Tips to Safely Exchange Bitcoin

What is Bitcoin?

Millions of people all over the globe are looking to buy-in to the bitcoin investment craze with little to no understanding of what bitcoin is and how to properly enter the market. Bitcoin is simply a digital currency that involves no middle men(banks), no transaction fees and no need to give your real name.  Its value is not backed by any government or central bank, but rather is determined by software that few people truly understand.  An increasing number of merchants accept bitcoin and many of the world’s top wealthiest nations are hopping on the bandwagon (See https://news.bitcoin.com/worlds-top-10-bitcoin-friendly-countries/).   Bitcoin also significantly reduces the cost of international payments because bitcoins are not tied to any country or subject to regulation.  Therefore, unless you subscribe to the Jamie Dimon book of fraud(see https://www.thestreet.com/story/14322661/1/jp-morgan-ceo-jamie-dimon-bitcoin-market-abuse-swedish-firm.html), you have a general instinct that Bitcoin is here to stay.

But freedom from regulation and lack of understanding has an inherent cost.  While the majority of major news outlets and social media are busy highlighting the spike in value of various cryptocurrencies, they have failed to warn the public of the accompanying increase of US law enforcement charging people for selling bitcoin fraudulently and in violation of a law they knew nothing about.

Common Violations and Fraudulent Acts

  1. Selling bitcoin without a license: Selling bitcoin in-person has been the long-existing practice before the currency made it mainstream on bitcoin exchanges.  Traders would use the Finnish site ( see localbitcoins.com) to coordinate sales in their city.  It’s not illegal to sell bitcoin per se, but at least four people across the US this year have been charged or pleaded guilty to the crime of exchanging the cryptocurrency as a “business without a license.”
    • The US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network declared that selling bitcoin as a business is money transmission that requires licensing. Individual states, like New York, have agreed with this interpretation(see New York’s BitLicense legislation: http://www.dfs.ny.gov/legal/regulations/adoptions/dfsp200t.pdf), which says you need a license to sell bitcoin as a business.  Other states like Florida have interpreted such transactions differently.  The keyword here is “business.”  You have to buy-and-sell in a sufficient frequency and volume.  A single transaction typically wouldn’t warrant an investigation.
  2. Malware downloads: Like anything you download from the scam-market they call the internet it’s important to be aware of malware.  Bitcoin is often used as bait to get you to download some nasty software that will mess up your computer. According to Zerofox: “Fake bitcoin ‘wallets’ hiding malware downloads: Attracting users to click through URLs posted to social media is a technique that ZeroFOX has observed in a variety of attacks.”  Use caution when encountering any social media URL that is either shortened or not secured with an HTTPS connection.”
  3. Phishing: Impersonators and con-artists are all over social media, and impersonating the bitcoin brand itself is a tactic that can be used to gain your trust and credibility.  A phishing website offers a search service enticing users to enter in their private bitcoin key to see if it exists in their database. Once entered, the private key will simply be phished, allowing the scammer to spend directly from the curious bitcoin owner’s wallet.”
  4. Flipping: These scams could be an offer to instantly exchange bitcoins for money after paying an initial startup fee or a promise to double your initial investment overnight.  The other end of the bargain is never held-up, and bitcoins are stolen immediately. Scammers succeed because they’re able to broadcast their scam to thousands of unsuspecting targets through social media.”
  5. Pyramid schemes: Oooo great another pyramid scheme. This common scam tactic relies upon high yield investment programs and multi-level marketing. In these ethically grey schemes, a low initial investment can be multiplied by signing up additional members using referral links. Before long, hundreds of victims have joined the scheme. At a later point in time, the original scammer walks away and the pyramid collapses.
  6. Review the Sales Literature: Like any sales pitch, if it sounds fishy it’s probably a lie.  Bitcoin’s value has been very volatile despite the upward trajectory in price.  If you’re looking to be a day-trader in bitcoin and a bitcoin site projects nothing but an exponential increase in bitcoin profit, approach with caution.

Tips to be on the safe side:

  1. If you’re planning to run a bitcoin business, be sure to check the laws of the state you wish to run this money-making enterprise.
  2. Instead of running a business, why not check a bitcoin exchange like Coinbase. Coinbase is a Bitcoin company based in San Francisco, and backed by trusted investors. Coinbase is the world’s largest Bitcoin broker, and also offers an exchange, wallet, and developer API.
  3. Don’t trust anyone claiming they will sell you cheap/free bitcoin or help you mine bitcoin.  Why would someone hand you something worth thousands of dollars for free or help you build wealth without an incentive? Don’t be gullible.
  4. As noted above, avoid URLs associated with social media profiles advertising too-good-to-be-true bitcoin offers.
  5. Be vigilant when engaging with the social media accounts of legitimate bitcoin brokers or trading platforms, as they are frequently victims of convincing impersonations.
  6. Never engage in any financial transaction, bitcoin or otherwise, via direct message on social networks.

