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New Zealand regulator issues strong warning on Bitcoin

written by Bella Palmer

Many overseas cryptocurrency exchanges are unregulated and operate exclusively online, which makes it hard to find out who is offering the cryptocurrencies, the regulator said

The Financial Markets Authority has issued a strongly-worded warning for Kiwis considering taking a punt on cryptocurrency.

The watchdog made its comments to the Herald following Bitcoin's latest rollercoaster move - the value of the digital currency has fallen by about a third since Friday after doubling over the past month - and a similar advisory issued by its opposite number in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority or FCA.

New Zealanders considering purchasing cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, should be aware that these are high risk and highly volatile assets, an FMA spokesman said. Cryptocurrencies are not regulated in New Zealand and are often exploited by scammers and hackers. The FMA shares the FCA's concerns that some crypto exchanges are promising high returns and customers should be prepared to lose all of their money.

Many overseas cryptocurrency exchanges are unregulated and operate exclusively online – with no connection to New Zealand. This makes it hard to find out who is offering, exchanging, buying or selling the cryptocurrencies, it said.

If you are planning to buy cryptocurrency, you should at the very least ensure that the exchange is registered on the Financial Service Providers Register (FSPR), which gives you access to a dispute resolution scheme, the FMA spokesman said. You should also check if the exchange holds your New Zealand dollars in a trust account.

While a lot of the narrative around Bitcoin has focussed on the cryptocurrency's rollercoaster valuation, people who purchase any digital currency need to be aware of practical issues too, such as how easy it is to convert to a fiat currency.

The $30m Cryptopia heist, involving a Christchurch-based cryptocurrency exchange that operated globally, has also highlighted that crypto deposits are not guaranteed - unlike most traditional currencies, where a government will usually step in either by law or political pressure in the event of a major loss.


This article is for information purposes only.

Please remember that financial investments may rise or fall and past performance does not guarantee future performance in respect of income or capital growth; you may not get back the amount you invested.

There is no obligation to purchase anything but, if you decide to do so, you are strongly advised to consult a professional adviser before making any investment decisions.

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