Scammers Target Australians in Cryptocurrency Call Center Scheme

It has come to light that people of Australia are the principal targets of a sophisticated multinational network of con artists that operate out of call centers focused on bitcoin. The network is believed to have originated in China. The heart of operations for the network may be found on the continent of Australia. It is commonly believed that the administration of this network is being handled by criminal syndicates that have their headquarters in Israel.

As part of a large-scale operation, law enforcement officers from the countries of Serbia, Germany, Bulgaria, and Cyprus carried out house searches in a total of eleven locations across the country of Serbia, including four call centers. These locations included the country’s capital city of Belgrade. Officials from the island nation of Cyprus were responsible for the operation’s coordination. During the course of this operation, they discovered evidence showing that Australians were among the citizens of all of the other countries who were exposed to the highest degree of examination. This information suggests that Australians were among those subjected to this level of inspection. The material was made available to the general public on February 23 via the dissemination of an article that had been authored by The Australian and published on that day.

Fifteen individuals and about 1.46 million dollars’ worth of cryptocurrencies were seized into custody as a direct result of the operations, which were carried out as a direct consequence of the acts.

It would seem that con artists who work out of these contact centers are using advertisements on social media in an effort to persuade fresh victims into falling for their schemes. They achieve this goal by ensuring prospective investors that any investments they make would result in a significant return on the cash that they have invested. The findings of the research reveal that individuals do engage in this activity, which testifies to the notion that it is prevalent since it indicates that people do participate.


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The Development of Blockchain Chips

The use of blockchain technology is on the increase, and the majority of businesses are investigating the technology in some form. As blockchain technology grows more widespread, users of all stripes will want access to the possibilities offered by this platform in the most effective manner possible.

The development of blockchain chips as energy-efficient accelerators is one of the measures that have been taken as a result of this. Chain Reaction, a blockchain chip business located in Tel Aviv, said on February 23 that it has funded $70 million in order to grow its technical staff in preparation for the development of its next chip.

According to Alon Webman, co-founder and CEO of Chain Reaction, the new chip will be a “completely homomorphic encryption” device. This kind of chip would allow the user to continue working on data even while the chip is in the process of encrypting it.

“Today, if you have data (which) is encrypted into the cloud, and in order to perform any data operation or data analytics, or do A.I., you need to decrypt the data,” said the researcher. “This is a must.”

He went on to explain that governments and big companies, such as the military industry, that may use cloud services but are now barred from doing so owing to worries about security.

“As soon as the data is encrypted, it is vulnerable to assault by a hostile person who may read it, steal it, or even modify it.”

A chip that is encrypted and also provides access to data that is encrypted might be helpful in this situation. According to Webman, Chain Reaction anticipates releasing that chip as soon as the year 2024 comes to a close.

According to Webman, Chain Reaction plans to begin mass manufacturing of its existing blockchain chip, Electrum, in the first quarter of 2023. This information comes from Webman. The chip was developed to facilitate hashing in a speedy and effective manner. Additionally, it has applications in the mining of several cryptocurrencies.

The software maker Intel also introduced a blockchain chip created by Nvidia in February 2022. This chip was meant to speed up energy-intensive blockchain operations that demand enormous quantities of computational power.

Additionally, Nvidia has a dedicated processor designed just for the mining of Ethereum.


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BIS Launches Project Icebreaker with Central Banks to Explore CBDC

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has rolled out Project Icebreaker together with the central banks of Sweden, Norway, and Israel to see how CBDCs can be utilized for international remittance and retail payments.

Per the announcement:

“Project Icebreaker is a collaboration between the Bank of Israel, Central Bank of Norway, Sveriges Riksbank and BIS Innovation Hub Nordic Centre to develop a “hub” to which participating central banks will connect their domestic proof-of-concept CBDC systems.”

Since cross-border payments are accustomed to insufficient transparency, limited access, low speeds, and high costs, Project Icebreaker seeks to explore how central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) can bridge the gap.

