Thai Approves its First ICO Portal

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Late last year, Rapee Sucharitakul, secretary general of Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission revealed in a statement to local press that plans were underway to launch one ICO portal by the end of November and its approval process would begin in December.

Today they made the announcement that the portal has been approved, being the country’s first ICO portal. Thai SEC fintech director Archari Suppiroj stated that the ICO Portal launch was in line with the commerce industry and will in the near future be made available for public offering. Thai government has been very welcoming of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies and is continuously proving to provide market opportunities.

Between June and July 2018, the country legalized seven cryptocurrencies Ripple, Stellar, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin. In addition, the SEC granted additional digital tokens permission to apply and further classified ICOs into three groups; cryptocurrency, utility tokens and investment tokens.

The regulation of cryptocurrencies in Thailand came with a wave of support from crypto investors in the country who predicted that it would open up Thailand to institutional money and financial innovation. Thai Central Bank joined together with several other banks to work on a prototype platform that would allow domestic funds transfers using their very own cryptocurrency that they had planned to launch at the start of 2019.

Thai’s revenue department had earlier also incorporated blockchain technology into their taxation system to solve tax avoidance. That is not all, they also adopted the technology into their taxation system, that made Thailand’s Democrat Party the very first political party in the world to use blockchain to facilitate e-voting in active elections.

 

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology has opened doors to many new innovations and has positively impacted people all over the world. Along with the positive roles it’s played in this world, the crypto sphere has brought a few problems.

Cryptocurrency related crimes have been on the rise over the last several years. The anonymity of these transactions has attracted the attention of many criminal organizations in order to utilize these little nuggets of digital gold as an opportunity for kidnapping, money laundering and other illegal activity.

Law enforcement agencies around the world are trying hard to find a way to track and stop these criminal activities. We’ll share with you a few cases studies where law enforcement handled such issues.

ICO Scams (Initial Coin Offerings)

ico-scams-and-fake-alerts

This is one of the most popular crypto crimes in the world of today. Criminals create a fake project to attract willing investors, pretend to launch an ICO, and collect money in the form of BTC/ETH or other digital currency and inevitably take off with the investors’ money.

To pull these off, they create fictitious project names, sometimes even pretending to have a few big name investors or team members etc. to gain credibility. Once they receive the money, they leave the project behind and vanish like a thief in the night.

One scam artist used the photo of Ryan Gosling for his profile picture and called himself “Kevin Belanger”, a graphic designer. The Miroskii ICO is suspected to have raised around $830,000 from unsuspecting investors. No one knows what happened to the funds after the project closed, however their website is still running. There is little that local law enforcement can do in most of these cases as some of them may be in different geographic locations and the anonymity of a bitcoin wallet makes it hard to link it to a real person.

There have been so many ICO scams that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is trying to find a way to tackle this problem, but has not been successful so far. Without a regulatory framework for the cryptocurrency world, it will be hard for the federal agencies to find and prosecute such criminals. Some states like Texas have taken an active role in identifying and banning fraudulent ICOs. More needs to be done for such bans to have a real effect within the ICO community.

Crypto Robberies

cryptocurrency-robberies-robbery

The crypto sphere is infamous for their exchange hacks and ICO scams, however criminals have found more ingenious ways to steal money from people. In Dubai, a group of criminals impersonated trade officials issuing licenses and duped 2 brothers out of $1.9 million in cash as well as assaulted them. Fortunately, the group was apprehended quickly and were later prosecuted.

Kidnapping has also become common place in the crypto world.

The Louis Meza Kidnapping

Louis Meza, a New Jersey local tried to kidnap a business associate by inviting him for a fake ‘Uber’ ride. Meza, along with another criminal partner, forced the victim to hand over his apartment keys and the 24-word passphrase to his Ledger Nano S wallet at gunpoint. Meza took all valuables from the victim’s apartment. It was almost a successful plan except for two small problems. 

Meza was seen entering the victim’s apartment, thanks to the surveillance camera in the building. Secondly, Meza used a cryptocurrency exchange to change the ETH in the wallet to BTC. Meza’s mistake was that the exchange account was in his name and that gave the DA enough evidence to prosecute Meza for kidnapping, robbery and other crimes. 

Money Laundering Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency has made it very easy for drug dealers and money launderers to move money across borders without getting caught by the banking system. Law enforcement agencies have already sniffed out several rather large money laundering cases. They’ve made several arrests as well as convictions on many cases. 

One of the most famous cases was of Thomas Mario Costanzo who was convicted for laundering $164,000 on behalf of undercover agents who posed as drug dealers. Costanzo was apprehended by a DHS-ICE led joint task force. Costanzo was also charged for providing an exchange service without a KYC process (know your customer). The service was primarily used by others for buying drugs from dark web marketplaces similar to Silk Road.

