Is bitcoin a scam? – podcast

In 2013 James Howells threw out a computer hard drive containing bitcoin. Last week he again asked his local council for permission to dig for it at his local dump as he believes it is now worth about £200m. The Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, looks at the rise of bitcoin and whether it should be banned

The Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, talks to Rachel Humphreys about the cryptocurrency bitcoin, which allows people to bypass banks and traditional payment methods. It uses a blockchain – a shared public record of transactions – to create and track a new type of digital token, one that can only be made and shared according to the agreed-upon rules of the network. At its heart bitcoin is a big database of who owns what, and what transactions were made between those owners. But unlike a conventional bank, there is no central authority running that database.

Bitcoin’s value has recently soared and the City regulator the FSA is concerned that crypto investment firms could be overstating potential payouts or understating the risks from investing in bitcoin and products related to the digital currency. As a newer and relatively lightly regulated market, consumers are unlikely to have access to state-backed compensation if something goes wrong. There has also been a boom in bitcoin scams.

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