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Chinese Bitcoin Exchange Accused of Faking Trade Data

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the fudging-the-numbers dept.

China 75

An anonymous reader writes in with this story about some questionable numbers reported from bitcoin exchange OKCoin. "Top Chinese bitcoin exchange OKCoin has been accused of publishing fake trading data, artificially inflating the number of currency transactions it is handling. Once China's second-largest bitcoin exchange, OKCoin is claimed to have published unrealistically high trading volumes in the wake of the Chinese central bank imposing a ban on financial institutions handling the crypto-currency. The ban saw several exchanges halt all incoming deposits, but OKCoin's trading data failed to show the dip experienced by fellow exchanges."

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No Such Thing (5, Insightful)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45767733)

No such thing as bad press if you're Bitcoin. Just keep it in the news, and it'll stay worth something.

$658 as I type this.

Re:No Such Thing (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 8 months ago | (#45768051)

No such thing as bad press if you're Bitcoin. Just keep it in the news, and it'll stay worth something.

There's a lot of negative things I could say about bitcoin, but this situation is the one case where I might have something good to say. Every bitcoin has a transaction log associated with it. If they're alleging higher volumes than other believe... Why not simply "query the database" as it were and analyze the data. This would be a fairly straightforward procedure for a forensic accountant.

There is no need for speculation in this case; It's one of the few things about bitcoin that we can make objective statements about.

Re:No Such Thing (3, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about 8 months ago | (#45768331)

> Every bitcoin has a transaction log associated with it.

Except exchanges don't necessarily need to use bitcoin to trade bitcoin. If you deposit money in a bank, and then wire the funds to another account, and then withdraw them, would you expect to get the same bills back? Of course not! The bank tosses your bills in with the rest and then hands back different ones from the pool.

So if I send bitcoins to an exchange and sell them, then the buyer sells them later, that is 3 transactions (me sending them btc, me selling them, someone else selling them) only one of which must be in the block chain and that one isn't even counted as part of the volume!

So yes, you are right:

> Why not simply "query the database" as it were and analyze the data. This would be a fairly
> straightforward procedure for a forensic accountant.

Correct but the database is the private database of the exchange, which then should be correlated with the public block chain, but likely has a lot of information not otherwise in the block chain.

-Steve

Re:No Such Thing (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 8 months ago | (#45769063)

Except exchanges don't necessarily need to use bitcoin to trade bitcoin.

And this, right here, is why you fail. Trade, defined: An exchange. To a computer, this is a very simple procedure; 1 or 0. Either it happened, or it didn't. If you want to play the exchange's game of "we're double secret trading stuff by moving database records around", well okay. Got some premier ocean front property to sell you in Florida then too.

Re (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45769651)

It would be very easy if you had access to the trade database of the exchange, but you don't and you won't get it. All you have is what they tell you have happened.

Re:No Such Thing (1)

Mdk754 (3014249) | about 8 months ago | (#45769721)

You do understand that for the exchanges to work across their various different currencies they can't possibly use the bitcoin blockchain, right? Not to mention the speed at which the trades happen. If you're implying he fails because bitcoin blockchain must be used to trade bitcoin, you have a grave misunderstanding of what actually happens at an exchange.

Re:No Such Thing (1)

Procrasti (459372) | about 8 months ago | (#45773227)

This time, you fail...

A trade on an exchange is NOT a trade on the bitcoin blockchain.

An exchange holds your bitcoins for you... The only transactions that occur on the blockchain are when you fund your account with bitcoin, and when you withdraw bitcoin from your account.

All trades on an exchange occur on that exchange only... There is plenty of room for faking trades at this point.

So this should kill itself, right free market? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45767745)

Bank acts up in lieu of regulation, customers "smartly" move their money out and bank dries up, right?

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (2, Interesting)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45767773)

I can't figure out why any bitcoin anywhere is in a "bank" that isn't your wallet, or the backup of your wallet.

