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Crypto scams are the top threat to investors ‘by far,’ say securities regulators

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Investments related to cryptocurrencies and digital assets are the top threat to investors “by far,” according to new data from the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).

“Stories of ‘crypto millionaires’ attracted some investors to try their hand at investing in cryptocurrencies or crypto-related investments this year, and with them, many stories of those who bet big and lost big began appearing, and they will continue to appear in 2022,” said Enforcement Section Committee Co-Chair Joseph P. Borg, Alabama Securities Commission Director.

The annual survey of North American securities regulators urged investors to exercise caution before purchasing popular and volatile unregulated investments, especially those involving cryptocurrency and digital assets.

“The most common telltale sign of an investment scam is an offer of guaranteed high returns with no risk. It is important for investors to understand what they are investing in and with whom they are investing,” said Melanie Senter Lubin, NASAA President and Maryland Securities Commissioner.

“Education and information are an investor’s best defense against investment fraud,” continued Lubin.

The report added that digital assets “do not fall neatly into the existing investor regulatory framework,” so it may be easier for promoters of these products “to fleece the public.”

“Before you jump into the crypto craze, be mindful that cryptocurrencies and related financial products may be nothing more than public facing fronts for Ponzi schemes and other frauds,” said Enforcement Section Committee Vice-Chair Joseph Rotunda.

Rotunda added that investments in cryptocurrency trading programs, interests in crypto mining pools, crypto depository accounts and securitized tokens should “be seen for what they are: extremely risky speculation with a high risk of loss.”

Scammers took home a record $14 billion in cryptocurrency in 2021, thanks in large part to the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms, according to blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.

DeFi is a rapidly growing sector of the crypto market that aims to cut out middlemen, such as banks, from traditional financial transactions, like securing a loan, by using blockchain technology.

Losses from crypto-related crime rose 79% from a year earlier, driven by a spike in theft and scams.

Scamming was the greatest form of cryptocurrency-based crime in 2021, followed by theft — most of which occurred through hacking of cryptocurrency businesses. Chainalysis says that DeFi is a big part of the story for both, in yet another warning for those dabbling in this emerging segment of the crypto industry.

NASAA noted that many of the fraud threats facing investors today involve private offerings, which are exempted from federal law registration requirements. States are also preempted from enforcing investor protection laws related to these private securities.

“Unregistered private offerings generally are high-risk investments and don’t have the same investor protection requirements as those sold through public markets,” said Borg.

Ultimately, state securities regulators say that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Some DeFi platforms, for example, offer users huge returns, such as high-interest rate savings and lending products.

Bad actors often entice new investors by promising the payment of safe, lucrative, guaranteed returns over relatively short terms – “sometimes measured in hours or days instead of months or years,” according to NASAA, which says these kinds of promises are a red flag for fraud.

Fraud offerings tied to promissory notes, money scams offered online and via social media, as well as financial schemes connected to self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts rounded out the survey’s list of the top threats to retail investors.

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BUSINESS

5G Deployment: Nigeria approves Microsoft’s agreement, migration of C-Band services

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The federal government has approved an Enterprise Licensing Agreement for Microsoft products and the clearing up of C-Band Spectrum in order to accelerate the deployment of 5G services in the country.

In a statement, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, on Thursday, said the approval was given during the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) last Wednesday.

This agreement is part of the federal government’s effort towards keeping the cost of IT projects within sustainable levels, the statement, signed by the Technical Assistant to Pantami, Dr Femi Adeluyi, revealed.

He said the agreement would give the government access to discounted prices and other cost benefits, as well as reduce project duplication across Federal Public Institutions (FPIs).

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Bitcoin posts its worst quarter in more than a decade

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Bitcoin on Thursday posted its worst quarterly loss in more than a decade.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency has lost around 58% of its value in the second quarter of 2022, according to data from CryptoCompare. Bitcoin has fallen from $45,524 at the start of the quarter and was trading just below $19,000 on Thursday, the last day of the three-month period.

This is the worst quarterly performance for bitcoin since the third quarter of 2011 when it lost 68.2% of its value.