Ideally, it will scrutinize the technological feasibility and specific key functions of interjoining various domestic CBDC networks. 

The project’s final report is scheduled for the first quarter of 2023, given that it will run till the end of the year.

Andrew Abir, the Bank of Israel Deputy Governor, noted:

“The results of the project will be very important in guiding our future work on the digital shekel.”

He added:

“Efficient and accessible cross border payments are of extreme importance for a small and open economy like Israel and this was identified as one of the main motivations for a potential issuance of a digital shekel.” 

According to a survey by Ripple, CBDCs have triggered overwhelming consensus among global finance leaders.

The study disclosed that more than 70% of them were certain that CBDCs would spur financial inclusion, Blockchain.News reported. 

Once rolled out, CBDCs are expected to drive the financial inclusion of nearly 1.7 billion people left out of the banking system. This is because CBDCs are digital assets pegged to real-world assets and backed by the central banks.

In May, 90% of apex banks have shown intentions of rolling out Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), according to a study by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). More than 110 countries are currently at one stage or another of the CBDC development process, and many more are poised to join the trend. 

-With assistance with Annie Li-


Image source: Shutterstock


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Crypto Firm Bits of Gold Obtains Capital Markets License from Israeli Regulator

Bits of Gold, an Israeli-based firm engaging in crypto trading and brokerage services, announced on Thursday that it has obtained a license from Israel’s financial market regulator, the Capital Markets, Insurance and Savings Authority.

With the license from the watchdog, Bits of Gold said it will be able to partner with local banks and financial institutions. The crypto firm said the license, along with the recent guidelines from Israel’s central bank, will help resolve many issues associated with relationships between local banks and crypto.

The move makes Bits of Gold the first local crypto provider to obtain the license. The company said it applied for the license back in 2018.

Bits of Gold is preparing to develop a platform that will enable local and European banks and fintech firms to offer cryptocurrency services to customers. The company wants to start offering crypto custody services through its new digital wallet starting next month.

Is This the Beginning of Crypto Trading in The Country?

In the past, local banks had taken an ad hoc approach to accepting deposits tied to crypto investments. But that changed in November last year when the country’s capital market regulator approved Israel’s new anti-money laundering (AML) and anti-terrorist financing rules for crypto asset service providers. The rule cleared the way for local banks to more easily accept customers from the crypto sector.

The new AML rules cover the identification and verification of crypto recipients, reporting requirements for crypto companies, and the layout of a risk-based approach to dealing with money laundering.

In March, Israel’s central bank published draft regulations that further opened up the country’s financial system to crypto firms by requiring banks to examine the crypto firms individually rather than imposing blanket refusals on them.

In late March, Bank Leumi became the first Israeli bank to start facilitating crypto trade. Early this month, Israel’s financial market regulator granted a first permanent license to a local private firm, Hybrid Bridge Holdings Ltd., to engage in cryptocurrency activities. As a result, Hybrid Bridge Holdings is now building a crypto custody and exchange platform.

In Israel, many firms seeking to engage in the crypto industry are still obtaining approval from the regulator.

In February, the Binance exchange came under the regulator’s scrutiny over licensing issues. The watchdog ordered Binance to suspend marketing to Israeli users and stop all activities focused on Israel until the issues are addressed.

Image source: Shutterstock


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Leumi to Become 1st Israeli Bank Facilitating Crypto Trade

Bank Leumi’s digital platform Pepper Invest announced that the bank is set to become the first Israeli bank to facilitate cryptocurrency trading – following a partnership with US blockchain firm Paxos, according to a report by Reuters. - 2022-03-25T145046.084.jpg

The announcement also clarified that currently, the new service will only allow customers to buy, hold and sell bitcoin and Ethereum. The transactions are limited to at least 50 shekels ($15.49).

However, the launch date is yet to be decided due to pending regulatory approval.

Leumi is one of Israel’s two largest banks, Reuters reported.

