The testimony drew a useful distinction among three pillars of the virtual currency ecosystem (for lack of a better unifying term): cryptocurrencies, "a replacement for dollars;" ICOs, "like a stock offering;" and distributed ledger technologies, or the technical framework generally known as blockchain. Throughout the hearing, on the SEC side, Clayton struck a relatively solemn tone focused on ICO fraud concerns, while the CFTC's Giancarlo came across as genuinely enthusiastic and curious about the emerging market. When asked about the intrinsic value of cryptocurrency, Clayton said: "There are a lot of smart people who think there's something to the value of cryptocurrency and the international exchange and I'm not seeing those benefits manifesting themselves in the market yet. I look at this from the perspective of Main Street investors and they should understand that."
On ICOs as a security: "I believe every ICO I've seen is a security... You can call it a coin but if it functions as a security, it is a security... Those who engage in semantic gymnastics or elaborate re-structuring exercises in an effort to avoid having a coin be a security are squarely in the crosshairs of our enforcement provision."
The suit alleges T-Mobile is at fault partly because the carrier said it would add a PIN code to Tapang's account prior to the incident, but didn't actually implement it. Tapang also states that hackers are able to call T-Mobile's customer support multiple times to gain access to customer accounts, until they're able to get an agent on the line that would grant them access without requiring further identity verification. The complaint also lists several anonymous internet users who have posted about similar security breaches to their own T-Mobile accounts.
A Bank of America spokesperson also said in an email that the bank has decided to decline credit card purchases of cryptocurrencies. Citigroup said in a statement that it has "made the decision to no longer permit credit card purchases of cryptocurrency. We will continue to review our policy as this market evolves." Earlier in January, Capital One Financial said it has decided to ban cryptocurrency purchases with its cards. Discover Financial Services has effectively prohibited cryptocurrency purchases with its credit cards since 2015.
If tethers are not backed by a matching number of dollars, then Tether can print an arbitrary amount of money. (Other cryptocurrencies, by contrast, create new tokens according to strictly prescribed, predictable rules.) Other problems ensue, including suspicions that Tether is timing the release of new tethers to coincide with drops in the price of bitcoin and then using those tethers to scoop up bitcoins. Some observers fear that these purchases are artificially inflating the price of bitcoin. If traders lose faith in tether, they could end up triggering the crypto version of a bank run. Tether helps stabilize cryptocurrency exchanges in various ways, so its collapse could also cause some exchanges to topple, wiping out billions of dollars of investments overnight and potentially undoing much of the public's growing interest in new technologies like bitcoin.
Prodeum, by comparison, only seems to have raised $11 based on the Ethereum address that was advertised on Prodeum's site as being the ICO address. (Update: After this article was published the contents of the ICO wallet were sent to another wallet. That wallet contains roughly $100, with the other funds all coming from a single wallet that predates the Prodeum ICO and contains 46 cents.) Prodeum's pitch, according to a cached version of its webpage, was to track vegetables in a supply chain using digital addresses on a blockchain -- a decentralized ledger at the heart of Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. As for why the "penis" message was left on its homepage, it may have something to do with the name of the startup. Prodeum is a medication that treats urinary tract infections and other urinary problems...
"If only 1% of people send money -- there's no overhead for them; that's money in the bank," one FBI agent tells the news team. A quick Google search finds recent reports of two nearly identical threats using the same text.
"I have been thinking for a long time whether it is worth sending this notice, and decided that you still have the right to know... I've got an order to kill you, because some of your activity causes trouble to several people... I decided to break some rules, as this will be my final order... As soon as I receive the funds, I will forward you the name of the man [this] order came from, and all other information I have."