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Yelp’s Bitcoin Filter Could Kickstart Weak Crypto Adoption

Yelp’s Bitcoin Filter Could Kickstart Weak Crypto Adoption

Yelp’s Bitcoin Filter Could Kickstart Weak Crypto AdoptionMerchants and consumers are seeing rising demand for crypto. | Source: (i) Shutterstock (ii) Shutterstock; Edited by CCNBy CCN: As bitcoin’s price experienced a surge this week, it seems merchants and consumers are more interested in crypto than ever.Local-search company Yelp has joined the pact by reportedly adding a filter to help users find merchants that accept cryptocurrency. No matter if you’re looking for a burger bar, dog groomer, or any other kind of business listed on its site, you can now zero in on those that let you pay with crypto.Yelp’s move is reflective of a larger move that the crypto space has craved – mass adoption. Whether merchants are rolling out ways to draw in customers or demand to pay with crypto is on the rise, this is clearly a good sign.GREAT news if your life is all go-go-go 🏎 You can use the Yelp app on the new #FitbitVersaLite smartwatch and find a refueling bite right from your wrist. ⚡ pic.twitter.com/B2bYJwzVLa— Yelp (@Yelp) April 20, 2019Fresh Wave of New FacesYelp’s filter hunts down establishments that accept crypto. It doesn’t accept digital currencies itself.Yelp’s filter is significant because its user base is huge. It reportedly had more than 30 million unique visitors on its mobile application and 69 million unique users on its mobile website last year. Roughly 62 million desktop users visited. This was just in its last fiscal quarter.Another popular site that has made such moves is travel giant Expedia. Bitcoin.travel reportedly is now supporting payments in seven different cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, and Dogecoin.It’s no wonder that the travel space would have been among the first to start making concessions for crypto payment acceptance. The industry thrives on making the travel experience as painless as possible, and this includes customers having convenient payment options.Yelp shares are up 11% year-to-date. | Source: Yahoo FinancePutting Naysayers to Rest?Yelp and the other online outfits becoming more comfortable with crypto should begin to put more of the critics to rest.As recently as March, a CCN editorial writer discounted an article from the Economist that attempted to say bitcoin may never have a “long-lasting” recovery.CCN also reported on a key bitcoin bull leaving his spot at financial services giant EY. Angus Champion said that while he’s still a bitcoin bull, he’s discouraged by how long he believes it will take for mass adoption and doesn’t want to wait around.Angus hopes tougher-minded, more resilient people will continue to make strides in the space.“I’m as confident in bitcoin’s ability to radically transform the world as I ever have been. However, I believe the time horizon to do that is very long, and I believe my best bet in the industry is to simply buy and hold.” About The AuthorTedra DeSueIf you can buy it, trade it, invest in it, or sell it, I write about it. For more than 20 years, I’ve covered all things finance. I threw myself into covering the crypto space with the keen understanding that it would be an industry disruptor. I’m in constant search for the real Satoshi Nakamoto!
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US Govt. Seizes Millions in Cash & Crypto in Movie Piracy Case

The United States Government has seized millions in cash and cryptocurrency as part of a movie and TV show piracy investigation carried out by Homeland Security Investigations and the MPAA. PayPal appears to have played an early key role by providing information on two subscription-based ‘pirate’ sites. From there, the rabbit hole deepened. Significant legal…

US Govt. Seizes Millions in Cash & Crypto in Movie Piracy Case

The United States Government has seized millions in cash and cryptocurrency as part of a movie and TV show piracy investigation carried out by Homeland Security Investigations and the MPAA. PayPal appears to have played an early key role by providing information on two subscription-based ‘pirate’ sites. From there, the rabbit hole deepened.

Significant legal action against alleged operators of pirate sites have traditionally been carried out with great fanfare.

However, a case underway in federal court in Oregon is a very different beast, particularly given its scale and form.

The case filed in the district court May 6, 2019, reveals the United States government seeking forfeiture of around $4 million dollars worth of cash and cryptocurrency seized on the basis that the owner of the property was involved in a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and money laundering.

The investigation reportedly began in October 2013 when Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents received information from PayPal concerning two websites, Noobroom.com and Noobroom7.com, that allowed subscribers to stream movies and TV shows.

HSI reported these sites to the MPAA which conducted an investigation, concluding that the sites and associated domains Noobroom and Noobroom9 distributed works in breach of its members’ copyrights. Revenue was reportedly generated by subscriptions processed through Stripe and via adverts placed by a company called Lanista Concepts.

In July 2014, the MPAA sent a cease-and-desist notice to Noobroom. Five days later a covert Noobroom user account operated by the Hollywood group received a message advising users that their accounts had been moved to a new website at SuperChillin.com.

After downloading movies from SuperChillin, the MPAA was able to link an IP address to an individual identified as Talon White. The suspect was subsequently linked to two additional sites – movietv.co and Sit2Play.com – which were deemed to be near identical copies of each other. The registrant of Sit2Play was listed as Talon White and an associated email address was determined as belonging to him.

HSI’s investigation continued from 2016 to November 2018 when search and seizure warrants were executed. A declaration by Keith Druffel, a Special Agent of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, reads as follows;

“Based on financial records obtained during the investigation, I determined that White received substantial revenue from the above-listed websites,” Druffel writes.

“In 2018, he was averaging revenue over $500,000 per month. In 2017, White received over $2.2 million. In 2016, White received over $1 million in revenue, and in 2014 and 2015, White received on average about $400,000 a year in revenue.”

According to Druffel, subscribers of the sites paid via PayPal or Stripe, payments that were deposited into bank accounts controlled by White. Information provided by Stripe matched White’s personal information and the account was labeled as “Selling stock tip subscriptions via email.” The IRS claims there is no evidence of any such sales.