“Pepper will collect tax according to the guidelines of the Israeli Tax Authority so that customers will not need to manage tax complexities,” Pepper Invest said. The service will also eliminate the risks of downloading a digital wallet, it added.

Israel has already taken steps to safeguard people from illegal crypto activity in the country.

According to a report from Blockchain.News, the Bank of Israel has issued a new draft guideline to stakeholders in the cryptocurrency ecosystem concerning Anti-Money Laundering (AML) provisions.

The press release published by the bank stated that the new guideline has become a necessity due to the growing number of funds flowing into the traditional banking system through the crypto ecosystem.

The report stated that according to the new guideline, the Bank of Israel will mandate financial institutions operating in the country to “conduct a risk assessment and set out policy and procedures for the transfer of money that originates in or is destined for virtual currencies, taking a risk-based approach and identifying the virtual currency service provider.”

While the Bank of Israel also carried out a pilot test in June last year and has seriously considered implementing a CBDC of digital Shekel.

Top US crypto exchange Coinbase has also built a presence in Israel after acquiring security company Unbound.

Unbound is involved in developing ways to transfer and store cryptocurrencies more easily and securely. 

Image source: Shutterstock


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The 69-Year Old Israeli Lady Who Turned a $3K Bitcoin Investment in $320K: The Bank Now Calls for Claim Denial

Leading Israeli bank, Hapoalim Bank, has recently filed a letter of defense to dismiss the claims of the 69-year-old pensioner, Esther Freeman, to allow the deposit of $320k profit she made from a $3,000 Bitcoin investment nearly nine years ago.

According to a Thursday report by a local media outlet, the bank claims that its insistence on denying the deposit was because of cases where digital currencies are used to facilitate money laundering and terrorist financing.

Hapoalim Bank Rejects $320k Deposit from Crypto Profits

Earlier in November 2021, Freeman filed a lawsuit against the bank, demanding the entity to declare that the source of money invested in Bitcoin is “known, clear, and supported by references.”

In a statement, the bank noted that it was impossible to trace the money path in connection with Freeman’s crypto purchase in 2013. It added that it has not been able to make a connection as to when she moved the funds from her account towards the purchase of the bitcoins.

“Only in cases where the funds used to purchase the virtual currency and the proceeds went out and returned from the same account can the receipt of the funds be confirmed – then the plaintiff did not meet this condition,” the bank said.

Hapoalim also pointed out that there is no substantial evidence of the BTC purchase since Freeman did not buy the cryptocurrency from a registered exchange but from a private individual in cash.


Failure to Provide References

“The plaintiff failed to present actual references to the purchase price of the virtual currency.” – reads the new report.

Additionally, the bank noted that at the time of purchase, the Israeli financial regulator, the Bank of Israel, had mandated banking organizations not to accept deposits of funds from crypto transactions.

For the aforementioned reasons, Hapoalim Bank argued that it should not be forced to accept the deposit of funds obtained from cryptocurrency transactions, considering the financial risks associated with them.

In response, Freeman’s attorney said, “It is very unfortunate to find out that Bank Hapoalim has decided to wage a bitter war on its longtime customer, a pensioner, whose only desire is to receive in her bank account money that belongs to her and originates from digital coins she bought many years ago.”


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Israeli Policymakers Test the Limits and Risks of Digital Shekel: Report

In the quest not to fall behind in its drive to develop a central bank-backed digital currency (CBDC), policymakers in Israel reportedly tested stakeholders’ views to determine the risks and limits of a national digital currency.

Yoav Soffer, the head of the Bank of Israel’s digital project, announced the trial, as reported by Bloomberg. He noted that knowing the opinion of stakeholders is an ongoing process, even though the digital shekel is still in its developmental stage and no specific date has been fixed for the launch.

He added that some of the challenges associated with the roll-out of the digital currency are assessing the impact of the currency on the banking system and determining the cost of the token.

The Shekel Built on the Ethereum Network

The proposed digital shekel is being built on the Ethereum network, as CryptoPotato outlined recently. According to Soffer, the project has gone through extensive trials, and the team is working on further technical studies down the line.