Costanzo’s conviction carries a five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 penalty for five other counts. This was an easy case since it occurred within the US jurisdiction.

Drug Cartels

In other scenarios, help has been sought from international law enforcement agencies. In one case, agencies from Finland, Spain, the United States, and Europol were involved where a total of 137 people were investigated and 11 were arrested in laundering money for a drug cartel. The drug dealers used credit cards to launder money from Spain to Colombia. 

After a while, they decided to switch to cryptocurrency since bank accounts can be easily traced, even if it was located in different countries. Europol’s crime unit was able to trace the transaction by keeping an eye on the crypto to peso conversion and successfully tracked the laundered money. Europol will be training more officers in detecting crimes related to cryptocurrency and will continue to monitor such activities across Europe.

Future Crypto Crimes

There is no doubt that cryptocurrency related crimes are bound to rise as they become more accessible to common people. Although there are several advantages to using these digital coins, (transactions can stay private, no central control, no geographic boundaries , etc), they also bring with them a few unique challenges for law and financial enforcement professionals.  

The anonymity as well as a lack of geographic restriction on crypto transactions has made it harder to apply traditional policing techniques to detect, stop and punish offenders. Law enforcement will need a lot more training and tools to stay on top of the new technologies.

There is also a need for consumer education in order to ensure new investors are educated with such scams and the crypto economy. This will ensure they don’t fall victim to typical scams like fraud, ICO investments, free hardware wallets that steal coins, high exchange rates, etc.

Much like the real world, if something sounds too good to be true, it generally is.

 

Cryptocurrency has always been an extremely volatile marketplace to trade in. Price swings of 10 to 50% within a 24 hour period can occur a few times a week and almost daily for lower volume coins.

Although these fluctuations may be great for both traders and investors (depending if your long or short), the volatility makes it very difficult to use in the real world. It not only hinders its adoption, but its fundamental ability to be utilized as a reliable currency.

cryptocurrency-volatility

Volatility plays a very important role in mass adoption as consumers want to be able to make transactions without having to worry about the value fluctuating overnight. Who wants to worry about getting paid for a product or service to only have that currency lose its value by over 30% next week?

From a business standpoint, merchants don’t want to accept transactions in a currency that includes a ton of risk. A great example of this would be employee payments. No one wants to work for a wage where you perform the same task every week but your paycheck is constantly fluctuating?

You’ll be happy to know that there is one emerging class of cryptocurrencies that are designed to tackle this exact issue. These are known as stablecoins.

What Exactly Are Stablecoins?

stablecoins

Stablecoins are a type of cryptocurrency that presents itself as a price stable asset in an ever-fluctuating marketplace. It offers a medium of exchange, store of value, and unit of account.

Stable coins are universal and are not tied down to a central monetary authority. Its supply cannot be controlled and dictated under future influence.

There are different versions of the stablecoin however there are only 2 popular versions that are utilized the most. They are the IOU issuance model and cryptocurrency-collateralized model.

Let’s take a closer look at these two stablecoin models.

IOU Issuance Model

With this model, stablecoin holds a 1-to-1 ratio to an asset that resides within a bank account. As an example, a corporation could hold a physical asset like gold or silver in their bank, which could be tied to a particular stablecoin.

Each stablecoin, under this model, derives its stability from the fact that its value can be exchanged for a physical asset. A countries fiat currency or a particular metal like gold are generally the type of physical items that are tied to these types of coins.

One of the most popular stablecoins in existence today is Tether (USDT). The actual value of Tether is tied to the equivalent of one US dollar. To ensure the value of the Tether coin, it must be backed against a corresponding US dollar inside Tethers bank account.

This brings us to one limitation within the issuance model. It’s centralized, which means individuals must trust that the entity that holds the physical asset being represented by the stablecoin is held within the company’s account. As you can imagine, this requires a lot trust by owners of the coin.

Cryptocurrency-Collateralized Model

With this model, stablecoins are not backed by centralized assets; they are backed by digital assets, for example Bitcoin. The main advantage to this asset is that it doesn’t require blind trust from participants in order for it to work.

For example: the asset that backs the stablecoin can be held in a smart contract. This way the amount of assets held are transparent and independently verified within the smart contract.

The problem with this model is that it’s tied to a cryptocurrency which is volatile in nature and runs contrary to stablecoins entire purpose. As a result the method may involve “over collateralization” so that price fluctuations can be absorbed

As an example of this, a smart contract can be created in order to hold $400 worth of Bitcoin. This would serve as collateral for say $200 worth of stablecoins. Now if an unexpected event were to occur (massive swing in price- “Black Swan event”) this would negatively impact the stablecoins value. This will result in the destabilization of the issued coin.

