Is Karatbit a scam?

August 6, 2019

On Tuesday 16th July, just a few weeks ago I was invited to attend a Karatbit, Karatbars/Karatbank presentation. The presentation was touting everything including a blockchain mobile phone.  Someone had approached me over the weekend to investigate an investment, they had made with Karatbit/Karatbars.  I attended the presentation with some research which, to be honest, was not that favourable to the company but nevertheless still went with an open mind.

KaratBank, a Singapore-based financial organization, has propelled another digital currency that it claims is bound to real physical gold. Is this a progressive thought – or a trick?

 

KaratBank, an organization located in Singapore, has quite recently declared the dispatch of KaratBank Coins (KBC), another digital currency it said is attached to gold. Be that as it may, not just the cost of gold, as different monetary forms — to real bits of gold: they're embedded in plastic cards or banknotes. In any event, that is the way it appears upon first sight.

KaratBank is a sister company of KaratBars International, located in Germany. KaratBars really sells gold in exceptionally small quantities (like 0.1g to 1g bullions), inserted into plastic cards (Karatbars) or money like notes (CashGold). The notes are famously overpriced: back when 1 gram of gold was $40, the 1g CashGold note cost $65.

As per KaratBank whitepaper, 10,000 KBC can be traded for 0.1g CashGold notes.

The initial coin offering kicked off earlier this year and proceeded until March 21, with the  ICO starting March 22 (1 KBC = $0.05), Coin Telegraph reports.

Be that as it may, KaratBars International as an organization is emphatically connected with scams. A basic search for KaratBars on Google returns three connections with the word "scam" in them on the first page. KaratBars was prohibited in Canada in 2014 over an Autorité des marchés agents (AMF) with a Scam warning.

The Canadian government found that KaratBars executes some kind of multi-layered marketing (MLM), or "pyramid" scheme organisation that urged individuals to get new recruits and profit from their sales, promising a return of $15,000 to $136,000 every month.

In any case, Is KaratBank is a different story? All things considered, yes and no. Upon a more intensive look at the organization's whitepaper, one finds the following:

"United States of America citizens, residents (tax or otherwise) or green card holders, as well as residents of Canada, the People's Republic of China or the Republic of Singapore, are not qualified to partake in the KaratBank ICO."

As indicated by the Behind MLM site, the explanation behind this may lie in the way that those nations have actualized strict regulation on ICOs, and KaratBank does not have any desire to have anything to do with them.

"ICOs are not unlawful in the US or Canada. In the US, however, ICOs are ordinarily viewed as securities and require registration with the [Securities and Exchange Commission]," the site reads. "Singapore hasn't prohibited ICOs however it is one of the nations KaratBars International works in through the shell companies KaratPay and KaratBars Singapore. Singapore regulators closing those organizations down would cripple KaratBars International. The board most likely figure it's best not to take any risks."

To work lawfully in any purview, KaratBars International would need to register itself with the proper securities regulator in that jurisdiction, which the organization appears to need to abstain from, raising doubts.

From one's point of view what is disheartening is that blockchain is a great new technology and companies like this seem to mix their existing business with cryptocurrencies. Knowing full well that the general public does not really understand cryptocurrencies, let alone blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). As a blockchain consultant, one feels obligated to pose some questions anyone thinking of getting involved should be asking.

At the presentation, I heard the presenters say “ Karatbars is giving its members the opportunity to buy gold in small quantities. They also encourage you to save in gold instead of paper money. This can easily be done by buying as little as 0.1 gram of gold or 1 gram - 2.5 gram or 5 grams.”

 

They said members can keep their gold in Karatbars' vault or ask them to send it to you. Cash gold is the most popular form of buying gold as the gold is embedded in a banknote. 24kt gold 99.9% pure makes it easier for anyone to accumulate wealth.

Karatbars is also involved in cryptocurrency and got their own coins, namely KBC and KCB coins. I'm going to get very deep into this, but the main thing to remember is that they say, “these coins are increasing in value and that it is backed by gold”. whereas and another Cryptocurrency is backed by nothing.