“Right now, we are increasing the resources devoted to the digital shekel project, both in terms of finances and people,” he said. “A digital shekel has great potential to increase competition and innovation within the payment industry.”

The recent concerted effort by the Bank of Israel to explore the prospect of a digital shekel came after an earlier attempt in 2018. The team set up by the central bank had advised against the establishment of a digital token at that time. However, with the world’s top economies actively pursuing digital versions of their currencies, the Bank of Israel is taking another look at its prospects.


Some Central Banks Already Launched CBDCs

A few countries, such as the Bahamas and Nigeria, have already launched digital versions of their currencies. This is in accord with the views of experts at the Bank of America Corp. who announced that the CBDC adoption by central banks is inevitable as countries realize the potentials of the technology.

China is also considered a highly-advanced nation in terms of its CBDC. The world’s most populated country has initiated multiple tests with locals and released digital yuan wallet apps for android and iOS users.

Featured Image Courtesy of Business Standard


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Israel Reportedly Seized $840K in Cryptocurrencies From a Company Linked to Hamas

Israel’s authorities continue their efforts in order to clamp down on individuals and companies supposedly related to funding terrorism. In the latest example, they seized just over $800,000 in digital assets from such a firm.

  • According to a recent local report, Defense Minister Benny Grantz has signed the order for the seizure.
  • The coverage indicated that the total amount was NIS 2.6 million (worth approximately $840,000) in undisclosed crypto assets.
  • The funds were reportedly connected to the al-Mathaddon exchange, which belongs to the Malach Family. Some resources claim that the latter has deep connections to Hamas in Gaza.
  • This is the second similar seizure of cryptocurrencies in the past few months after Gantz oversaw the confiscation of 150 digital wallets also belonging to al-Mathaddon.
  • Unnamed sources reportedly said that the company had enhanced its operations following the assassination of Hamed Ahmed Khundari (also charged for funding terrorism), and the aforementioned funds were on their way to Hamas.

  • “We will continue to pursue terrorist funds. The blow to Hamas and the terrorist organization’s ability to circumvent the traditional paths for transferring funds, through digital currency, is an important tool in the developing security system.” – commented Gantz.

  • Previously, Israel’s Authority for Combating Terror Financing and Money Laundering said it plans to impose new regulations on some digital financial products, including cryptocurrencies. It aims to diminish the use of crypto in criminal activities and terrorist fundings.


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Israeli Central Bank Forces All Banks to Accept Profits from Cryptocurrency: Report

The Bank of Israel (BoI) has reportedly instructed local banks to accept profits from digital asset endeavors as long as the source of the money is not related to criminal affairs. The procedure is intended to complement the Money Laundering Prohibition Ordinance, which applies to crypto-related entities and their operations.

Israeli Banks May no Longer Refuse

According to a recent local report, the central bank of Israel has distributed a draft circular to local banks with a supplement to Proper Banking Procedure 411. The document focuses on money laundering and other financial crimes.

The directive aims to upgrade the rules imposed on cryptocurrency entities and thus manage the banks’ risks when receiving and transferring digital assets. Specifically, the move represents a direct instruction from the Bank of Israel to all local financial institutions that they may no longer refuse to accept profits generated from cryptocurrency operations.

However, the circular sets out a list of details that a bank should have in mind when processing a digital asset transaction. These include the nature of the initial funds, the size of the settlement, and the risk classification.

Speaking on some of the issues that might still be present was Ron Tzafrati, VP of Finance and Regulation at the Israeli crypto exchange Bit2C, who said:


On the one hand, the Bank of Israel finally recognizes the obligation of banks to perform a risk assessment and management and not to refuse in a sweeping manner the transfer of funds by the Bank’s customers in connection with digital currency activities. On the other hand, the bank leaves broad discretion to banks to continue to refuse in many cases, which do not really create a real risk of money laundering.