Stability in an Unstable Environment

stability

All major cryptocurrency enthusiasts are looking towards a catalyst that will result in mass adoption. There are a ton of factors that can contribute to such an event. We can all agree that overcoming market volatility is imperative to facilitating mass adoption.

Perfecting the stablecoin in order to bring about mass adoption can be a difficult task, however there is still a number of promising stablecoin projects that aim to overthrow these issues and bring about a non-volatile cryptocurrency within the crypto ecosystem.

Most crypto traders utilize the Tether coin, however there is a blockchain project that goes by the name of Basis, that claims to provide a stable cryptocurrency that is backed by a large number of US venture capital companies. This will likely be the closest competitor to Tether in the near future.

[UPDATE: There is a new stable coin on the market by the name of “Reserve” that has been gaining a lot of support from many major investors. You can read more about the coin along with other stablecoin releases here.]

 

Binance announced on March 13th that they would be developing a public blockchain to create a new decentralized exchange. They state that “centralized and decentralized exchanges will co-exist in the near future, complementing each other”, which has inspired them to develop Binance Chain.

This new blockchain will be used for transfer and trading of all blockchain assets. They are hoping that this move will help push cryptocurrency exchanges towards a more company to community transformation.
Binance Chain will host Binance Coin, which will inherently become its native coin with its own blockchain main net.

The difference between a decentralized exchange and a centralized exchange is that decentralized exchanges do not rely on third party services to hold customer funds. Users transact with other users without the need for a central authority that possesses order books or custody over the transactions.

Decentralized exchanges tend to provide more anonymity and are touted as being a bit more difficult for hackers, however they can be less intuitive for novice traders and lack features and functionality of standard centralized exchanges.

Binances announcement comes a day after announcing their $250,000 bounty to anyone who can provide information regarding the hackers responsible for the hacking attempts on March 7th.

 

If you’re new to ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), you might be wondering what all the hype is about. ICOs are events in where creators of a particular token offer a partial supply to investors in order to further the development of the coin. In turn, this will give the ICO team enough money to fund more future developments and increase the value of the new coin. This, in turn, will create more interest with potential investors and increase the coins value even more.

By investing in an ICO within its early stages of development, you can get a much better investment price (think early bird special), which will lead to a much better return on investment if the coin eventually increases in value through further developments. ICO companies have been doing a great job in getting people to participate in these “pre-released cryptocurrencies” through solid marketing exposure, well thought out whitepapers (layout of future plans for the crypto coin), as well as a reputable development team.

making-money-with-ico-investments-cryptocurrency-crypto

Now that you have a better understanding of what an ICO is and how lucrative they can potentially be, you might be tempted to invest in the next one that crosses your path. At first glance, any particular token might seem like a great investment. However, it’s been proven time and time again that investing in less reputable ICO’s can be very dangerous to your overall investment capital. In fact, there are many ICOs that are flat out scams.

For example, the Mycelium ICO failed because the creators were using the development funds primarily for travel. Another example would be CoinDash, in which the entire network was hacked right before one of their events. This only proved that CoinDash’s security could not handle such a large event. Potential investors for that ICO would have had their money stolen. So now you might be asking yourself, how exactly do I know which ICO to invest in?

I’ve created a nice checklist of factors that you want to run down the next time you start shopping for potential investments in an ICO. Print this out and have it closed by once you start to shop around.

10 Tips to Investigate Before Investing in ICOs

1. The Team Behind the Cryptocurrency

ico-a-team-crypto

Behind every successful ICO is a team of highly dedicated developers creating and managing the coin. Without a great team, the ICO is just another random coin to add to the 100+ piles of useless shitcoins out there. If you want to invest in a new coin, you first need to know who the people are behind it.

Some of the developers are well known in the tech world.  Have they had contributions in other cryptocurrencies before? The key here is to know who the developers are so that you’ll know whether a coin is worth investing in or not. Acquire a list of developers and Google them.

It’s pretty easy to do, simply run a few background checks on high profile individuals. This will allow you to check how credible or trustworthy your potential investment is. If the team of developers are comprised of a group of noteworthy people, then the coin has a higher chance of success.

2. Feedback on Bitcointalk.org

What is Bitcointalk.org, you ask? Why, it’s only the largest cryptocurrency forum on the net. If you want to get feedback on a particular ICO, then this is the place to go. You can see what other investors have to say about a particular ICO. You may also leave some of your own feedback for them to view. It’s basically a huge discussion board for people who are interested in talking about any particular cryptocurrency. It is also one of the best places for you to do your initial research.

3. Progress of the Development

Other than reading feedback on what other investors have to say about an ICO, it’s also good to do your own research (DYOR)  on the ICO’s  development stages (AKA Whitepaper). Investigate to see what information is already available to the public. The whitepaper is a crucial part of the research process as it contains all the key information about the coin. It contains all past, present, and future plans of the company.