 

If you have already been scammed, report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, but do not expect to see your bitcoins again.

Sincerely,

Daniel Tiger

 

The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the site and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.

 

 

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Tips to Pay-Off Your Student Loans

I like to focus my posts on actual steps someone can take to solve a specific problem.  If you’re looking for a critical analysis of an issue where you’re only presented with problems on top of problems, this is not for you.  That being said, here are 5 Easy Steps to Consider to BEAT STUDENT LOANS:

  1. Free Tools – Start off on student loan comparison sites like Student Loan Hero or Credible – They offer a FREE analysis of your student loans and collect different loan rates from several certified trusted lenders.  It’s an easy and free way to see all your options!
  2. Research and Select a Lender – If you see a refinancing option that significantly lowers your interest rate and the lender has great reviews, go for it!  A preferred lender for most student loan refinancing based on ease of use and low interest rate is SoFi – (sofi.com/share/409340).
    • (*TIP: Your able to individually pick which loans you want refinanced; so pick the loans with higher interest rates and reduce that monster – Ex: refinance loans with a 7.5% rate or higher to the offered 5.25% fixed-rate, but don’t refinance the loans with a current interest rate of 5% and lower).
  3. Loan Forgiveness –  Keep in mind that if you’re currently on a loan forgiveness program(i.e., government/public sector employment, military, teaching, etc.) refinancing will eliminate your benefits under these great programs.
  4. Don’t take on any new debt –  A new car can wait, you’ll always find another dream home, and swiping your credit card is easy, but seeing that monthly statement will make you nauseous.  Save your money and pay a little bit more principal off on those student loans or invest!
  5. Invest: There are so many free tools and apps out there that can help you save and invest with little to no risk and NO FEES.  (Free is a millennial thing I guess). Here’s a few tools below:
    • Want to trade stocks? Every brokerage account charges you for each buy and sell transaction.  That can add up for us poor kids.  Do it for FREE at Robinhood – http://share.robinhood.com./danield1160
    • Invest your change from each purchase.  Purchasing a bottle of water @ a whopping $1.97 – Why not invest 3 cents automatically.  Companies like Acorns(https://acorns.com/invite/NYTRLR) do this service for FREE if you invest less than $10,000.  If you’re investing more, God Bless You and please donate your riches!

It’s important to note that student loans must be repaid.  You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot for be “financially savvy.”  One of main catalysts for the sub-prime mortgage crisis during the 2008-09 recession was the rise in “strategic default” –  borrowers who didn’t pay their monthly payments even though they could afford to do so (See: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2017/07/07/the-student-loan-default-crisis-is-being-caused-by-promises-of-debt-forgiveness/#7af61f041a46).  We all know of someone whispering in our ear that “there’s no need to pay the bank, screw em.”  Don’t be a fool.  Unlike a traditional mortgage foreclosure where you would loose the underlying asset (your home) or elect the path of bankruptcy where all your debts could be liquidated and discharged, student loans have no such liquidation process.  They stay with you until you DIE.  And even after death, all your creditors will be lining up to collect from your estate.

Hope this helped!

Sincerely,

Daniel Tiger

 

The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the site and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.

Tips for Dealing with a Traffic Stop

Flashing lights, loud Sirens….please let it be somebody else.  Here’s a few tips on how to deal with getting pulled over.

 

Before Getting into the Driver’s Seat

First and foremost, you should never get behind the wheel without:

  1. Valid Driver’s License
  2. Proof of Insurance
  3. Registration

*Note: make sure that all of these docs are UP TO DATE.  It’s an easy ticket to handout with almost no defense for having outdated documentation.

Second, perform a quick inspection of your car.  Busted head/tail lights, cracked mirrors or windshields, etc. are easy ways to get pulled over(not to mention hazardous to yourself and other drivers on the road).  Additionally, check your vehicle inspection sticker.  Not only can you get ticketed for having an outdated inspection sticker, if you’re ever dragged into court following an accident, evidence of the same can be used against you when determining liability.

Out of All the Fish in the Sea, this Jerk Chose Me!

“Everyone else was going the same speed,” “I know I signaled back there,” “I guess he just loves my skin color.”  Relax. Breathe. Safely reduce the speed of you car, signal right, check if you’re clear, and pull over to a complete stop in the right lane(or right shoulder if available).  The last thing you want to do is panic and get into an accident when you discover you got the winning ticket today.

*Don’t worry!:  Pulling over is not an admission of guilt.

Great, Now I have to Wait for this Money-Grabber?