As if the Magic the Gathering Online Exchange is where I want to keep my money...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mt.Gox [wikipedia.org]

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45767847)

It's only there if you want to trade it I assume. That's the way I do anyway.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (4, Informative)

killkillkill (884238) | about 8 months ago | (#45767883)

Not that I endorse Mt. Gox (quite the opposite, really), but can we stop trowing "Magic the Gathering Online Exchange" into the conversation. The code for the trading platform designed for cards and the original owner/developer are long gone. The name is the only thing left. There are plenty of things to criticize the exchange over without this ad hominem.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (2)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 8 months ago | (#45768359)

Not so long as Cosby coins are still funny.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45768453)

This particular ad honinem attack isn't.

These exchanges are fly-by-night, and the fact that they got into Bitcoins after Magic and Poker are a good example of that. Why we trust them with millions and millions of dollars is nuts.

They might have the budget for good security and operations staff now, but I suspect it's going in somebody's new house instead.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (0)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 8 months ago | (#45768723)

Not that I endorse Mt. Gox (quite the opposite, really), but can we stop trowing "Magic the Gathering Online Exchange" into the conversation. The code for the trading platform designed for cards and the original owner/developer are long gone. The name is the only thing left. There are plenty of things to criticize the exchange over without this ad hominem.

MT Gox exemplifies what is wrong with the bitcoin scheme as a whole. It is not ad hominem, it's a perfect real world and recent example of the problem being discussed in this thread.

You can be sure that until proper tracking, oversight, and regulation are in place, bitcoin will continue to be plagued by fiasco's such as those perpetrated by Mt. Gox.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45774389)

The name is the only thing left.

And yet, the stupid motherfuckers couldn't even do something as simple as register a new domain name. Piss off.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 months ago | (#45767889)

Would you carry all your savings in the wallet in your back pocket? The digital equivalent of stuffing all your savings into a pillowcase or burying them in the backyard is extremely risky. Banks exist for very good reasons. Nothing about home computing was ever designed with the expectation of storing highly valuable information on it.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45767935)

IS it risky if you put your bitcoins offline in a wallet? Not really. The only "risk" is that you don't ride the value wave because you're not trading.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (1)

jovius (974690) | about 8 months ago | (#45768199)

Isn't the main reason to not store money at home the protection against inflation? The value of cash will erode over time. Banks mainly provide facilities for handling the money, and some plans reward the customer with an interest rate that beats the inflation. Besides at the moment having Bitcoin savings at home seems the least riskiest option...

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 8 months ago | (#45769483)

Convenience is also a reason to keep money at a bank. You can use a bankcard to make payments; if the bankcard is stolen, the bank will cancel it and reimburse you for unauthorized charges. So credit is an important aspect of a currency, one that bitcoin seems to want to ignore. I think it emphasizes hoarding and deflation, but sharing and inflation has accompanied the great advances in technology in the last century.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (1)

hibiki_r (649814) | about 8 months ago | (#45768235)

If I have a 50k deposit in a bank account, and said account disappears, our good friends in the FDIC will make sure I still get my money. It also becomes pretty difficult to close your bank, keeping all the money, without getting hunted down. If someone robs my bank, I lose zero dollars.

Good luck getting anything that resembles those protections in a crypto currency. You'd actually be safer having multiple offline copies in different locations.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768677)

Yah. A lot of people thought that was true of FSLIC, for the S&L industry, as well. And we all know what happened to FSLIC, right?

Point is, if anyone else has your money, risk is a matter of degree. And, if you keep your money yourself, wherever, risk is a matter of degree. So risk is a matter of degree. As is reward.

When your FDIC-insured bank offers a one year rise from $100 to $660, call me.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (1)

daninaustin (985354) | about 8 months ago | (#45768765)

This is true, but if you read some things that have recently been published it isn't so clear that you will be able to withdraw that $50k. In an "emergency" they can limit or prevent you from taking your money out in cash. Just look at what happened in Cypress.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 8 months ago | (#45769525)

In a world where you can't make a backup of your pillowcase, your analogy would make sense.

Re:So this should kill itself, right free market? (2)

Phreakiture (547094) | about 8 months ago | (#45768379)

Berkshire Hathaway was once a textile manufacturer. That has nothing to do with their present business.

Fraud in an unregulated currency? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45767793)

Who could have guessed?

