cryptocurrency in space.

The crypto that keeps Buddhists honest
Surprise, everyone can be terrible, even monks. In light of recent a corruption scandal in Thailand where several Buddhist temples were suspected of embezzling, American Buddhists are turning to cryptocurrency to build trust. Lotus Network, a “digital temple” where students and teachers can connect, uses blockchain to track online transactions.

Students can pay for classes and even make donations to specific teachers or temples with “Karma Tokens,” an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency. Since everything is tracked with blockchain, funds and spending are totally transparent, which will hopefully curb corruption.

Russia made cryptocurrencies illegal, and then made their own that IS legal. Pretty neat, comrades.
Back in October 2017, Russia decided it wasn’t really into all that cryptocurrency stuff. At least, the government wasn’t a fan of crypto that it didn’t create for itself. So after blocking citizens from accessing cryptocurrency on the basis of it being a “pyramid scheme,” the Kremlin released its own digital currency, the CyrptoRuble.

In complete defiance of the whole decentralized thing that makes crypto so appealing to users, CryptoRuble will likely be heavily monitored by the Russian government.

What happens to crypto if net neutrality dies for really real, tho?
Hey, remember that time the FCC decided to burn net neutrality at the stake and we were all worried about Netflix and stuff? Well net neutrality’s death may also impact cryptocurrency. If the execution goes as planned, Internet Service Providers could throttle the speed of crypto exchange sites, prioritize their own interests, or even cut off access entirely. Maybe go write or call your Congress representatives.

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