Nearly a month ago, the Israeli authorities announced they will impose new regulations on the cryptocurrency industry, which should decrease the employment of bitcoin and the altcoins in illicit activities. According to the plan, all crypto-related firms will have to make regular reports, meaning they will be treated as banks.

Mrs. Freeman and her Struggles

In line with the new legislation that will allow local banks to accept profits from cryptocurrencies, it is worth mentioning the case of Esther Freeman.

In 2013, the retired Israeli citizen entered the digital asset market by investing around $3,240 in bitcoin. Eight years later, thanks to the primary cryptocurrency’s price growth, she multiplied her investment by 100 times.

However, Bank Hapoalim – one of the leading banks in the country – refused to deposit the $324,000 transferred from the fiat-cryptocurrency platform she used as the initial deposit years ago was made in cash. According to the financial institution, the source of the funds might be related to “money-laundering or terrorist financing.”

To obtain her funds and help her child buy an apartment, Mrs. Freeman appointed a law attorney and opened a lawsuit against the bank. The court ruled that Bank Hapoalim should not restrict account activity to its clients only because they have a connection with cryptocurrencies. Upon receiving the case, the financial institution vowed to study its details and “respond in the usual way.”


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Coinbase Acquires Cryptographic Security Company Unbound, Strengthening Presence in Israel

Coinbase Global Inc has announced that it has acquired an Unbound security company based in Israel, developing ways to transfer and store cryptocurrencies more easily and securely. 

On Tuesday, November 30, Coinbase stated that it acquired Unbound to expand its multi-party computational (MPC) capabilities, gain access to the company’s cryptographic security experts, and launch a research facility in Israel Unbound’s native country.

The Unbound acquisition would enable Coinbase to establish a presence in Israel, where the firm plans to grow its technology research and development centre significantly over time.

Coinbase considers Unbound Security as a leading firm in MPC, a subset of cryptography that allows multiple parties to evaluate a computation without any of them revealing their own private data.

The crypto exchange stated that Unbound’s work in multi-party computation to provide users with the “virtually impenetrable nature of cold, offline storage, with the frictionless convenience of hot, online wallets.”

Coinbase explained that secure multi-party computation is an application of advanced mathematics to enable crypto tokens to be deployed, transferred, and stored more flexibly, securely, and efficiently than ever before.

Coinbase talked about the development and said: “We’ve long recognized Israel as a hot bed of strong technology and cryptography talent and are excited to continue to grow our team with some of the best and brightest minds in these fields. The Unbound Security team will form the nucleus of this new research facility, which we plan to grow over time.”

Since Coinbase generates most of its money from retail trading fees, the crypto exchange is planning to diversify its products and revenues to offer more sustainable growth while also focusing on customer services and ease of use.

In the third quarter, Coinbase’s retail monthly transacting users declined to $7.4 million from $8.8 million in the second quarter as the volatility of crypto prices discouraged trading among small investors. 

Coinbase earned $6.4 billion in cash and equivalents during the third quarter, including around $2 billion in net proceeds from issuing senior notes in September. In the past, the firm stated that it planned to use some of the funds for acquisitions

Coinbase Keen on Developing its Market Share

The Unbound is the latest acquisition made by Coinbase, which has acquired more than 13 companies this year. Earlier last month, the largest US crypto exchange bought India’s Agara, which operates an AI-powered customer support platform, to improve its customers’ services. The cryptocurrency exchange wants to make it easier for users to join the service and seek assistance.

On November 24, Coinbase acquired crypto wallet firm BRD to enhance its web3 adoption further.

In May 2020, Coinbase purchased Tagomi, an advanced cryptocurrency brokerage platform specifically targeted at professionals and institutional investors, to improve its institutional trading offering.

Coinbase also previously purchased firms, including cryptocurrency market analytics firm Skew, blockchain infrastructure company Bison Trails, and data aggregation service Zabo, with each agreement worth millions of dollars.

Image source: Shutterstock


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