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BEWARE: All Bitcoin HYIPs and MLM Schemes are Scams!

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Bitcoin HYIPs

Bitcoin is the oldest and most popular cryptocurrency in the world. However, as bitcoin adoption is on the rise so is the number of bitcoin scams. Unfortunately, many of these scams have infiltrated Africa in the past few years and are preying on unknowing users who want to make money online using bitcoin.

In this article, you will find out why all so-called bitcoin high yield investment plans (HYIPs) and MLM schemes that involve bitcoin are outright scams and how to identify these schemes so that you do not fall victim to them.

What Are Bitcoin HYIPs and Why Are They Scams?

HYIPs (high yield investment plans) promise their “investors” very high returns on their invested bitcoin. The claimed returns (which are sometimes “guaranteed”) can range from 1 percent per day up to 100 percent per month, or more.

HYIP operators usually claim that they invest their “investors” bitcoins in a sophisticated way to generate high returns. Of course, that is a complete lie. Instead, they only pay out when new money trickles in through the registration of new “investors”, which is exactly why all HYIPs have well-paying referral programs that are there to lure new members to the scheme and to keep existing members propagating it.

In other words, all bitcoin HYIPs are simple and straightforward Ponzi schemes where existing investors are paid with the money coming in from new investors until the scheme collapses and the operators disappear with the funds. Due to bitcoin’s pseudo-anonymity, disappearing with stolen funds is easier than ever. Hence, the sudden growth in this type of scam.

No Protection for ICO InvestorsLegitimate cryptocurrency investment platforms, such as Iconomi, have annual management fees and transparently show their users what they are investing in and how their funds are performing. Also, users can pull out their invested funds at any time.

HYIPs, on the other hand, are always very secretive about their “investment” activities and it is hard to get your money out once you are in the scheme. Why? Because they are simply scams aimed at stealing their investors’ money once the pot has gotten big enough for the operators to exit.

What are Bitcoin MLM Schemes and why are they scams?

Bitcoin MLM (multi-level marketing) schemes take the popular element of network marketing (also known as direct selling) and leverage the popularity of bitcoin to create a scam.

It is very easy to identify a bitcoin MLM scam as they all have one thing in common. They do not sell a product or a service. Big companies that use multi-level marketing such as Herbalife, for example, have products that their direct sales people sell. When it comes to bitcoin MLM schemes there is no product and no service, which is why they can be so easily identified as just another pyramid scheme.

bitcoin scamMembers of bitcoin MLM schemes only really earn by recruiting new members, which is why you can find so many individuals posting referral links in Facebook groups promoting their “investment plan”, bitcoin doublers, (fake) cloud mining sites or MLM scheme.

The funds paid to their users are a small share of the new money from other participants. Those who join have to pay a fee. Then, the organisation pumps the amount into paying referrals. In the end, when the operators have earned enough the scheme collapses and they disappear with the money.

Alleged Bitcoin Scams in Africa

MMM

The recently reincarnated MMM is an alleged Ponzi scheme that has been around for decades. Its founder, Sergei Mavrodi, who ran MMM since the late 80s was found guilty by Russian courts in 2007 of defrauding 10 000 investors out of over $4 million in total and was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. Unfortunately, after his release, Mavrodi relaunched MMM and targeted new markets, including Africa, for his scheme.

MMM came to South Africa in 2015 and has since spread to Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. The organisation promises a 30 per cent return on investments but gives no indication of how the business actually intends to generate these returns other than “individuals helping each other”. This should ring alarm bells as it clearly means that MMM is a pyramid scheme. Well, that and the fact that the company’s owner has already been convicted for running a Ponzi scheme with the same name back in Russia. Many governments were quick enough to caution their citizens about the scheme, yet MMM is still up and running in countries like Kenya and Nigeria and preying on unknowing bitcoin newbies who want to invest their coins.

According to reports by MoneyWeb, MMM South Africa collapsed in 2016 and its operators have disappeared with their victims’ funds. MMM announced on its South African Facebook page that the RB “was an experiment, and, unfortunately, it failed”. Victims who were involved in the scam, lost all their invested bitcoin as their accounts online were frozen as is traditionally the case when scammers collapse their schemes.

