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Cryptocurrency-based earnings opportunity schemes have taken the world of MLM and affiliate marketing – especially internet marketing – by storm.

There are dozens upon dozens of business opportunities cropping up by the day offering members exclusive opportunities to create wealth for themselves over the internet through the use and manipulation of digital currencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and others.

Here's how these plans and schemes operate, how to tell the good ones from the bad, and how to keep yourself – and your investments – safe.

What Is Cryptocurrency?

For the uninitiated, the world of cryptocurrency can be utterly confusing.

The truth, though, is deceptively simple; cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are digital currencies, existing only as data on computer networks, that can be used to purchase goods and services in the same way that the US dollar or the Euro can be used in regions where those currencies are accepted.

In addition to being completely digital, cryptocurrencies differ in that they are not issued by a state government. Instead, digital coins like Bitcoin created by a process called mining.

Cryptocoins are “mined” by computers working on incredibly complex math equations that can take hours or days of uninterrupted computing power to solve.

Once each equation is finished, the result is entered into a universal database called a blockchain, a record of that particular cryptocurrency's history. Mined coins are then awarded to a miner – whoever owns the computer that solved the math equation – for their hard work.

These digital markers are kept track of by specialized software programs known as electronic wallets.

These password-protected wallets, which can be hosted either securely online or on your local computer, allowing you to accept deposits of digital currencies and to transfer these currencies electronically to others, much in the same way a traditional online banking platform would allow.

Gaining Cryptocoins The Easy Way

With a digital wallet of your very own, you don't have to mine digital coins yourself to possess them – you can accept cryptocurrencies for providing goods and services to others.

You can also spend digital currencies at an ever-widening circle of retailers both online and in the real world, as there is a growing number of stores that will accept Bitcoin at the very least.

Additionally, you can turn fiat currency into cryptocurrency through the use of an online currency exchange platform. These exchanges work similarly to long-established foreign currency exchanges like Forex.

You deposit some “real world” funds in a broker account and use those funds to purchase an equivalent amount of cryptocurrency to be delivered, electronically, to your wallet.

How much digital currency you can get for your money is dependent on its ever-fluctuating exchange rate – how much that currency is valued at the time – in the same way that converting $100 can get you 89 Euros on Monday but get you 75 Euros on Wednesday.

Telling Good Opportunities From Bad Ones

This is all well and good, you might say, but how can I leverage digital currencies to create income opportunities for myself and others? And how do I avoid getting involved in schemes that are just out to make money off me, instead?

The truth is that there are just as many ways to harness cryptocurrency to generate income as there are to separate you from your hard-earned money.

Many of the most tried-and-true affiliate marketing and MLM underbelly scams and schemes have been adapted for the cryptocoin market, and they're cropping up left and right. Familiarizing yourself with what a good opportunity looks like versus what a bad one does will keep you and your investments safer.

The Currency Exchange Scheme

For years, one of the biggest non-crypto internet income schemes out there was the binary options or Forex trader scam.

Companies purporting to have a cadre of skilled, talented, and experienced day traders proficient in reading foreign exchange or binary options markets enticed investors to sign up with them by promising them incredible rates of return.

Sometimes these companies would claim that they possessed an incredibly advanced automated trading robot with highly accurate prediction algorithms that picked winning trades 90% of the time.

These programs were always supposedly created by masters in the field of artificial intelligence of machine learning, though the identities of these programmers – and of the company running the show – were often either unavailable or outright fabricated.

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

These traders often offer their services for free, as long as an investor deposited a few hundred bucks with “a trusted partner” brokerage service. What these traders don't tell anyone is that they get a finder's fee from these brokers for every new client referred.

Anyone duped into playing along soon notices that the incredibly infallible auto-trader software – or the trade signals picked out by the company's so-called experts – are about as accurate as flipping a coin. The “currency trader” gets its referral fee, the broker gets a generous cut of your trading activity win or lose, and you get screwed out of your money.

With the growing popularity of cryptocurrency, scammers have transitioned from targeting people interested in earning money by playing the Forex or binary options markets to crypto exchanges like Bittrex, Poloniex, or Kraken, all of which have trade volumes in the tens of thousands of Bitcoin.

Beware of anyone offering a “free” service like this, as legitimate trade signal companies often charge a premium price for their services.

The HYIP Scheme

With the cryptocurrency markets so ripe for growth and already expanding rapidly, savvy investors are keen to jump on the bandwagon.

Bitcoin valuation growth rates are particularly fecund, with a single Bitcoin having risen from being worth just one US dollar in 2011 to a valuation of more than $2,000 in May of 2017. This makes people incredibly eager to invest in cryptocurrency.

High yield investment program (HYIP) schemes prey on this desire. Originating in fiat currency markets and now transitioning into the world of digital currencies, companies advertising HYIPs claim to provide insanely high rates of return – such as 200% daily ROI or more over the course of a few weeks or months.

