Saturday 29 October 2016

Billcoin - a digital deception

The internet has brought us many blessings. We now have access to a wealth of information that our ancestors couldn’t even have imagined. Some of it’s even true.

It’s brought us facilities that twenty years ago could only have been dreamed of. Despite all their flaws, Google, Facebook and Twitter really have made our lives better.

It’s also exposed us to a greater level of risk.

You’ll probably have heard of the mysterious thing called Bitcoin and chances are, like most of us, you don’t have the faintest idea what it is. In fact, it’s quite simple. Bitcoin is a digital currency. Wikipedia describes it as “a digital asset and a payment system” but I think means the same thing. In principle it’s quite easy to understand. It’s just another currency, like the Pula, Rand, Euro and Dollar, you just can’t put any of it in your wallet or purse and you can’t buy it from your bank. The currency only exists online, out there in the internet somewhere.

That’s what makes Bitcoin complicated and risky. Unlike conventional currencies, all of which have a bank that produces and regulates them, Bitcoin is effectively unregulated. It means that if the market suddenly decides that it’s no longer worth anything it can simply collapse. No central bank is going to step in and bale it out. It means your money can disappear and nobody will do anything about it.

But who knows, the experts don’t agree. Some say it’s the future, others say it’s no more than a glorified Ponzi scheme, reliant on new people pumping money into the thing to keep it alive.

What worries me isn’t Bitcoin, it’s what Bitcoin has unleashed. An endless stream of fake digital currencies that are pretending to be something like Bitcoin but in fact are nothing more than scams.

The latest of these is already gathering victims in Botswana and calls itself Billcoin.

On their web site the people behind Billcoin try their best to explain how you can join the scheme. This was taken directly from their web site without any editing:
“Participant (trader) must very first register towards network to be able to buy IN ADDITION TO sell Billcoins; there is usually the safety measures signal The item must become maintained safe Just as That is another security measure against hackers AND infiltrators. After gaining access for the user-friendly platform subsequently You could be exposed to be able to several chances regarding generating dollars similar to buying coins by no less than R150 in order to registering an Associate pertaining to the bonus associated with 15%. Traders will certainly only withdraw its income right after a great month or perhaps may Choose to help leave The item for you to grow higher In the same way calculations.”
Do you get the impression English isn’t their first language? Do you get the impression that even they have no idea what they’re selling or how it’s meant to work?

They also have a Facebook group that is dedicated to capturing victims here in Botswana. This says
“Introducing the digital coin each platinum Billcoin is 220 Botswanan Pula which pays 410 Botswanan Pula”. It goes in to say that “Botswana we are here to inform you all you will be paid 80% interest pm on platinum BILLCOINS join the investment”.
The obvious question is where does the 80% they promise come from? How does the money grow? How do they convert P200 into P410?

Nobody knows, least of all them. They give no explanation and that’s always a something you should be suspicious about. The people behind a real investment scheme will be open about where the money comes from. Any scheme that isn’t is one you should avoid.

In fact, Billcoin is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. Any money they give you will come from people who join the scheme after you. And rest assured that the money you get back won’t match the money you put in.

Just a few days ago we got a call from someone who had already signed up for Billcoin. She asked us for help in obtaining the Mastercard credit card that the Billcoin recruiter had said she would receive in three days, loaded with all the money they promised she’d earn. Two months later it still hasn’t appeared and the reason is obvious. There is no credit card and there is no profit. The whole thing is a lie.

The tragedy in this case is what this victim was forced to do to get to this point. The scammers had already persuaded her to give them P30,000 and it was our job to try and explain to her that her money was gone, never to be seen again.

That’s when the conversation became more concerning. That P30,000 she’d given them was all the money she had. The only asset this victim now has left is her life insurance policy and she told my colleague that she thought her family would be better off with her dead.

That’s the real effect of Ponzi schemes like Eurextrade, MMM Global and now Billcoin. It isn’t just a few affluent people who can afford to lose money who are affected, it’s the less comfortable who are the most desperate victims, the ones who have so much less to lose.

We do our best to spread the world about schemes like MMM Global, Billcoin and the other schemes that are preying on the desperate but clearly it’s not enough. It’s up to all of us to warn the people we care about, our friends, family and neighbours, that these scams exist and they pose a real threat to our national stability and happiness.

Billcoin is a very good example of this. It is a scam being run by liars and thieves who are hell-bent on stealing money from the innocent and gullible. They need to be exposed and punished. Will you help spread the word?

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