Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske Reminds Investors to Approach Cryptocurrency with Caution

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jennifer A. Russell

(775) 684-5793

SOSPIO@sos.nv.gov

(Carson City, NV: January 5, 2018) – With cryptocurrencies continuing to attract headlines, Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske today reminded Nevada investors to be cautious about investments involving cryptocurrencies.

Investors should do their research to truly 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,” said Cegavske.

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.

A survey of state and provincial securities regulators by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the Nevada Secretary of State is a member, shows 94 percent believe there is a “high risk of fraud” involving cryptocurrencies. Regulators also were unanimous in their view that more regulation is needed for cryptocurrency to provide greater investor protection.

“The price fluctuations and current speculation in cryptocurrency-related investments may lure Nevadans to invest even though they may not fully understand the potential consequences,” Diana Foley, Deputy Secretary for Securities, said. “Cryptocurrencies and investments tied to them are often high-risk products with an unproven track record and high price volatility, making them unsuitable for certain investors saving for retirement.”

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, which can be found at https://vimeo.com/239995680, to help investors understand the risks associated with ICOs and cryptocurrencies. 

Common Cryptocurrency Concerns

Some common concerns investors should consider before investing in any offering containing cryptocurrency include:

•             Cryptocurrency is subject to minimal regulatory oversight, susceptible to cybersecurity breaches or hacks, and there may be no recourse should the cryptocurrency disappear.

•             Cryptocurrency accounts are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures bank deposits up to $250,000.

•             The high volatility of cryptocurrency investments makes them unsuitable for most investors, especially those investing for long-term goals or retirement.

•             Investors in cryptocurrency are highly reliant upon unregulated companies, including some that may lack appropriate internal controls and may be more susceptible to fraud and theft than regulated financial institutions.

•             Investors will have to rely upon the strength of their own computer security systems, as well as security systems provided by third parties, to protect purchased cryptocurrencies from theft.

The Nevada Securities Division encourages investors to know the common warning signs of fraud and fraudulent activities at http://nvsos.gov/sos/investor-information/investor-education/recognizing-investment-fraud .   NASAA and its members first alerted investors of the risks associated with cryptocurrencies in 2014.  

The Securities Division of the Nevada Secretary of State can be reached at (702)-486-2440 or through its website at http://www.nvsos.gov/sos/investor-information.

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