 

As a self-proclaimed proponent of blockchain and a graduate of Digital Forensics, I feel obligated to say a few words about this presentation on Karatbit or at least as a conscious citizen of this global world of technology users.  Blockchain is a magnificent emerging technology that can be harnessed to do so many things. But most importantly it is a technology that provides one single source of truth. If groups are using this single source of truth technology to spread untruths, someone concerned must come out to say something. Blockchain is a technology that can put everyone on an even playing field but it seems very few understand it. The individuals with even the fleeting basic understanding can influence the general public perception of cryptocurrencies. This leads me to ask a great quote from a book called Richest Man in Babylon …. “if you want advice on investing in expensive jewels, why would you go to a butcher?”

 

The following is what the masses are being manipulated to attach their hopes and dreams. It is that “a further drop in the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has recently left investors nursing heavy losses. Many proponents are holding out for a new breakout “if their digital assets can go mainstream.”

The most important part of that statement is “if their digital assets can go mainstream”.  This made me ask some questions about Karatbit and this is what I came up with.

 Something is fishy!! Can someone clarify the following?

Claim 1: Gold mine worth $900 million provides security.

Can’t find any official source as proof.

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyKQIckXyIU

 

 Claim 2: Backed by a gold mine in Africa

Can’t find any official source as proof.

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5Q3ZvR4b04

 

Claim 3: Audit report by MM Revisors for a gold mine in Madagascar

Can’t find proof that MM Revisors exists. Not sure if this report was published by Karatbars Int (can’t find it on their official website), but this is being circulated by some investors as if it were.

Reference: https://karatbars-me.webnode.es/_files/200000070-01d6002d18/audit.pdf

 

Claim 4: Karatcoin Bank is a fully licensed crypto bank and is situated in Miami

Can’t find proof that they are registered as a licensed financial institute in Miami, Florida.

Can’t find Karatcoin Bank as a registered corporation, but found Karat Coin Corp.

Reference: http://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/SearchResults?inquiryType=EntityName&searchNameOrder=KARATBANK&searchTerm=Karatbank

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXip2Fizz5U&t=152s

 

Claim 5: Not a pyramid scheme

Karatbit describes this as an affiliate program but clearly is a pyramid scheme at best, see links below;

Canada: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/karatbars-quebec-activities-covered-by-prohibition-orders-514201571.html

Namibia: https://economist.com.na/43874/extra/karatbars-international-is-a-scamsays-central-bank/

Netherlands: https://www.afm.nl/en/nieuws/2014/mei/waarschuwing-karatbars

 

Claim 6: 100KBC = 1g of Gold at $40 per gram (1 KBC = $0.40) (guaranteed)

Total supply = 12,000,000,000 KBC (can’t find figures of circulating, so using supply instead)

Total gold needed to cover buy back of all coins:

12,000,000,000 / 100 = 120 000 000g = 120 tons (South Africa as a whole produced 139.9 tons of Gold in 2017).

Total money needed to buy back all the coins:

120 000 000g x $40 = $4.8 Billion

Can’t find proof that they have 120 tons of gold in storage (or backed up by the mines as claimed) or that they are at least worth $4.8 Billion to buy the gold?

Taking a more conservative approach:

According to icobench.com, they raised $100 000 000 with their ICO from 60% of the total supply.

 Let’s assume the 60% of 12,000,000,000 is in circulation. This equals to 7,200,000,000 KBC.

Total gold needed for the buyback of 7,200,000,000 KBC:

7,200,000,000 / 100 = 72 000 000g = 72 tons

Total money needed to buy back all coins:

72 000 000g x $40 = $2.88 Billion

 

Loss for buying back the KBC that were sold during the ICO:

$100,000,000 - $2,880,000,000 = - $2,780,000,000

A potential loss of $2,78 Billion!!! Or am I taking crazy pills?

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgeHjhlMfn0

Reference: https://icobench.com/ico/karatgold-coin

 

Claim 7: This Forbes.com article gives credibility to the KBC coin

This article was written by a Contributor.

Reference: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joresablount/2019/05/31/10-blockchain-companies-to-watch-in-2019/#308b507e543f

There is no traditional editing of contributors’ copy, at least not prior to publishing. If a story gets hot or makes the homepage, a producer will “check it more carefully,” DVorkin said.

Reference: https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2012/what-the-forbes-model-of-contributed-content-means-for-journalism/

“Blogging for Forbes requires being what is commonly referred to as a "self-starter."

So far, nobody has said, "Um, you can't do that," or, "Oh, my God, no!"