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768171)

What they did is the reverse of a fraud. They *inflated* their trade volume, so they're inflating their declared revenue, so they're going to be paying *more* taxes.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768213)

Trade volume != revenue for the trading platform. Revenue comes from high trade volume as a small percentage of it.

They don't pay taxes based on the trade volume unless there are tariffs in place - and since it's bitcoin there really aren't.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768535)

You knocked down a straw man. The implicit claims were
- revenue is an increasing function of trade volume
- tax is an increasing function of revenue
from which we deduce that OKCoin is going to be paying more taxes. Looks pretty straightforward to me.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (1)

Urkki (668283) | about 8 months ago | (#45769181)

How does false trade volume increase real (taxable) revenue?

I mean, other than perhaps increasing real transaction volume, which is presumably the goal anyway.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45769373)

Tax is computed from false revenue.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45770711)

Bullshit.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45772175)

Amateur. If you fake your books, you have to be consistent. For example if your bitcoin exchange gets a 0.5% cut of each transaction and you publicly claim that you made $10 billion in trade volume, then everyone and their dog know that this implies that you made $5M in revenue, so you cannot put any other number on your tax form. Why is this so hard to understand?

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (1)

ArbitraryName (3391191) | about 8 months ago | (#45768759)

How is this "the reverse of a fraud"? Fraud is simply dishonesty for personal gain. Tax fraud is certainly one specific kind of fraud scheme. This is another. Inflating their trade volume was designed to keep the value of Bitcoin high, as the owner is said to be a significant owner of Bitcoin.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45769439)

Why would a high trade volume increase the value of Bitcoin?

insider trading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45769747)

It would preserve the real price long enough to dump enough shares to ensure a 'dignified' exit.

Its essentially insider trading.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45772873)

Why would a high trade volume increase the value of Bitcoin?

First, if you really need this explained you should take a course on basic Economics and Banking.

But I'll attempt to explain a little bit. Currency has value because of the following reasons:
1. Inherent "value". Hard currency relies on this.
2. Government backing. Nothing like a military, law enforcement system, and legal framework to make the currency useful.
3. Other people want it and will give you goods or service in return.

Bitcoin lacks both #1. and #2.
So, one way to increase the apparent value of the currency in this case, is to make it appear that people are more willing to pay money, goods, or services and receive bitcoins. One way to do this is make it appear that there is more trading of bitcoin going on than actually exists.

And even though you'd have to offset the fake bitcoin purchases with fake sales to keep the numbers proper, in between you can take your own personal wallet and sell some coin off on a different market after the price goes up in response to the increase in purchasing activity.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768255)

Who could have guessed?

Is it even technically fraud? At most, probably misrepresentation.

It isn't like some government is going to haul them into court over this.

captcha: ballyhoo

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (1)

mi (197448) | about 8 months ago | (#45768313)

I'd say, the record of the regulated currencies is much murkier... From various regimes debasing their "official" currencies since the ancient times [wikipedia.org] , through middle ages [financial-...niques.com] , and to these days of "Quantitative Easing".

On balance, BitCoin has a lot to say in its defense — it certainly is not any worse, than the "regulated" currencies.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 8 months ago | (#45769505)

The lesson Quantitive Easing is that stimulus works. We should have more fiscal stimulus in the form of direct payments to individuals.

Re:Fraud in an unregulated currency? (1)

mi (197448) | about 8 months ago | (#45776939)

The lesson Quantitive Easing is that stimulus works

Does it? How do you figure?

We should have more fiscal stimulus in the form of direct payments to individuals.

I don't think, the Treasury has the money for such payments, do you? Or do you propose to print more? You do realize, this will lead to inflation — which is the tax on savings?

China (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768015)

The Chinese never met a game they didn't cheat at.

Re:China (5, Insightful)

mi (197448) | about 8 months ago | (#45768231)

The Chinese never met a game they didn't cheat at.

That's what decades under a totalitarian rule do to people... They see nothing wrong in cheating the government because, as they were growing up, there was nothing but the government doing things — doing poorly and dishonestly. Myself having grown up in the USSR I sympathize...

And now that the cheating is deep in most people's minds, it is very hard to stop applying it even to non-governmental parties. A generation or two of honest rule must pass — and China has not even started yet. Meanwhile the US — formerly known as the shining house atop the hill — is marching into the wrong direction with an increasing cadence...

