Saturday 11 August 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Bitcoin a pyramid scheme?

Hello Richard is bitcoin a pyramid scheme?

I need to begin by explaining what Bitcoin is. Bitcoin is a currency, but not like any currency we've seen before. It's a “cryptocurrency”, a digital currency. There are no coins or notes with Bitcoin, nothing you can put in your wallet or purse. Bitcoins exist purely in cyberspace and that’s one of the things that confuses people. What’s also confusing is the terminology used when people talk about Bitcoin. They talk about things like the "blockchain", the "distributed ledger" and "Bitcoin mining", all of which are hard to understand and likely to perplex people. There's also the simple confusion that your money is "out there" somewhere and not in your pocket.

Data source: Coindesk
Like all currencies Bitcoin’s value can go up but it can also go down. For instance, if you’d bought Bitcoins in late December last year you would have lost almost two-thirds of your “investment” by the time I wrote this. There’s no reason to think that it’s price will increase again.

Then there are security concerns. The technology underpinning Bitcoin is highly secure but anyone who says that a particular security system is fool proof doesn’t know their history. All security technologies will eventually be broken and if a flaw is ever discovered in Bitcoin's security mechanisms it would be instantly valueless.

The fact that it's completely unregulated is another concern. If a conventional currency like the Pula, dollar or Euro showed signs of failing, central banks can do things to support it but with Bitcoin, there's nobody to help you. The Bank of Botswana has already warned people about the dangers of speculating in Bitcoin. Another issue is that when you spend Bitcoins there are no payment protection mechanisms available to you. There are no rights to refunds. no chargeback mechanisms and Bitcoins are completely untraceable and that’s why they’re so popular with criminals and terrorists.

Bitcoin is fascinating and something like it is probably the future of money but you shouldn’t see it as an investment. If you have some money you can afford to lose then go ahead, otherwise you should be much more careful.

And then there’s the final thing. While Bitcoin is itself legitimate (but very high risk) it’s surrounded by a huge number of scams, pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes, all of which are exploiting the mixture of excitement and ignorance we all have about the subject. Just be very careful!

Where’s the tombstone?

We as a family paid P9,500 to a company in Mogoditshane for them to make us a tombstone for our grandfather to be unveiled in late July. We agreed with them and they made a promise it will all be set up by the agreed date. When we called up they promised it will be set up by Tuesday 24th July, it happened it was not so. We went to their offices and we cannot get any assistance. The owner of the company has switched off his cellphones and the officer in charge cannot assist as she says everything is done by the owner of the company.

We need help as we have incurred costs for the unveiling and we did not get our tombstone and we are so anxious and restless. What can we do?

What is it with some companies? We hear so often about companies that let people down during some of life’s most important occasions, particularly weddings and funerals. Don’t they understand that these are occasions that can’t be repeated? Don’t they know how important they are? Don’t they realise the depth of the emotions involved?

Send me the contact details for this awful company and we’ll get in touch with them and try to explain to them how horrible their behaviour has been. We’ll also explain that I removed their name from your email to give them the chance to rectify their appalling behaviour. They need to know that this might not remain the case.

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