Onecoin

Onecoin is an alleged pyramid scheme that is claiming to have its own blockchain and cryptocurrency. However, no proof that its blockchain exists has ever been presented, whereas every other blockchain has a blockchain explorer where transactions can be viewed. Furthermore, its “digital currency” is not listed on CoinMarketCap as it is widely believed not to exist at all.

bitcoin hyipsAt the moment, Onecoin is under investigation by law enforcement departments in several countries across the globe including the UK, Germany, and India, where arrests were made.. Even the central bank in Uganda has warned its citizens about OneCoin.  Nonetheless, you will still find OneCoin “investors” send out promotional material with referral links to unknowing users online in the hope to make money by perpetuating the scheme.

MMM and OneCoin are two of the most prominent alleged bitcoin scams in Africa but there are much more. Many of them promise high returns from bitcoin cloud mining but are in reality just another form of Ponzi scheme.

How To Avoid Becoming Victim to a Bitcoin Scam

1. Ensure that company details and names of the owners are listed and real!

Most bitcoin scams will not list the company address nor have a team section that clearly outlines who runs the business and who the owners are. This is a clear red flag, so it should be the first thing to look out for.

If the company is legally registered and there are owners listed, go do a quick google search and see if these details are actually real. Fraudsters will happily provide false information in the hope that their victims do not conduct thorough research.

2. If the scheme “guarantees” you returns, it’s a scam!

If you come across a website or a system that guarantees you returns, it is almost certain to be a scam. There is always a risk when it comes to investing, so returns can never be guaranteed.

3. If the returns they state that they will generate for you are very high, that’s a red flag!

Despite the sometimes fast-increasing value of digital currencies, if you come across a scheme that tells you that it will double your bitcoin within a month or pay you 10 percent return per day, for example, you will have come across a scam with pretty much 100 percent certainty.

Just use common sense, how would a company be able to pay you 10 percent or even 1 percent returns per day other than by using the money from one investor and giving to the next as Ponzi schemes do? Bitcoin mining will definitely not make you 1 percent per day. That is mathematically impossible as we know how much the blockchain can pay out in rewards each day.

4. Read unbiased reviews online and reach out to users to hear about their experiences!

Another great way to check if an investment platform is legitimate is to find unbiased reviews and to reach out to users who have invested there. However, be wary of those who send you referral links or have them in their reviews as these opinions are not unbiased. Individuals who send you referral links when they give you their opinion are only looking to cash in on referral income, which is how participants in Ponzi schemes make money until the scheme collapses.

5. Check if the company is listed on badbitcoin.org!

The gentlemen who run the website badbitcoin.org provide an invaluable service to bitcoin novices who are tempted by high-returns promising investment schemes that are in reality just straightforward scams. The platform lists most known bitcoin scams and new sites are added on a regular basis.

6. The Golden Rule is: “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Probably the easiest way to determine whether something is a scam or not is if it sounds too good to be true. If you are being guaranteed high returns that you can make passively online by “just” investing a few hundred dollars, you will almost certainly have come across a scam.

7. There are no legitimate bitcoin HYIPs or MLM schemes. They are all scams!

Finally, not falling for a bitcoin investment scheme in the form of a high yield investment plan or MLM/pyramid scheme is actually very easy because every single one that you come across online is a scam.

While there are many ways to earn bitcoin online, high yield investment plans and MLM schemes are not part of them and need to be avoided at all cost. If you invest in any of these schemes, you will very likely lose money sooner or later when their operators collapse the scheme and make an exit.

Unfortunately, African bitcoin Facebook groups are often full of individuals (usually with fake Facebook accounts) posting about “amazing” bitcoin investment opportunities that almost always include a referral link to a HYIP, MLM or a fake cloud mining scheme. So, keep your wits about yourself when looking for investment opportunities online and remember: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Bitcoin

Coindirect Now Allows You To Buy Cryptocurrencies in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya

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Coindirect

Kenyans, Nigerians and South Africans will now be able to buy and sell cryptocurrencies on Coindirect after the exchange platform announced the launch of their services in the three African countries.

Coindirect is an exchange platform that prides itself on being one of the fastest and easiest ways to trade digital currencies online. The exchange that is now live in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, was built to make cryptocurreny trading simple. The platform offers a wide range of local-to-cryptocurrency transactions in its marketplace, with the availability of 25 distinct digital coins. Currently, in its initial launch phase, there will be additional countries where Coindirect.com will be launching in early 2018.

“We are extremely excited to be offering our customers across the globe the ability to buy popular cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum in their local currencies,” says Basil Bielich, Coindirect.com Director.

