Kudos to Which? for exposing the cryptocurrency frenzy

Maria Nikolova

FinanceFeeds’ managing editor thanks Tom Wilson of Which? who had to deal with hard-selling Bitcoin trading coaches, companies that misspell “credit” and piles of Bitcoin-branded Christmas jumpers.

As a managing editor, I get to go through hundreds of articles every day even with the proper filtering system – that quantity has ballooned since the cryptocurrency craze started taking over the financial industry – I am being bombarded with PRs about crypto events, ICOs and “amazing” new services related to crypto-assets. And, yes, I am pushed to post these stories although I don’t want to. I have wondered whether anyone sees this whole messy market segment the way I see it – as cr-pshoot, pure and simple.

So, today, I would like to say thanks to Tom Wilson of Which? for diving deep into the cryptocurrency craze and exposing the details of the scams that have flooded even the heart of the world’s financial capital – London.

Mr Wilson’s insightful and funny (or perhaps, sad because it’s true) story about his experiences at a range of crypto events in London should serve as a good lesson to everybody who wants to enter the world of cryptocurrencies, which is, as he labels it “the Wild West of unregulated investments”.

There is hardly anything astonishing that Which? Money Helpline has received dozens of calls from members who have fallen victim to scams related to cryptocurrencies. Some of them have seen their money disappear, whereas others have been left holding gift tokens for a shop that will never open.

Mr Wilson went undercover in May and June, posing as an inexperienced investor in the market. He wanted to see if cryptocurrencies really do have something to offer investors. It turns out that they do – piles of silly pullovers with Bitcoin slogans and a million ways to waste one’s money.

Mr Wilson started his journey at a conference in Westminster, packed with companies launching Initial Coin Offerings (ICO). He did not get anything from this event apart from seeing Bitcoin-branded Christmas jumpers and spotting signs of someone’s weird understanding of grammar, as a company claiming to be involved in the credit market misspelled it as ‘creadit’ on its stand.

A seminar held at a four-star central London hotel was way more impressive as the session, held in a room of perhaps 150 people, was run by an ex-property developer who walked across the stage “like a Baptist preacher”. The collected £1,500 course fees (rising to £2,000 if not bought immediately) would be spent on dancers and pyrotechnics at the full event to make it memorable, the presenter said.

At another event Mr Wilson was offered a whole package of Bitcoin trading training for the price of £155,994 (+VAT).

The final event was a free seminar about investing in a business that would profit from Bitcoin technology. The event in a conference centre in the West End of London. When Mr Wilson looked further into the headquarters of the business, whose goal is to become one of ‘the biggest Bitcoin mines’ in Europe, it appeared to be a small residential property in south London.

Tom Wilson’s experiences highlight the risks associated with investment in cryptocurrencies and all sorts of activities related to them. FinanceFeeds’ managing editor Maria Nikolova would like to thank Mr Wilson for his efforts in exposing the traps of this “market segment”.

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