January 11, 2018 (Lincoln, Neb.) — With cryptocurrencies continuing to attract headlines, the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance (“NDBF”) today reminded Nebraska investors to be cautious about investments involving cryptocurrencies.
“Investors should go beyond the headlines and hype to understand the risks associated with investments in cryptocurrencies, as well as cryptocurrency futures contracts and other financial products where these virtual currencies are linked in some way to the underlying investment,” Deputy Director Claire McHenry said.
Cryptocurrencies are a medium of exchange that are created and stored electronically in the blockchain, a distributed public database that keeps a permanent record of digital transactions. Current common cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin. Unlike traditional currency, these alternatives have no physical form and typically are not backed by tangible assets. They are not insured or controlled by a central bank or other governmental authority, cannot always be exchanged for other commodities, and are subject to little or no regulation.
“The recent wild price fluctuations and speculation in cryptocurrency-related investments can easily tempt unsuspecting investors to rush into an investment they may not fully understand,” McHenry said. “Cryptocurrencies and investments tied to them are high-risk products with an unproven track record and high price volatility. Combined with a high risk of fraud, investing in cryptocurrencies is not for the faint of heart.”
Last month, NASAA identified Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrency-related investment products as emerging investor threats for 2018. Unlike an Initial Public Offering (IPO) when a company sells stocks in order to raise capital, an ICO sells “tokens” in order to fund a project, usually related to the blockchain. The token likely has no value at the time of purchase. Some tokens constitute, or may be exchangeable for, a new cryptocurrency to be launched by the project, while others entitle investors to a discount, or early rights to a product or service proposed to be offered by the project.
NASAA offers a short animated video to help investors understand the risks associated with ICOs and cryptocurrencies.
Some concerns investors should consider before investing in any offering containing cryptocurrency include:
Common Red Flags of Fraud
NDBF also reminds investors to keep watch for these common red flags of investment fraud:
More information about the laws governing the securities industry in Nebraska can be found on NDBF’s website at www.ndbf.nebraska.gov. If you have questions about any investment matter, call NDBF’s Consumer Hotline toll free at (877) 471-3445 in Nebraska, or (402) 471-3445 if you are out of state.