FBI probe as Qld’s top 10 crypto suburbs revealed
Exclusive: The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is working with the FBI for the first time on an "open criminal investigation" into cryptocurrency products.
ASIC Commissioner John Price confirmed the joint international investigation was under way, telling News Corp Australia it is focused on a "range of people" who are alleged to be involved.
The new probe comes as he also issued a fresh warning to consumers to be vigilant when investing money in cryptocurrencies.
"Be very careful investing in crypto products unless you're prepared to lose all of your money," he said.
"There is concern there are a lot of scams out there. The main thing these cryptocurrencies are alleged to be used for is money laundering."
His warning comes as data obtained by News Corp from Independent Reserve, a cryptocurrency exchange platform in Australia and New Zealand, revealed how much consumers are spending on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ripple and Ether.
In Queensland, South Brisbane is the top crypto suburb followed by Carrara, Gold Coast, Broadbeach, Forest Glen, Cairns, Coomera, Toowoomba, Mount Gravatt and Carina.
Over the last year, $342 million was traded on the digital currency platform.
Independent Reserve CEO Adrian Przelozny said trading among retirees has doubled since January last year and Millennials account for more 50 per cent of trades. There has also been strong growth from self-managed super funds (SMSF).
"People are treating it more as an asset class … there are people using it as a currency but probably not as much as people just buying it and holding it," he said.
"But there are merchants using it as a form of payment like Brisbane Airport. There are shops and pubs in Sydney also using it."
"With Bitcoin people like the fact it is quite scarce and predictable in the supply … kind of like the way people like investing in gold, the scarcity attracts people."
Mr Przelozny said it was the first exchange to be regulated by the top anti-money laundering regulator AUSTRAC. It is also the first cryptocurrency exchange in Australia to become insured by Lloyd's of London.
Its insurance protects the platform against theft or loss of any cryptocurrency held in an Independent Reserve trading account but does not cover any losses from market volatility or if a customer's account is hacked.
Mr Przelozny said they were regularly audited to ensure it complied with all regulations.
"We take a lot of precautions, we monitor transactions on the block chain," he said.
"I think the use of cryptocurrency for nefarious things is overblown, we're not really seeing much evidence of that."
Zebpay, another international cryptocurrency exchange that recently set up in Australia, which is also regulated by AUSTRAC, has seen growth among 25-40 year olds and SMSF customers in their 50s.
CEO Ajeet Khurana said: "Australia is one of few countries where people are officially storing retirement funds into crypto. That is very exciting to us."
At least 90 per cent of his consumers investing are men, and he said it was "regrettable" there wasn't more women. On average, he said people are investing five per cent of their investment portfolio.
Mr Price said there are cryptocurrency exchanges that are not regulated and carry high risks.
"Cryptocurrency is not guaranteed by any bank or government and the value of them really depends on the popularity of the product and it can go up and down, it's really quite volatile, they are stored in digital wallets and these can be stolen by a hacker," he said.
If consumers want to invest in crypto products, he said they must:
*Look for stock images and fake profiles in the investment documentation
*Spot grammatical errors or lack of detail or content that's been plagiarised
*Look at a website and check if it's been shoddily done
*Look at the office the business is supposed to be running out of see if the address checks out.
"If someone is offering you a guaranteed return that is a really high risk warning that is a scam," he said.
"Often they are promoted through closed groups on social media platforms - don't trust the claims and go and try and find some real evidence to back it up," he said.
"It's your hard earned money, and if you're going to invest it, make sure its real and it's not a scam."