Bitcoin is down 39.8% in June and is on pace for the worst month ever dating back to 2010 when it became available on exchanges, Coin Metrics data shows.

Meanwhile, ether is down 69.3% in the second quarter and is on track for its worst quarter on record, dating back to its inception in 2015, according to Coin Metrics data.

Coin collapse, 3AC liquidation
Cryptocurrency prices have come under intense pressure this quarter amid rampant inflation which has caused central banks around the world to raise interest rates and led to a sell-off in risk assets, such as stocks and digital coins.

The crash in prices has also exposed issues with a several cryptocurrency companies and projects, particularly those in the lending space and firms that are highly leveraged.

A number of high profile issues have come to light during the quarter.

In May, the algorithmic stablecoin terraUSD collapsed along with its sister token luna. A stablecoin is a digital currency pegged to a real-world asset. TerraUSD was supposed to be pegged one-to-one with the U.S. dollar. Some stablecoins such as tether are backed by real assets like fiat currencies and government bonds. But terraUSD was governed by an algorithm which effectively failed.

Then In June, crypto lending firm Celsius paused withdrawals for its customers citing “extreme market conditions.”

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency exchange CoinFlex halted withdrawals for customers last week also citing “extreme market conditions.” But the company also claimed long-time crypto investor Roger Ver owes it $47 million after his account went into “negative equity.” Ver has denied that he owes CoinFlex money.

And the liquidity crisis has also hit prominent crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital which has fallen into liquidation, CNBC reported on Wednesday.

The latest downturn is being described as a new “crypto winter” and has also impacted growth and hiring at companies. Coinbase and BlockFi announced plans to lay off staff.

How does this cycle compare to the past?
Jacob Joseph, research analyst at CryptoCompare, notes that in the previous boom and bust cycle, bitcoin fell from a peak of $19,871 in the fourth quarter of 2017 to a low of $3,170 in the fourth quarter of 2018, suffering a drawdown of 8%.

Joseph said a similar fall of 82.2% was seen in 2014 when bitcoin fell from a high of $1,239 in the fourth quarter of 2013 to a low of $221 in the second quarter of 2015.

“This suggests that we could be in for a further drawdown period if the current poor macroeconomic conditions continue to persist,” Joseph told CNBC.

Other investors have expressed bearishness. In May, Guggenheim Chief Investment Officer Scott Minerd, said bitcoin could drop to $8,000. At the time, the cryptocurrency was trading at around $30,000, representing a 70% fall.

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European markets set to retreat as caution persists after worst quarter since 2020

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European markets are set to pull back on Friday after suffering their worst quarter since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, as inflation and interest rate hikes continue to weigh on sentiment.

Britain’s FTSE 100 is seen around 38 points lower at 7,131, Germany’s DAX is set to fall by around 123 points to 12,661 and France’s CAC 40 is expected to drop by around 54 points to 5,869.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index closed the second quarter of the year on Thursday down 9% — the worst three-month period since the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 — and was down 16.6% year-to-date.

Global market sentiment remains gloomy as the war in Ukraine shows no sign of abating and inflationary pressures continue to mount, prompting central banks to embark on aggressive monetary policy tightening and exacerbating fears of a global economic slowdown.

Shares in Asia-Pacific were lower overnight with Japan’s Nikkei 225 leading losses in the region, after the Bank of Japan’s quarterly business sentiment survey posted a sharp decline in the April-June period.

However, China’s manufacturing activity expanded at its sharpest rate for 13 months in June, boosted by resurgent output after the easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures.

U.S. stock futures also retreated in early premarket trade after the S&P 500 closed out its worst first-half performance since 1970, dropping 20.6% year-to-date by Thursday’s close.

Back in Europe, Reuters reported Thursday that the European Central Bank will on Friday begin a process of buying bonds from southern European nations, including Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece. The ECB will reportedly use the proceeds from maturing German, French and Dutch debt, in a bid to cap spreads between their respective borrowing costs.

On the data front, a flash euro zone June inflation reading is due Friday morning, along with manufacturing PMIs from Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

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