In a bid to raise awareness of potential investment scams in the cryptocurrency space, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of Investor Education and Advocacy have launched a fake website posing as a luxury travel firm kicking off the pre-sale portion of their initial coin offering (ICO).

The website HoweyCoins.com, is a tongue-in-cheek play on everything your run-of-the-mill bogus ICO offers. From ‘too-good-to-be-true’ promises, to flashy images of champagne bottles and palm trees, to convoluted and often-plagiarized whitepapers, to pre-sale bonus countdown clocks, the SEC’s spoof site has got all of the common enticements found on fraudulent sites.

In a press release titled “The SEC Has an Opportunity you Wont Want to Miss: Act Now!” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton explained the motivation behind HoweyCoins:

“The rapid growth of the ‘ICO’ market, and its widespread promotion as a new investment opportunity, has provided fertile ground for bad actors to take advantage of our Main Street investors,” with Clayton adding:

“We embrace new technologies, but we also want investors to see what fraud looks like, so we built this educational site with many of the classic warning signs of fraud. Distributed ledger technology can add efficiency to the capital raising process, but promoters and issuers need to make sure they follow the securities laws. I encourage investors to do their diligence and ask questions.”

Anyone who clicks on the “Buy Coins Now!” Button will be redirected to educational materials from the SEC warning users of potentials scams and what red flags to look out for. Some of the red flags outlined include celebrity endorsements, claims of guaranteed returns, claims of SEC-compliance, and more.

Even the site name HoweyCoins is an Easter egg referencing the “Howey test” – a test created by the Supreme Court stemming from the SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. case in 1946, aimed at determining whether a financial transaction qualifies as an “investment contract.”

Who knew the SEC was this funny? Still, fraudulent investments are no laughing matter, and the SEC has done a solid job at raising awareness of the potential pitfalls of cryptocurrency investing, all while serving as an entertaining break from the daily grind.

For educational information on how investors can protect themselves, visit investor.gov or use the Buy Coins Now button on HoweyCoins.com.

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5,104 BTC Later, The Bitcoin Pineapple Fund Announces It’s Time to Say Farewell
BlockExplorer’s Rebecca Campbell reports, “An anonymous donor who set up a philanthropic project using bitcoin for charitable causes has announced that it’s time to say goodbye.”

The Wild West of Crypto Hacks in One Graph
HowMuch.Net has analyzed the history of the most significant cryptocurrency hacks and scams by compiling data from CryptoAware.org, and creating a timeline graph of the data. HowMuch.net invites you to “see how often and to what extent the crypto-market has sustained attacks over the last several years.”

Bitcoin Developers Build Prototype of a Privacy Tool
An email sent to the bitcoin developers list today laid out the framework for the “Dandelion” privacy tool. “Bitcoin’s transaction spreading protocol is vulnerable to deanonymization attacks. Dandelion is a transaction routing mechanism that provides formal anonymity guarantees against these attacks.”

A New Show is Coming to CBS About Crypto
Crypto Crow YouTuber Jason Appleton has signed an agreement with CBS “to air 13 episodes of the Crypto Crow Show in select markets as a test market in hopes of spreading nationally.” The first season is scheduled to begin the week of June 25, 2018. “Each episode will feature educational information focused on helping newcomers to the crypto space such as researching, investing and how to stay secure in their efforts while featuring ICO and cryptocurrency companies and how they affect the industry.” Appleton says the series will be fully paid for by bitcoin.

Image courtesy of Carty Sewill, http://cartyisme.com/

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Electrum Publishes Proof “Electrum Pro” is Bitcoin Stealing Malware
Via Twitter yesterday, Electrum promised to publish proof that “Electrum Pro” is bitcoin stealing malware. This morning they published their proof on Github. Members of the community are advising if you used this software to move your coins now. BlockExplorer writer Armin Davis independently verified these claims.

