The Justice Department is now cracking down on cryptocurrency scams

The U.S. Department of Justice is now working with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission to launch a criminal investigation to determine if cryptocurrency traders are manipulating prices using illegal practices. The news arrives by way of four unnamed people close to the federal probe who state that the private investigation is now underway and in its early stages. 

According to the sources, federal prosecutors are determining if traders are using a tactic called spoofing, which is the act of flooding the market with fake orders to increase demand and drive prices upward, and then canceling those orders. Another tactic is wash trading where a cheater trades with himself/herself to artificially inflate market demand, driving up prices. 

The lure of cryptocurrency is that it’s not tied to any bank or government. At the same time, digital coins are not regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), thus traders are essentially on their own, unprotected against a Wild West-like market. There is no real guarantee that cryptocurrency exchanges are actively pursuing cheaters, and there are no means of recovering lost monies stemming from fake cryptocurrency startups. 

A good example of the current cryptocurrency woes is the initial coin offering (ICO). Companies promising to launch a new cryptocurrency platform will offer “valuable” tokens in exchange for early investments — something akin to Kickstarter where projects enlist financial backers that receive a product in the end. In this case, cryptocurrency startups are disappearing with the cash instead of launching their digital coin platforms. 

By March, these ICO-related scams reached to the point that the SEC opened investigations to crack down on companies, lawyers, and advisory firms promoting these ICOs. The government agency believes all virtual currencies should be listed as securities — a tradable financial asset that gains worth over time — and registered with regulators. There are securities laws in place to protect investors against fraud. 

Despite the growing interest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, the market is considered volatile. For instance, a single Bitcoin was worth $6,897 on November 6, 2017, skyrocketed to $17,549 just over a month later, then dropped back down to $7,964 at the beginning of February. Since then, the value of a Bitcoin has experienced rises and drops resembling mountain peaks. 

The current Bitcoin slump reportedly stems from nations such as Japan and the Philippines now regulating cryptocurrency. China is banning cryptocurrency exchanges altogether. Even more, Microsoft and Google are banning cryptocurrency-related advertisements from their ad networks due to the unregulated, volatile nature of digital currency and the related scams. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) doesn’t regulate the actual trading of digital coins (aka spot markets), but instead deals with futures, which are legal agreements to purchase or sell an item at a set price on a set date in the future. The agency also deals with options, which are contracts providing buyers the right to buy or sell an asset for a specific price on a specified date. 

Still, the CFTC is capable of imposing sanctions if it discovers fraud in spot markets. 


Judge recommends U.S. iPhone import ban for infringing on Qualcomm patents

Just a few weeks after a San Diego judge found that Apple infringed on three Qualcomm-owned patents, an International Trade Commission judge has found that Apple infringed on another Qualcomm patent.
Emerging Tech

Everything you need to know about the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft

Two recent crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX planes have raised fears about whether these planes are safe to fly. Here's everything you need to know about the technology onboard the planes and what went wrong to cause these two tragedies.

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Movies & TV

MoviePass returns to unlimited movies plan, but with plenty of restrictions

Troubled subscription-based movie service MoviePass is making headlines on a daily basis lately, and not in a good way. Here's a timeline of events for the company once described as Netflix for movie theaters.

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.

Man pleads guilty to scamming Facebook and Google out of more than $100M

One of the men behind an elaborate fraud that saw Facebook and Google each hand over tens of millions of dollars has admitted to his part in the scheme. Lithuanian Evaldas Rimasauskas faces up to 30 years in a U.S. jail.
Product Review

HP’s gem-cut Spectre x360 15 is the most powerful 2-in-1 you can buy

HP’s 2019 Spectre x360 15 brings this massive 2-in-1 up to speed, literally. It now equips the same six-core Intel CPU as the rest of the 15-inch field, along with a real GPU for some 1080p gaming.

Ditch the background from your photos with these handy editing tools

Need to know how to remove the background from an image? Whether you prefer to use a premium program like Photoshop or one of the many web-based alternatives currently in existence, we'll show you how.

Yes, you can use Android apps on your Chromebook. Here's how

You can now get Android apps on your Chromebook! Google has enabled the Google Play Store app support on its Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware, so to get you started, here's our guide on how to get Android apps on a Chromebook.

Zipping files on a Chromebook? Follow these four easy steps

Chromebooks support file compression, though they work a little differently than on Windows or Mac. Here's the step-by-step process to zipping files on a Chromebook, and then unzipping them again for extraction.

Tired of all that white? Here's how to change the Google background image

Did you know that you can change how your Google search home page looks? It's a simple process to pick a new theme: We'll show you how to change your Google background, what to look for in themes, and how to download your own pictures for a…

These big, beautiful BenQ gaming monitors are on sale on Amazon right now

All gamers know that a good monitor is just as important as PC hardware to fully enjoy what today's games have to offer. BenQ makes some of the best (including some of our favorites), and three top-rated BenQ gaming monitors are on sale on…

The best Raspberry Pi 3 kits for coders, gamers, and DIY projects

The Raspberry Pi 3 is a low-budget computing platform capable of doing just about anything. We rounded up a handful of the best Raspberry Pi 3 bundles to get you started on a variety of DIY projects.

Need a portable workstation? One of these two 15-inch laptop might do the trick

HP's Spectre x360 15 is the most powerful 2-in-1 around, but it faces stiff large-laptop competition. Can it beat out powerful clamshells like well-built Apple MacBook Pro 15?