However, you have to look beyond the whitepaper and see what else they have to offer. Do they offer prototypes for testing? Does it contain other useful information that is essential to investors? How far have they gone in developing the coin? Obviously, the more information that they release to the public, the more credible they are. This means that there’s a high chance of success for the company and high probability of profit for investors like you.

4. The ICO Community

ico-community-of-nerds-crypto

You can tell how much confidence is placed in a coin by looking at the size of the community. The value of a coin is dependent mostly on the supply and demand. Every cryptocurrency has a certain supply of coins that will slowly be released to the public.

While the supply is maintained by the developers, the demand has to come from the community. If the size of the community is really large, then you can easily determine that there is most likely a high demand for it as well.

It also helps if there are more prominent or reputable names investing in the coin. If the demand is high for standard investors as well as high profile ones, you know that the coin is most likely worth investing in.

5. The Purpose of the ICO

When you invest in a security or investment medium, you want to place your money in something that has value. With regard to cryptocurrency, the value lies in the purpose of the coin or what it’s used for (you can find this in the whitepaper).

For example, the purpose of Bitcoin is to enable people the ability to transfer money without any involvement of third-party entities such as payment facilities. Ethereum, on the other hand, was used for smart contract functionality.

As you can see, each coin has its own purpose. You have to find out whether the purpose of the coin you want to invest in actually makes sense or not. If you think it’s something that people can really use and get behind, then it’s investment potential increases. However, if you and others within the crypto community deem the coin useless, it’s most likely not a great investment opportunity.

6. Distribution of the Coin

Another thing to take note of is the distribution volume of the coin. If it happens to be more than 50% during the ICO, then you may want to think twice about investing. A credible  ICO will only have a certain volume of distribution as to not over-saturate the market. The key here is to find an ICO that doesn’t release all of its coins at once and instead releases the coins slowly into the market.

7. The Cap of the ICO

The cap refers to how many funds are allowed to be accumulated by the developers. If an ICO allows a lot of these funds to be stored, then a lot more coins will be supplied to its investors. This, in turn, may lessen the demand because demand goes up whenever the supply is down. You have to take note of the cap of the ICO to get an idea of the supply and demand figures.

8. ICO Code Quality

ico-coded-quality-crypto

This step is more applicable to those who have more knowledge of computer programming. In order to know whether a certain ICO is junk or not, a lot of tech specialists actually examine the code that powers it. If the code is messy (especially during its final stages), then it might not be a very safe investment. Remember that the code is the core of the token. If the core itself is a mess, then you can assume that the rest of the company is too.

Just to give you an idea, a cryptocurrency that has function codes of more than 50 lines is a red flag for most programmers. If you’re really interested in investing a great deal of money into a particular ICO, you may want to take the time and hire a developer to look over the code for you.

9. The Number of Commits

Each cryptocurrency is powered by an open source code, which means that the public can view the improvements or the progress of the token. There will be logs that are also known as “commit logs” in the coding. A commit is a word that developers use to promote a code to the Github coding sector.

The number of commits in the log can tell you the progress and improvements of your cryptocurrency. It’s great to invest in a coin that has a high number of commits because it shows that the coin is developing quickly.

10. The General Activity of Developers

Aside from viewing progress of the code, another way to check progress of an ICO is to look into the Insights page of a particular ICO’s website. By clicking on the Insights page, you’ll see a chart of the daily commits of the cryptocurrency. Moreover, you can view the specific activity that each developer has completed for the token on a daily basis. You can check whether the developers of the coin are actually doing their job and making progress.

Conclusion

With the rising popularity of cryptocurrency, more and more ICOs will pop up on a monthly basis. In fact, ICOs have become one of the main methods of raising money for the development of new cryptocurrencies. As time passes, it will become even easier for people to have access to ICOs due to their rising popularity. Of course, this also means that people will have a harder time knowing which ICOs are worthy of funding and which ones are scams.

The key here is to do your homework on any particular ICO before investing. The checklist outline for you above should help you avoid any careless investment mistakes. The coins that don’t have much public information aren’t recommended.

A few resources I always check before investing into an ICO is…

https://icorating.com/

https://icoranker.com/

https://icobench.com/

Here you can view a comprehensive list of top ICOs along with ratings, rankings, and comprehensive analysis that will help you form a better buying decision.

 

Don’t invest in a token unless you have full knowledge about the coin that you’re planning to invest in. If you take the time to do your due diligence, and have investigated every facet of the ICO, then regardless of what happens to it, you’ll know you did everything in your power to prevent losing your investment captial…..and that my friend is something to be proud of. 

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