“By simplifying and demystifying the process of purchasing cryptocurrencies, we hope to accelerate their adoption across the globe,” he added.

While some exchanges may need cryptocurrency owners to own multiple wallet accounts, Coindirect.com allows users to buy and sell multiple currencies using one wallet account. It provides its users with a secure trading environment coupled with full wallet support and instant transfers. Using local currencies, customers can also purchase altcoins as well as exchange them using different currencies. This has resulted in an increased daily trading volume with users converting between altcoins and bitcoin.

The exchange locks prices at the point of sale thus making transactions instant. While bitcoin purchases might be complex, Coindirect.com’s use of the escrow system eliminates the purchase barrier for such digital coins.

Properly Regulated

While the majority of the digital currency trading platforms are unregulated, the case is different with Coindirect.com. Registered with the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority and with offices in both the Isle of Man and London, Coindirect.com is professionally regulated having been founded by a consortium of technology investors based in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

With bitcoin having gone mainstream in 2017 and raising a global interest on digital currencies leading to rapid adoption of cryptocurrencies, there is need to have regulated exchanges that can reduce fraud and theft risk as well as loss of trade.

Commenting from the E-Business Innovation at Isle of Man Government, the Head of Operations, Brian Donegan said: “The arrival of Coindirect.com on the Island is a further example of how our digital economy value proposition and quality regulatory framework continues to attract digital currency exchange companies of the highest caliber.”

Users will also be able to carry out random trades of up to ZAR R15,000 / NGN 400,000 / KES 100,000 without the need to upload their personal identification documents.

With Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa having very active cryptocurrency ecosystems, the move is expected to help in the adoption of digital currencies as well as give users in the named countries alternative options to buy cryptocurrencies.

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Australian Company Urges Nigeria To Put Gold Supply Chain on the Blockchain

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Gold Supply Chain on Blockchain

The Australia-based company African Mutual Resources has implored Nigeria to utilise blockchain technology in the gold mining supply chain to enable the West African country to foster its diversification drive and attain a more sustainable economy.

Lee Purves, director of Africa Mutual Resources (AMR), said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that blockchain technology is a transparent and smart technology that would boost the confidence of both buyers and sellers in the gold business.

“What [blockchain technology] does is that it absorbs data from along a supply line, whether it is gold, digital location or the source and put it in the blockchain. Everybody involved in the chain will see what is there. If I am a gold seller or gold buyer, you don’t need to trust me anymore because the trust is in the system. You will see all the documentation. You can see what you have and I will see what you have,’’ he stated.

Partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria

Purves revealed that his company would be willing to collaborate with the Federal Government of Nigeria to implement the blockchain in the gold mining sector. He went on to add that a similar system had already been invented in Israel.

Dr. Ade Kukoyi, Chairman of African Mutual Resources, stressed on the need to have Nigeria utilise the technology as it belongs to part of the global community. He mentioned that research had been done on Nigeria and a lot of revenue was being lost to artisans not working mainstream.

“One thing we observed is that Nigeria government is losing a lot of revenue to activities of those that are in the “shadows’’, those not operating in the mainstream.”

“One such is in the mining sector and specifically gold. Reportedly, Nigeria is losing as much as 1.4 billion dollars in activities surrounding the illegal gold mining. The blockchain technology is reformatory; it will transform the way business is done and the underline theme of the technology is trust. Distrust activities will be brought to an end through blockchain technology if the Nigeria government will adopt it,’’ he remarked.

Furthermore, Mr. Kukoyi said that the company would partner with the Nigerian government to boost the levels of the two gold laboratories to become attractive to the global economy. He expressed his concerns over the fact that the Jos and Kaduna gold laboratories had gotten no recognition from the world market economy.

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Meet Africa’s Youngest Blockchain Entrepreneur: Token Media’s Elisha Owusu Akyaw

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Youngest Blockchain Entrepreneur

In Africa, the number of entrepreneurs working on cryptocurrency and blockchain businesses is on the rise due to a growing global appetite for blockchain-based solutions and crypto-commerce. An example of this would be the story of Africa’s youngest blockchain entrepreneur, Elisha Owusu Akyaw.

Becoming a Blockchain Entrepreneur at a Young Age

Elisha is the founder and CEO of Token Media, a Ghana-based cryptocurrency marketing company. Founded in 2017, the company aims to assist new and existing blockchain projects to reach their target audience using global best practice marketing solutions.