ICO Competition With The Highest Prize Ever
This year ICO Engine is hosting an ICO Race 7 June, 2018 in Palazzo dei Congressi, Lugano. “Each ICO will have a 10-minute pitch in front of a qualified panel of judges who will make their evaluation based on: Solution of the problem, Business and Token sale model, Token Sale terms, Team, Pitch.” They go on to say, “ICOs will be ranked based on the evaluation given by the judges. Prizes are intended as purchase of the company’s tokens at the private sale price.” ICOs can register to be a part of the competition here.

Microsoft is Serious About Blockchain With Major Announcements and PRs
Despite the recent negative statements made by Bill Gates about Bitcoin, Microsoft’s interest in blockchain has been growing. Take this Microsoft Azure press release for example, “Simplifying blockchain app development with Azure Blockchain Workbench“. Microsoft’s Azure team is also now participating in NY Blockchain Week, according to WeTalkCoins.com.

Facebook’s New Blockchain Team Will Be Led by Coinbase Board Member David Marcus
Social media conglomerate Facebook has announced that it is establishing a new blockchain research team, according to BlockExplorer’s David Murray, and it will be led by a member of the Coinbase board of directors: David Marcus.

Image courtesy of Carty Sewill, http://cartyisme.com/

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News Bytes for May 3, 2018

Use our news to inform cryptocurrency trading decisions, stay up-to-date on happenings in the industry, and more!

Crypto Exchange BitGrail Legally Forced to Shut Down Just Three Hours After it Opens

Yesterday BitGrail Tweeted “BitGrail is pleased to announce the re-open of our exchange!” only to announce three hours later that “We have temporarily disabled the BitGrail exchange pending further notice.” Users quickly became irritable, some pondering if they were “getting robbed”. BitGrail quickly responded with a post to their web site that they were “notified of a deed by the court of Florence requesting the immediate closure of BitGrail and this situation will persist until a decision is made by the courts…”

SEC Mulls Whether Ethereum is a Security Under US Law

US regulators are cracking down on non-compliant securities issuers, and senior officials are set to meet to discuss whether that group includes the founders of Ethereum.

Telegram Scraps Public ICO as SEC Cracks Down on Token Sales

The company behind wildly-popular encrypted messaging app Telegram has scrapped plans to open its initial coin offering (ICO) to the public, says an anonymous source close to the matter.

Goldman Sachs To Open Bitcoin Trading Desk

Goldman Sachs, hiring their first cryptocurrency trader, becomes the first major Wall Street bank to open a bitcoin trading desk. Trading will start in the next few weeks, accordingly to a New York Times report.

Reddit Likely to Bring Back Bitcoin Payments, Add Ethereum and Litecoin Support

Cryptocurrency payments will likely be returning to popular social media platform Reddit, a company executive said on Wednesday.

telegram ico

The company behind wildly-popular encrypted messaging app Telegram has scrapped plans to open its initial coin offering (ICO) to the public, says an anonymous source close to the matter.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Telegram — which is developing a blockchain ecosystem called the Telegram Open Network (TON) — has determined that it does not want to enter the murky regulatory waters currently governing the ICO industry.

That’s not to say the company is hard up for cash.

As BlockExplorer reported, the chat platform already reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it had raised $1.7 billion from fewer than 200 investors during two private ICO presales, which the firm conducted during the first three months of the year.

Those funds will purportedly be used to develop TON, which the company has privately described as a “third-generation blockchain” capable of processing millions of transactions per second. However, skeptics have wondered aloud whether that money will instead be used to fund Telegram’s general operations, as the app does not currently generate revenue.

One anonymous source cited in the report connected Telegram’s decision to shelve the public ICO to the SEC’s increasing oversight of the burgeoning ICO space, which has seen startups collectively raise billions of dollars over the past calendar year — and fraudsters make off with a noticeable percentage of it.

Since the presale excluded retail investors, Telegram was able to claim an exemption from traditional securities registration requirements.

However, opening the offering to the public would raise a number of thorny regulatory issues, and many observers believe the SEC is preparing to bring down the hammer on noncompliant ICO operators.

If a company as well-known as Telegram conducted a conventional ICO, it would present the SEC with a high-profile target if it desired to make an example intended to frighten other market participants into compliance.

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