78,985 payments of $9.99 were received into the Stripe account between October 2015 and December 2016, amounting to $789,060. A further 7,611 payments of $25.49 ($194,004.39) and 5,348 payments of $44.99 ($240,606.52) made a grand total of $1,223,671.24.

“The above-listed amounts correspond to the listed subscription costs on Sit2Play and Movietv. Therefore, I believe the payments received by Stripe are the subscription fees for the websites,” Druffel adds.

Further analysis of transactions on White’s Stripe account dated between October 2017 and September 2018 revealed a further 396,843 payments of between $9.99 and $44.99 to a value of $6,373,816.57.

“The above listed amounts correspond to the cost of subscriptions to the websites and represent proceeds from the violation of 18 USC § 2319, Criminal Copyright Infringement,” the statement reads.

The investigation found that through August 2018, more than $3m was transferred from the Stripe account to a Wells Fargo account in White’s name and a JP Morgan Chase account held in the name of Viral Sensations, Inc. (VSI), a Nevada entity.

White is alleged to have opened three checking accounts in the name of VSI, over which he had sole signature authority. Through August 31, 2018, one VSI account received payments of more than $5.9 million. The accounts were linked to White and subscriptions from the pirate sites. Funds from one of the Chase accounts were used to buy $1m in cryptocurrency through virtual currency exchange Coinbase.

On November 13, 2018, Mustafa Kasubhai, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Oregon, approved a search and seizure warrant authorizing a search of White’s residence and seizure of various assets. The warrant was executed two days later, yielding the following;

  • $2,457,790.72 seized from JPMorgan Chase Bank account #1
  • $1,266,650.00 seized from JPMorgan Chase Bank account #2
  • $1,383.68 seized from JPMorgan Chase Bank account #3
  • $200,653.71 seized from JPMorgan Chase Bank account #4
  • $32,921.00 seized in US currency (cash)
  • $1,940.77 seized in US currency (Stripe account)
  • 31.53810677 in BTC (Coinbase account)
  • 1,022.39066800 in ETH (Coinbase account)
  • 5.74017141 in BCH (Coinbase account)

“[I] have probable cause to believe, and I do believe, that White and others known and unknown were involved in a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1957 and 2319 from at least 2013 through November 2018,” Druffel’s statement adds.

On May 7, 2019, District Judge Anna J. Brown issued an order to the IRS to hold the assets until further notice.

“You are hereby commanded to arrest and take into your possession until further order of the Court, defendants, in rem, Assorted Funds,” the Judge wrote.

From a copyright infringement perspective, this case is pretty unusual.

Most civil and criminal cases against pirate sites and their operators involve detailed descriptions of their workings along with finely-tuned claims of various types of infringement. But the focus here appears to be a financial one, for now at least.

A report from Koin.com suggests that the man hasn’t been charged with a crime yet. In an effort to find ou more, TF approached White’s lawyer Rain Minns. At the time of publication we were yet to receive a response.

Related court documents obtained by TF can be found here (1,2,3)

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Register Lecture: Hidden heroes of Alan Turing’s Enigma

Live code-breaking and beer A curse follows Enigma, the cryptography device deployed by Adolf Hitler’s military during the WWII to protect their Morse communications from the Allies. That curse? Invisibility. Alan Turing has – now – become intrinsically linked with cracking Enigma, a machine of fiendish complexity capable of 159 million, million, million (1.59×1020) settings…

Register Lecture: Hidden heroes of Alan Turing’s Enigma

Live code-breaking and beer

A curse follows Enigma, the cryptography device deployed by Adolf Hitler’s military during the WWII to protect their Morse communications from the Allies. That curse? Invisibility.

Alan Turing has – now – become intrinsically linked with cracking Enigma, a machine of fiendish complexity capable of 159 million, million, million (1.59×1020) settings that demanded the perfect marriage of mathematics and engineering to break. Turing’s work would blow open secrets that helped alter the war – for example, alerting the RAF to Luftwaffe raids during the Battle of Britain. And yet, Turing received little by way of the recognition he deserved for decades – quite the opposite, in fact.

But Turing is not the only one to have suffered Enigma’s curse of invisibility. Join The National Museum of Computing on June 26 for a special Register lecture journey back 80 years to the eve of the Second World War, to hear the stories of those behind Turing.

Hear about who provided a critical leg-up to the struggling English in cracking Enigma and who helped build the Bombe – the device to mechanise the mathematics of code breaking. Eight decades after the start of the War, TNMOC will go inside the pioneering work of the Polish General Staff Cipher Bureau in Warsaw and shine a light on the roles of Gordon Welchman and Doc Keen, the long-overlooked Bombe engineering team lead, at Bletchley. Together, they helped put code-breaking at Bletchley Park on an industrial footing.

Your guide for this crypto history trip will be Paul Kellar MBE, a leading member of the Bombe Rebuild project – based at TNMOC as a working tribute to those who contributed to breaking the Enigma.

Starring with Paul will be a working Enigma to help demonstrate “knowing your enemy” and illustrate how the Bombe could attack and break the Enigma on a daily basis. You will get the opportunity, too, to participate in a live code-cracking exercise with Checking Machine – the last stage in recovering the Key of the Day after the Bombe had found the crucial settings.

Join fellow Reg readers with the TNMOC crypto historians and their machines at the Rugby Tavern, 19 Great James St, London, WC1N 3ES. Doors open at 18:30 BST with Paul taking the mic at 19:00. An audience question-and-answer session will follow a break to re-charge mind and grey matter. Get your ticket here. ®

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