Token MediaInterestingly, most people would agree that Elisha does not fit the profile of your typical entrepreneur. The 16-year-old is looking to carve his own niche in advertising with a particular focus on blockchain projects, at a time when his peers are mostly concerned with school or other social activities. He first came across cryptocurrencies on TV, fell in love with the technology and decided the opportunities presented in the space were too good to be ignored.

About what developed his interest in cryptocurrencies he mentioned this in an interview with BitcoinAfrica.io,

“I got into the cryptocurrency space after I saw a news item about bitcoin on TV and then decided to check it out. The idea of financial freedom and an entire economy based on the blockchain appealed to my curiosity, which caused me to investigate about bitcoins and cryptocurrencies as a whole. After research, I then looked at how I could apply my skills in the field and later joined the DASH community and started the first DASH commercial blog.”

Establishing his Mark on Blockchain Advertising with Token Media

Elisha’s foray into digital currencies could not have been at a more opportune time when big players like Goldman Sachs and Google recognise the untapped potential of blockchain technology. Meanwhile, startups are developing other uses for blockchain technology to secure information from tampering and allow users to access the entire record of transactions.

Elisha identified the need for PR services for established companies as well as new market entrants. With this in mind, Token Media was conceived. He states his inspiration for starting the company was,

“I watched a lot of cryptocurrency related videos and I remember watching one that spoke about bringing businesses from other industries into the blockchain industry, which got me thinking about a PR solutions company. After the boom of ICO’s and the popularity of cryptocurrencies, the need for proper marketing services in the space has become very important which lead to the birth of Token Media. Our solutions are unique because we blend affordability and quality.”

Token Media offers a variety of services primarily in public relations, ICO marketing, and social media management. Under public relations the company creates, publishes and distributes press releases, working with notable partners such as BTC Manager, Merkle, and Hongico just to name a few. With ICO marketing, the core activities are public relations and investor relations. Social media management involves spreading the message about various blockchain projects on popular social media channels.

According to Elisha, the company which began operations in June last year has so far worked with several clients such as PIVX, Komodo, Local World Forwarder, and SmartCash. Token Media has helped raise over $40 million in token sales through its marketing services and has worked with cryptocurrencies with a combined market capitalisation of over $1 billion.

While this may seem impressive for a company less than a year old, for Elisha this is just the beginning,

“In the future Token Media aims to be more than a marketing solutions firm. We are working on new projects that include an initial coin offering startup platform, content distribution, and creation on the blockchain and a blockchain related content platform that integrates all media formats,” he said about his future plans.

Challenges Faced and Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

However, a journey into entrepreneurship is not without its hiccups and blockchain businesses are no exception. For Elisha, a persistent problem has been the presence of few platforms in Africa with cryptocurrency integration which makes moving money around quite hectic. Until recently he couldn’t find a decent cryptocurrency exchange in Ghana that offered excellent services with reasonable fees.

With cryptocurrency adoption in the continent still at its infancy stage, most Africans have to contend with international peer-to-peer exchanges like Localbitcoins and Remitano to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. While the exchanges support millions of dollars in trades every day, users are often faced with above market rate prices when buying bitcoin and other digital currencies. Lately, though, we are seeing more localised exchanges coming up across the continent that supports local currencies.

However, the biggest challenge according to Elisha has been unpredictable nature of market regulators. He says,

“Another problem that is getting bigger is the silence on the part of most governments on the continent on the regulation of cryptocurrencies. Regulators on the content seem not to understand the fundamental concepts of blockchain technology and may take rushed decisions that will hamper the growth of the blockchain industry in Africa. As an entrepreneur, it makes it hard for me to plan with this high level of uncertainty at play.”

The reality is the legal status of cryptocurrencies remains undefined in most African countries with regulators regularly sounding warnings against its use. The lack of a policy framework pertaining to digital currencies creates an environment of uncertainty for blockchain enterprises and hampers digital currency innovation across the continent. Hopefully, African governments which are more receptive towards blockchain technologies will involve stakeholders like Elisha in coming up with structures that can assimilate cryptocurrencies into local ecosystems.

For now, the Accra-based entrepreneur has split his time between growing Token Media and his studies. His advice to other young aspiring African cryptocurrency entrepreneurs is:

”There is a lot to be done in the blockchain space in Africa. Identify the problems around you, fix the problem and you will have a winning project or product in your hands. Let’s all work together to bridge the gaps on the continent, educate the masses and help the continent grow.”

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