Re:China (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45772085)

The Chinese never met a game they didn't cheat at.

That's what decades under a totalitarian rule do to people... They see nothing wrong in cheating the government because, as they were growing up, there was nothing but the government doing things — doing poorly and dishonestly. Myself having grown up in the USSR I sympathize...

And now that the cheating is deep in most people's minds, it is very hard to stop applying it even to non-governmental parties. A generation or two of honest rule must pass — and China has not even started yet. Meanwhile the US — formerly known as the shining house atop the hill — is marching into the wrong direction with an increasing cadence...

Russians are thugs. No matter how many generations down the line, you will always find the Russians quite the simpleton brutes.

Bitcoin is fake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768155)

Since bitcoin itself is imaginary, why expect real trading?

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | about 8 months ago | (#45768365)

It is just trading one imaginary currency for another.

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 8 months ago | (#45768383)

Let me blow your mind right now: all value is fake. Value does not exist apart from people bestowing it upon things, whether those things are made of metal or configurations of transistors.

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 8 months ago | (#45769615)

So if everyone decided oxygen had no value, we wouldn't need it anymore?

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 8 months ago | (#45769901)

Oxygen has no value, it is a necessary condition to sustain human life.

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

blue trane (110704) | about 8 months ago | (#45770367)

So if we realize that expanding the money supply doesn't decrease its value, we can all have a Basic Income without funding it through taxes?

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 8 months ago | (#45770449)

Please stop using the word 'so', it does not mean what you think it means.

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

edibobb (113989) | about 8 months ago | (#45770825)

So?

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45771003)

You have an unbelievable odd personal definition of "value".

Re:Bitcoin is fake (1)

XcepticZP (1331217) | about 8 months ago | (#45771129)

It has no value because there is so much supply of it. Just wait until the day when clean oxygen is rare due to pollution/radiation, then come back and tell me how "it has no value because it is a necessary condition to sustain human life".

People used to say the same thing about water. Until they had water shortages, then suddenly it had value.

Why is that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768175)

everyone like to comment on anything Bitcoin related even if they don't have a clue about what it is, or how it works?

Oh, sorry, this is the interwebz

A certain bubble... (1)

bayankaran (446245) | about 8 months ago | (#45768239)

Bitcoin is certainly in a bubble. My ex called a few days back and asked "what do you think of investing in Bitcoin?"
I replied..."The reason you heard about Bitcoin is because its in a bubble. So do not invest. If you were asking me this question early in 2012 I would have said yes. Wait till it goes below $100."
It seems one of her acquaintances, the scion of a wealthy business family is getting into the game with a Singapore based exchange. That guy can lose a lot and it won't matter, for regular folks it will be stupid to invest in Bitcoin now.

Re:A certain bubble... (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45768649)

Yeah. I got asked the same question...in 2012 when the price was under $5. I said "no". Doh.

Re:A certain bubble... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45769431)

Eh it happens. You were still right that neither of you had a good reason to invest in it and its long term potential is dubious.

Being a risky investment doesn't mean there aren't times when a well placed investor can't make a bundle. That point in time has probably passed though.

There are a decent number of Bitcoin paper millionaires out there. Some of them drank the Koolaid and will ride this thing all the way back into the ground. Others will bail as the opportunity to flip Bitcoins into hard property presents itself. This second group limits the upper bound in the price of Bitcoin. As it goes up, they start to think more about what they could do (e.g. buy cars, real estate, or some asset they deem safe such as gold) if they could convert all of their Bitcoins into cash.

On the other hand, the price of Bitcoin is propped up by conversion limits on exchanges. For those to get lifted, the exchange has to be backed by someone with deep pockets who's either willing to take on the risk of large scale exposure to Bitcoin or can sell derivatives to speculators that cover that exposure. Doing that's almost certainly a losing proposition because providing the liquidity takes away Bitcoin's crutch, but I can't rule out the possibility that some dumb gold bug will try to do it.

Re:A certain bubble... (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 8 months ago | (#45772401)

It's still a bad idea then.