Here’s a few things that you should do while the officer prepares his handy-dandy notebook and checks your license plates:

  • Calm down – Even if it’s not for the purpose of being polite, you will be far more coherent if you think before you speak.
  • Check to see if it is a marked or unmarked patrol –  In some cases, the driver of the unmarked vehicle attempting to pull you over could be someone pretending to be a cop for the purpose of carrying out an illegal activity.  If you feel unsure, call 911 and request that a marked patrol car approach the scene.
  • Have your Docs(License, Registration, and Insurance Card) ready to present to the officer
  • Put your car in ‘Park’.  Although some believe it’s better to turn your engine off, there is nothing legally requiring you to do so.
  • Roll your window a quarter-way down .  Most jurisdictions(States & Counties) may even allow the driver to show the officer the docs through the window,  but it will probably frustrate both parties if you’re trying to read and have a conversation through glass.  You want to roll your window down enough to be able to hand over documentation and hold a conversation, but not enough to where either party can stretch their entire arm through(i.e., some officer’s like to go fishing for your stuff or even fish you out – Sandra Bland RIP).
  • Place your hands on the steering wheel, spit out anything in your mouth(gum, candy, etc.), turn your interior light on if it’s dark outside, and let’s GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!! (JK, chill out and relax).

No reason to say: Hello Mr./Mrs. Officer 🙂 

Although you may be inclined to strike up a conversation, there is no legal requirement to say anything to the officer.  You have the absolute right to stay silent – You all heard of the Miranda Rights in Law & Order: “You have the right to remain silent..blah.blah.blah “- well it’s actually a valid and effective right that you possess, SO USE IT!

Like any good bargain, have the other side speak first.  The officer is required to provide a reason(“Probable Cause”) for why you’re being pulled over.  If the officer provides a valid reason like speeding or failure to signal, then the probable cause requirement is met.  However, if no reason is provided, you can ask the officer if you can leave.  Failure to allow you to leave can be considered “False Imprisonment.”

*Tip: Officers love to ask “do you know what you did wrong?” NEVER answer this question.  It can be used as an admission of guilt.

Notably, stay in your car unless the officer directs you to step out for a specific purpose(driving while intoxicated/under the influence, suspect a weapon of some sort etc.).  The rationale for having you exit your vehicle varies by jurisdiction and largely supports the officer’s right to do so on in several situations. (See Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977); Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408 (1997); see also Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323 (2009) officer was allowed to perform a “pat-down” once you step out of the car).

Don’t “Excuse” the Search

An officer is not allowed to search your vehicle without a warrant under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  But there are of course several complicated exceptions to this constitutionally protected right.  For example, if the police officer reasonably believes(from the officer’s subjective view, not of the average person) you’re dangerous and might gain control of weapons, the officer may search areas within the passenger compartment in which a weapon could be placed or hidden. (See Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983).)  But a simple way to not stupidly surrender your rights is to “decline any and all unlawful searches without a warrant.” Consenting to a search will surrender any defenses you may have had related to how and why that search was conducted.

K.I.S.S. – Keep it Simple Stupid

There’s no reason to get into a long-winded argument with the officer where there is a high probability of your unnecessary disclosure of incriminating evidence.  KEEP IT SIMPLE.  If the officer says you failed to signal. Deny it.  It’s the officer’s burden to prove your guilt.  If at the end you still get a ticket, GREAT! You still have several more rights that you can invoke to challenge the ticket, the evidence, and the facts presented by the officer.

 

 

I Live to Fight Another Day

It is recommended to seek out a lawyer once you receive a ticket(especially if it’s a heavy fine with points ), but it’s not a requirement for small violations that you can fight on our own.  If you are fighting the ticket on your own, here are a few tips:

  1. Arrive to court on time on the date specified in the ticket.  A default judgment may be entered against you for failure to appear and appealing these judgments are almost impossible.
  2. Check with the Judge to see if the police officer who wrote the ticket is present.  The Confrontation Clause found in the Sixth Amendment provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” … To allow the accused to cross-examine witnesses who testify against him.  This is an easy way to have your ticket dismissed if the officer fails to show up.
  3. You have a right to trial.  As yet another 6th amendment right, you’re allowed to cross-examine/question the police officer or any witnesses in support of your defense.
  4. Negotiate.  If the judge or state prosecutor(attorney for the police officer) offers you a reduction in fine or points –  weigh the pro’s and con’s.  Going to trial over a $50 traffic ticket is probably not worth missing a week of work.
  5. Appeal.  If you don’t accept the offer, go to trial, and still lose; you have one final argument left to the respective Appellate Court in your jurisdiction.  There are several grounds for appeal, but at this stage it’s probably best to retain an attorney. Unlike the lower level traffic courts, Appellate Courts are far more sophisticated and require more concise and specific grounds for appeal.

 

Safe Travels!

Sincerely,

Daniel Tiger

 

The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the site and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.