Reference: https://www.forbes.com/sites/susannahbreslin/2011/04/06/how-to-become-a-forbes-blogger/#231bb9972862

 

“Warning over 'scammers paradise' as watchdog reveals victims lost £27m to bitcoin, cryptocurrency and forex frauds last year”

•            Some 1,850 cases were reported to Action Fraud, a 250% increase on 2017-18

•            Victims lost an average of £14,600 - with fewer than 1 in 20 getting money back

•            Investors are often initially told they've made a profit

•            They are then encouraged to put in more money - at which point the fraudsters run off with their cash

Potential victims have been warned over bogus online 'get rich quick' schemes as it emerged people lost more than £27million to cryptocurrency and foreign exchange scams last year.

Fraudsters promise high returns to those who invest, according to Action Fraud and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Victims lost an average of £14,600 in 2018-19 and stand little chance of getting their money back.

Reports of cryptocurrency and forex investment scams increased by nearly 250 per cent in 2017-18, from 530 to nearly 1,850.

The scams work by criminals promoting get-rich-quick online trading platforms through social media. Posts often use fake celebrity endorsements and images of luxury items like expensive watches and cars.

Beat the scammers:

These then link to professional-looking websites where consumers are persuaded to invest.

Often investors are led to believe their first investment has successfully returned a profit, and are then enticed to invest more money or introduce friends in return for greater profits.

But the returns stop, the customer account is closed, and the scammer disappears with no further contact.

'Anyone handing over their hard-earned cash should make sure they understand what they're getting into, they've checked it's a legitimate investment, and not rely on hype and excitement from friends or social media.

'Investing isn't a get-rich-quick scheme - and anything that uses fear of missing out or requires you to invest before thinking is best to be avoided.'

Those considering an investment to check the following for tips on how to avoid investment fraud at www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart.

Scammers can be very convincing so always do your own research into any firm you are considering investing with, to make sure that they are the real deal.

'It's vital that people carry out the necessary checks to ensure that an investment they're considering is legitimate.

UK consumers are being increasingly targeted by crypto asset-related investment scams.

Certain crypto assets, like Bitcoin and Ether (also known as cryptocurrencies), are not regulated in the UK. This means that buying, selling or transferring these crypto-assets falls outside FCA remit. The same is true for the operation of a cryptocurrency exchange.

However, some types of crypto-asset products may be or may involve regulated investments depending on their nature and how they are structured. For example, firms that sell regulated investments with an underlying crypto asset element may need to be authorised by the FCA to do so.

In recent months, the FCA claims it has received an increasing number of reports about crypto-asset investment scams. Some of them may involve regulated activities, others don’t, but all use similar tactics.

 

How crypto-asset investment scams work

Cryptoasset fraudsters tend to advertise on social media – often using the images of celebrities or well-known individuals to promote cryptocurrency investments. In this case, laughably they said KaratBit was endorsed by Barak Obama’s sister. Who is she and what does she know about cryptocurrencies and blockchain?  The ads then link to professional-looking websites. Consumers are then persuaded to make investments with the firm using cryptocurrencies or traditional currencies.

The firms operating the scams are usually based outside the UK but will claim to have a UK presence, often a prestigious City of London address.

Scam firms can manipulate software to distort prices and investment returns. They may scam people into buying the non-existent crypto asset. They are also known to suddenly close consumers’ online accounts and refuse to transfer the funds to them or ask for more money before the funds can be transferred.

Action Fraud has also issued a warning on cryptocurrency scams. 

How to protect yourself

Be wary of adverts online and on social media promising high returns on investments in a crypto asset or crypto asset-related products.

Most firms advertising and selling investments in crypto-assets are not authorised by the FCA. This means that if you invest in certain crypto assets you will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if things go wrong.

 

The FCA doesn’t regulate crypto assets like Bitcoin or Ether which are vastly the most recognized cryptocurrencies, let alone KBC, they do regulate certain crypto-asset derivatives (such as futures contracts, CFDs and options), as well as those crypto assets I would consider securities. A firm must be authorised by FCA to advertise or sell these products in the UK – check FCA Register to make sure the firm is authorised. You can also check the FCA Warning List of firms to avoid.

 

You should do further research on the product you are considering and the firm you are considering investing with. Check with Companies House to see if the firm is registered as a UK company and for directors' names. To see if others have posted any concerns, search online for the firm's name, directors' names and the product you are considering.

 

If you’ve already decided you want to invest in gold, this might not be a bad company to side with. But if you’re just looking for an opportunity to earn a sustainable income and become financially independent, there are better options out there.

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