In their trend of being surprisingly useful, here's some entertaining stories of trying to cash out Bitcoin courtesy of SA goons: http://buttcoin.org/easy [buttcoin.org]

Other exchanges may fake data, too. (2)

Animats (122034) | about 8 months ago | (#45768269)

During periods of heavy trading, Mt. Gox trade data has repeatedly been observed to be unrealistic. Sometimes it gets very strange. [reddit.com] During heavy trading periods, trades are often done out of order. Delays up to 46 minutes have been reported. Whether this is incompetence or market manipulation has never been entirely clear.

(Despite all the hype, Bitcoin transaction volume is not large. Most exchanges do a few transactions per minute.)

are there any real bitcoin exchanges? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768289)

MTGOX (aka Magic The Gathering Online eXchange) - amateur hour.

CoinBase -- engage in bucketing, don't deliver coins, cancel trades, (see hacker news, the only way to recover $30,000 that goes missing).

Others... fraudulent, close up and steal your coins.

The return of bucket shops? (1)

billcarson (2438218) | about 8 months ago | (#45768291)

Are going to see the return of unregulated speculation like we did before the SEC was established?

Unregulated... what? (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 8 months ago | (#45768387)

Are going to see the return of unregulated speculation like we did before the SEC was established?

Apropos of nothing, has unregulated speculation decreased since the SEC was established?

I seem to recall something about Glass-Steagall and credit default swaps from a few years back. I can't a link right now, maybe the incident was of no consequence.

Re:Unregulated... what? (4, Insightful)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | about 8 months ago | (#45768471)

Apropos of nothing, has unregulated speculation decreased since the SEC was established?

Wish I had mod points. The reality is that the SEC is to unregulated speculation what the TSA is to terrorism - just a show to convince the people that the govermnet is actually doing something about the problem.

Maye we should add the term "regulatory theatre" to the lexicon along side "security theatre"...

Re:Unregulated... what? (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45768657)

You should tell your ideas about the SEC being "regulatory theater" to Jeff Skilling, and Raj Rajaratnam, and Bernie Madoff. They will find them most entertaining.

Re:Unregulated... what? (1)

machine321 (458769) | about 8 months ago | (#45768763)

Yes, the SEC did a great job of preventing those frauds from occurring, instead of swooping in after it all fell apart.

Re:Unregulated... what? (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45769133)

So every law enforcement agency on Earth is now "security theater"?

Re:Unregulated... what? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#45769223)

Sounds like you are exploring the world of logical fallacies today.

Have fun.

Re:Unregulated... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768845)

Why? That's entirely his point. That's what "theater" in this context means. A few high profile scapegoats appease the ignorant masses such as yourself while endemic day to day issues that are too boring and complex for laymen to care about continue unchecked.

Re:Unregulated... what? (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45769173)

Those are just the famous rich people that went to jail. The SEC fines the shit out of people all the time for things that are "too boring and complex for laymen to care about".

Re:Unregulated... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45769487)

Yes, fines are super scary and super effective [salon.com] . You hold on to that warm fuzzy feeling about that. Fines are business expense. Unless individuals are held accountable there is zero deterrent effect.

Re:Unregulated... what? (1)

ADRA (37398) | about 8 months ago | (#45769717)

Corporations are defacto people, and until that changes, nothing can/will be done, period.

Re:Unregulated... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45771473)

No shit. Thanks for explaining the point.

Re:Unregulated... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45768519)

Apropos of nothing, has unregulated speculation decreased since the SEC was established? I seem to recall something about Glass-Steagall and credit default swaps from a few years back. I can't a link right now, maybe the incident was of no consequence.

Sarcasm is such an effect way to say something. You do realize there was massive deregulation leading up to the banking crisis?

Wow, they're screwed (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 8 months ago | (#45768645)

If this is true and the Bitcoin regulatory authority gets wind of it...

oh wait

Fake ontop of fake - whats the problem ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45770231)

I have Bridge Shares (BS) available to investors with a guaranteed increase of virtual value of 1000% over the next 5 years.
I dont need to fake my trransaction numbers, but it sounds about right for such a business.

Anyone interested in this stupendous investment secured 100% more than BITCOINs ever will be can dial their cellphone with 1--800-IMAFUUL to reach my corporate offices tranaction division.

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