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What is a cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is basically digital cash that can be earned by mining or bought with fiat currency and other cryptocurrency.

What is mining?

Mining is the process of adding transactions to the blockchain. Mining is done by miners. Whenever a new block is added to the blockchain, a reward is given to the miner who added the block to the blockchain. Mining can be compared to a competition, in which every person needs to solve a puzzle (adding a block to the blockchain). Whoever solves the puzzles first, wins the prize (coins). Whenever the miner receives the reward (the coin) it will be stored in his or her personal wallet.

What is blockchain?

Banks and accounting systems use ledgers to track and timestamp transactions. Blockchain works the same way, but differs in that it is completely decentralized and open source. This means that people do not have to rely on a central bank or institution to keep track of their transactions. Because there is no central institute, transactions will have to be confirmed by a network of peers. These peers are called the miners, they take the transactions, stamp them as legit and add them to the network (add them as a block to the blockchain). This work that the miners do is rewarded with a token of a cryptocurrency.

What is a wallet?

A wallet is an application or software that stores, sends and receives cryptocurrency. It is almost like a physical wallet. There are wallet applications for mobile phones and desktops (PC) that store your cryptocurrencies online and there are specialized hardware devices that allow you to keep your coins offline or even let you print a wallet on paper.

Is cryptocurrency real money?

As long as people believe in a currency and give value to it, it can legally be used to buy and sell. Fiat currency (your own coins and bank notes) have once been ‘invented’, too. Before there was any money, people used to trade products and services for other products and services. As long as people accept the currency, it is a currency. The downside of fiat currency is that banks and states can print new whenever they feel like it. This makes inflation and deflation possible. With cryptocurrency this will be much harder to do. In cryptocurrency the creation of additional units of the currency is controlled and restricted (for example, Bitcoin’s cap is set at 21,000,000 million coins).

Where can I purchase ETH, BTC and other cryptocurrency?

There are many exchange websites that sell cryptocurrencies. Including, but not restricted to: Coinbase, Kraken, Bitstamp. Once you have bought coins, you can store them in your exchange wallet or send them to another (online or offline) wallet. You can also search for individuals selling cryptocurrencies in your area, for example through www.localbitcoins.com, or you can meet someone face-to-face, have them scan your wallet’s QR code and pay them.

What are the advantages of cryptocurrency?

It will be possible to send and receive cryptocurrency anywhere in the world, at any time. You are not bound by bank holidays, borders, exchange fees or bureaucracy. You are in full control of your money. There are no fees to receive cryptocurrencies, and when spending cryptocurrency, many wallets will let you control how large your fee will be when spending. The transactions are secure, irreversible and do not contain any sensitive or personal information about the customer or merchant. This will protect a merchant from losses caused by fraud and fraudulent chargebacks. Cryptocurrency users can protect their money with backup and encryption. And finally, all information concerning the cryptocurrency money supply itself is readily available on the blockchain for anybody to verify and use in real-time. No individual or organization can control or manipulate the cryptocurrency protocol, because it is cryptographically secure. Overall, cryptocurrencies can be trusted for being completely neutral, transparent and predictable.

What are the disadvantages of cryptocurrency?

There are still a lot of people who are unaware of cryptocurrencies. There are some businesses that accept cryptocurrencies as a payment, but this list remains small. Because this list is so small and the total value of cryptocurrency in circulation are still very small, any activity can significantly affect the price and make cryptocurrencies extremely volatile. The cryptocurrency software is still in beta and has some incomplete features. New tools, features and services are still being developed. Most cryptocurrency businesses are new and offer no insurance. In short: cryptocurrency is still in the process of maturing.

Are cryptocurrencies anonymous?

Cryptocurrencies are not anonymous and cannot offer the same level of privacy as cash. The use of cryptocurrency leaves extensive public records (in the form of transactions on the blockchain). Every transaction made with cryptocurrency can be viewed by the public.

Can my cryptocurrencies be lost?

When you lose your wallet and your private keys, you will lose your coins. The coins will remain in the blockchain, however, they will become dormant. This is because there is no way for anybody to have access to a lost wallet without the private keys that would allow access. This is why it is extremely important to write down your wallet address and your private keys and store them in a safe place (better write them down, print them on a piece of paper and keep them in a safe place, than saving them on your computer where hackers can find them).

Are cryptocurrencies legal?

The legal status of cryptocurrency varies from country to country and is still undefined or changing in many of them. Some jurisdictions are restricting or even banning foreign currencies, while others may limit the licensing of certain entities such as a cryptocurrency exchange. Law enforcement agencies, tax authorities and legal regulators are still trying to understand how cryptocurrency fits into existing frameworks. Steps are being taken to provide individuals and businesses with rules on how to integrate this new technology with the formal, regulated financial system. The legality of your cryptocurrency activities will depend on who you are, where you live and what you are doing with it.

Are cryptocurrencies being used for illegal activities?

Some concerns have been raised that cryptocurrencies are only being used for money laundering by criminals. However, cryptocurrencies are money, and money has always been used for both legal and illegal purposes. Cash, credit cards and the current banking systems still greatly surpass cryptocurrency in terms of their use to finance crime and these methods are widely used and well-established. Cryptocurrency is designed to make money more secure, for instance, they are completely impossible to counterfeit. Users are in full control of their payments. Transactions are irreversible and immune to fraudulent charge backs. Backups, encryption and multiple signatures are used to secure money against theft and loss.

What about cryptocurrencies and taxes?

Regulators have only just begun to seriously scrutinize regulating cryptocurrencies. There are some countries that treat cryptocurrencies as business income or capital gain, but the predominant international trend is to regulate cryptocurrencies as if they were “assets” or “property”. Most nations have yet to come around to the idea of treating cryptocurrencies like real currencies. In the years ahead, many more tax updates will be in store for cryptocurrency users all over the world.