Wikileaks Shutdown by Coinbase

Apparently Julian Assange’s Wikileaks merchant account on Coinbase was shutdown.  This is not at all surprising since PayPal, VISA, Mastercard and the banks did the same thing to him/them in the past.  In all fairness I don’t think Coinbase is to blame, aside from the fact they are a US based company and under the jurisdiction of the US of course.

PayPal came out and admitted they were forced to close down Wikileaks account, and I am certain the same thing has happened with Coinbase.

They have no say in the matter when the US government comes knocking.  Coinbase even recently had to give out information to the US tax department (IRS).

Of course users can still directly pay and donate to any wallets that Wikileaks controls.  As of now he lists addresses for Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, ZCash and Monero.  This is where things will heat up if he were to have a centralized currency like Ripple or Stellar Lumens.  The US government could possibly have those accounts in XRP/XLM frozen since they are a US based company.

This comes down to the wider issue of privacy, rights and freedom online and how cryptocurrency can prevent persecution for political reasons.  It also stands to reason that entities based in the US have very little say when the government comes knocking.  Coinbase and PayPal couldn’t have said no to the US government or by doing so they would be in seriously hot water.

I always advocate having some IT resources out of the reach of PRISM countries for reasons of privacy and freedom.  One of my current favorites are Singapore and Hong Kong in Asia.  Hong Kong I place particularly high value on because it has the British based system, yet it is under the protection of China.  Hong Kong is less likely to be influenced by a foreign entity than a smaller country like Singapore.  A good example of this is how Edward Snowden miraculously made it out of Hong Kong as a wanted fugitive.  Surely, Hong Kong was pressured and asked to hand him over, but somehow it never happened.

There are positives here, it looks like some brave entities in Europe have stood up for Wikileaks and at least for now, in France, Germany and Iceland there are some banks, foundations and even a University who are providing him access to the fiat system.

Coinbase To Support Ethereum ERC20 Tokens

Coinbase just announced it will be supporting the trade of ERC20 tokens.  A lot of times in the crypto world I look and shake my head and I just can’t stop with this one.  I could see if Coinbase wanted to support actual currencies like Ripple, Lumens, Monero etc… those are reasonably safe currencies to invest in.

ICOs which are essentially crowdfunding/pseudo-stocks (depending on who you ask) are extremely risk and I would say about 90% of those are fraudulent in that they collect your coins and never intended to deliver anything.  I think we can all agree at any rate that ICOs are extremely risky and HODLING may be as useful with those tokens as holding RIM stock.

Coinbase has a huge client base and is one of the easiest ways for people to get into cryptocurrency.  However, they risk bringing regulatory wrath and also dampening new investors from coming in when they get burnt on these ICO scams.

It’s recently come to my attention that some people weren’t aware that Ethereum Smart Contracts or ERC20 tokens are not vetted, supported or approved by the Ethereum team in any way.  This is  huge issue of course and why I am so against smart contracts at the moment.  Let’s get cryptocurrency as an infrastructure in terms of B2B,B2C,C2C etc… working fast, efficiently, securely and easily before biting off more than we can chew!

I am also at a loss as to how the Coinbase legal team approved this one?  Did they run it by any counsel at all?  I think if and when people lose massive amounts that Coinbase could be held liable regardless of waivers and disclaimers for losses in some of the huge ICO busts and scams to come.  Especially when there are so many other avenues and stable currencies they could have directed their customers to.

I am fearful for the investors, for Coinbase and the cryptocurrency market as a whole but should these warnings go unheeded and “things go terribly wrong” then it would be a good, fresh start for the industry.  Investors also need to do their diligence and exercise good understanding and judgement before making investment decisions.

It will be interesting to see where this leads but I would never recommend any friend or family member to invest in any Ethereum Based Token ICO and to stick with solid and real cryptocurrencies that solve the problems of today.

IRS / US Taxman Says Cryptocurrency Income IS Taxable

Like the old saying goes one thing is certain “taxes and death”.  The IRS definitely hasn’t disappointed even cryptocurrency owners by clearly stating cryptocurrency is taxable.

Hopefully the rules will be fair.  I feel it should only be taxable like any stock, so when there is a capital gain through resale.

The same rules of the IRS apply for tax evasion if you’re a US citizen and don’t report your crypto earnings.  One other interesting thing is how the IRS has got their hands on Coinbase data for some users.  This will certainly be used to go after users who’ve made profits.

Non-Existent Service in the CryptoCurrency Business Will Have Long-Term Impact

Right now the crypto market is red hot and like any market that’s so hot, company’s at the time often forget that customer service is for the long-term and that by not treating the customer right, eventually enough will move on.  Crypto company’s won’t be feeling the pinch right now, but once a downturn hits is where we will see this play out in my opinion.

I’m speaking from my own experience, frustration and concern here.

I have dealt with many different company’s and most of them will NEVER reply to you.  Even worse most of them don’t have a simple contact form, e-mail address, phone number or built-in support system (I guess in all fairness it’s like getting help from PayPal only a bit worse).

A sampling of random experiences and exercise in patience.

Coinbase

It took a long time to get “verified” enough to even make a purchase with their high fee system but it is a quick, expensive and easy way to get into crypto once you are verified.  However one thing I was unhappy with is that you cannot purchase directly to your own personal wallet (I don’t like leaving money in exchanges because of MtGox, Bitfinex and other hacking incidents where people lost real money).  All I ever got was an apologetic generic reply and nothing more.  If you’re having serious issues it is unlikely this company will ever help you so there is the real risk of their mistake or other problems costing you time and money.


Josie replied:

Gatehub

I sent them USD in order to exchange for some Ripple but without my permission they converted it into EUR so I lost money on the conversion and wire.  The reason I sent USD is because they said it was for USD and to top it off the bank was in Lithuania (a little scary to send to an unregulated market and does set off some alarm bells and concerns).  This is typical of the crypto industry and I do think it will come back to bite and haunt them.

I did ask Gatehub to make it right but never received any response after a number of weeks.  Even to verify my account it literally took a number of months to even get a response and to complete the process.  During these bullish times anything will fly because there are only so many alternatives but all bets are certainly off after that point.

Poloniex

Poloniex is one of the biggest exchanges out there but you can find complaints all over reddit of people not being able to verify their account for months.  I uploaded my information only to be sent through a third party verification process.  This required me to use a live webcam that perfectly captured the details of my ID live (who has a webcam these days let alone one that would get the crazy macro shot they require!).  The process told me the details weren’t clear enough, even the sending a selfie with your ID method was not supported.  And if you didn’t get it right at that moment or even if you had no webcam you can’t even try to verify yourself again for several hours.  Needless to say I’ve moved on and so have many others.

Kraken

I simply won’t trust them, initially I didn’t know who they were but somehow I was signed up without my knowledge or consent.  I kept getting so much spam from them I didn’t even realize they were any sort of legitimate company.  The fact that they essentially marketed themselves through spam and forcefully signing up clients makes me not trust them at all (even less than many other firms).

Coinmama

They aren’t cheap but I will give them this, they were quick with verification and when there are issues they reply usually within a number of days with an actual human response.

What Does This Add Up to?

Customer service in the crypto world is non-existent and so is the trust factor and reliability of many of the companies involved.

A very nervous and frustrating experience even for veterans and those who understand crypto, my level of trust in these companies is quite low.   They don’t even have phone numbers or addresses for the most part and those that do you can never get to a human usually.

When things work fine you shouldn’t have a need to contact these companies, but when there are issues it is very likely you will be ignored regardless of the issue, or any reply is not helpful or may come weeks or months too late.