All you have to do, according to these companies, is give them your Bitcoin and sit back and relax as they compound your interest through murky investment activities that never seem to be explained with much clarity or with any evidence.

Doing Their Dirty Work

Of course, these companies also offer a way to maximize your returns. If you recruit a few investors yourself, the company will gladly provide you a commission in the form of a percentage of whatever your recruits invest.

Sometimes these recruitment plans can become quite complex, featuring unilevel, binary, or matrix-based compensation programs all designed to encourage constant recruitment by throwing money at the most aggressive recruiters.

This recruitment push is, of course, how HYIP schemes operate and how they unravel. Companies like this don't actually grow the funds you invest with them. They simply amass wealth and use it to pay out on members that joined before you – perhaps even the person who recruited you – to provide the promised rate of return.

These companies want you to then recruit others in turn so they'll have the money they need to pay you when your “investment” matures.

The whole scheme collapses once the amount of money it needs to pay out to investors becomes more than the amount takes in through recruitment.

Once this happens, the company disappears overnight, leaving everyone with invested funds high and dry – and since these companies are anonymous and deal exclusively in a decentralized, anonymous currency like Bitcoin, it's almost impossible to figure out where the money went.

The Bitcoin Killer Scheme

As mentioned above, Bitcoin is the digital currency to beat right now – it's valued incredibly high, shows no signs of slowing down, and it demonstrates just how successful cryptocurrencies can be.

This means that everyone's on the lookout for the next big thing – the new altcoin that's going to be the “Bitcoin Killer.” Unfortunately, cryptocurrency scammers are using this sentiment to their advantage as well.

The barrier for entry to creating your own digital currency is considerably lower than you would think.

If you have access to people who understand blockchain database technology, you can have your own blockchain created and mine it for coins without much fuss – the trick is finding people that are willing to believe you when you say these otherwise valueless digital coins are valuable.

The Whole Package

Individuals or companies looking to make money on their own newly-minted altcoin often create an entire narrative around it, usually consisting of a closed-loop system like a members-only website that's concealed behind a pay wall.

These sites are billed as “whole package” destinations, often boasting features like a social media or e-commerce platform, membership perks like travel discounts, and of course a robust – and usually highly complicated – compensation plan for recruiting new members.

Anyone becoming an affiliate of websites like this opt-in by buying a set number of a proprietary, pre-mined digital currency that isn't listed on any public crypto exchanges and can only be spent within the confines of the closed-loop system.

Recruitment compensation also takes the form of more of this cryptocurrency that's essentially worthless to the world at large; these companies routinely deny access to the coin's blockchain, ensuring that the only way to gain these coins is by purchasing – or being rewarded with – pre-mined currency.

The Old Pump & Dump

With the overhead of creating a new blockchain and mining that chain for digital currency being relatively low, the opportunity for profiting by selling these pre-mined altcoins is high – especially if you're the only source.

As long as you provide just enough to your customers to think they're getting something valuable, they'll continue to purchase your coins using currency with real value – currency you get to keep and spend.

Of course, the more popular a new proprietary altcoin gets, the higher its price can be set – making the system ripe for a classic “pump and dump” scheme.

This increases profitability for the scheme's masterminds even more, especially as once the price has been “pumped” up to a certain high value, they can flood the market with the rest of their pre-mined coins, “dumping” their inventory and sending the price into a tailspin.

The end result is the company that created the altcoin generates a large amount of revenue in funds that are actually valuable, whether it be cryptocurrency or fiat money. Those holding large quantities of the altcoin, however, having bought in at the peak, now has a pile of worthless digital coins.

Hard Work & Perseverance

The reason there are so many scams and schemes out there that focus on getting someone else to do the work for you is that making money from cryptocurrency is difficult and time-consuming.

The world of cryptocurrency is afire with companies looking to dupe unwitting and uneducated marks into believing otherwise, but the truth is is that there's no quick solution.

You can't just give someone else money and expect them to grow it for you into millions worth of cryptocoins overnight; neither can you make your fortune through recruiting affiliates into a program that makes impossible promises or collapses once recruitment stalls.

If you're looking to make a legitimate income in the world of digital currencies, you're going to need the proper education and training provided from a legitimate source. Focus on finding educators with a proven, verifiable track record of successful digital currency trades that resulted in profits.

Study the market conditions and keep abreast of cryptocurrency news as they come across your feed.

Finally, don't ever invest anything in a crypto exchange that you're not prepared to lose. Digital currency valuations are extremely volatile and can fluctuate wildly week to week or even day to day.

Set your expectations for modest gains and be sure to cut your losses early and often – while you can take risks, be prepared for the bottom to drop out at any moment.

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