Peter McCormack: Hey Jamie, how are you doing?
Jamie Bartlett: Not bad, welcome!
Peter McCormack: Thank you for coming on the show. So over the last few days, I’ve done the whole of the Missing Cryptoqueen and found it fascinating. On my podcast I rarely step out of the area of Bitcoin, but there is certainly a Bitcoin story in this and it certainly feels attached to Bitcoin. So can you just tell me as a starting point, how you got into this, how you even came to the point where you’re going to make this?
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, well I wrote a book back in 2014 called “The Dark Net”, which had a lot about Bitcoin in it, because I was really interested in the Silk Road, the drug site of course, and how it all worked. That got me into Bitcoin, got me into crypto anarchism and I’ve just found the whole subculture amazing and crypto anarchism to me and the cypherpunks more generally, one of the very few original political ideas of the last 50 years, so I was immediately fascinated by all.
So then I just kept an interest in cryptocurrencies more generally, but not deeply like you, but just sort of find it so interesting to keep tabs on what’s going on. Then about a year ago, this BBC producer gets in touch with me and says, “I’ve just heard about this new cryptocurrency, well not new, but I’ve heard about it for the first time. It’s called OneCoin and I think it’s a massive scam.
The weird thing about it is that the founder has been missing for nearly two years.” I was like, “what, like Satoshi Nakamoto missing?” “No, no, totally different! A different missing founder, as in the authorities are looking for her as well.” I’m thinking this is a crazy story, isn’t it? So I start looking into it with her and we together come up with this… I mean she was the one that discovered it, if you’d like.
It was out there, but she discovered it and thought this is an amazing story, came to me as someone that’s writes about this and then we basically turned it into this eight-part podcast series. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever worked on by a country mile, I still can’t believe it’s not fictional!
Peter McCormack: Yeah, so an interesting thing about this is I do work in cryptocurrencies, I’ve been in the space since end of 2016 so coming to three years. I knew OneCoin was a scam, I’ve heard of it as a scam, but I’ve never really even looked at it, because it’s just like, “oh, that’s a scam, forget about it.” I did not realize the size of it!
Jamie Bartlett: Yes, so actually, we’re immediately into one of the most important points about this and which is where, I think, there is an overlap with Bitcoin actually. So for people who’d never heard of it, basically in 2014, this woman turns up, Ruja Ignatova, “I’ve got the next Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s old, it’s technical, it’s arrogant, I’ve got Bitcoin for the mass market” and then within three years, I mean at least €4 billion is invested into it. We’ll get into the details of how it worked, maybe, and then, late 2017 she disappears and hasn’t been seen since.
That’s basically the story and we try and find her and find out how the hell this all worked and how she pulled it off. The first question I had when I heard about it was, “oh there must be loads written about this, it must be all over the news.” Hardly a thing! I think it was because the crypto people, people like you… You call yourself a crypto person, wouldn’t you?
Peter McCormack: A Bitcoin person.
Jamie Bartlett: A Bitcoin person, it’s quite important difference yeah. But the people that are interested in either Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies, I think most of them, and I even spoke to Tone Vays about it briefly…
Peter McCormack: He just literally just texted me!
Jamie Bartlett: Oh, did he? He looked at this and said, “well that’s a ridiculous Ponzi scam. I don’t even need to mention it because crypto people will see through this in a heartbeat.”
Peter McCormack: Well there’s so many things between Bitcoin and that, like there’s other stuff which do have blockchains, which are also scams!
Jamie Bartlett: Yes! It’s so far away for the crypto world, that they’re like, “this is probably best described as a pyramid scam, that should be covered by the mainstream press, because it’s not even our thing really.” But the mainstream press who understands nothing of cryptocurrency really, saw it and thought, “oh that’s a crypto story. I guess CoinTelegraph or someone’s going to deal with that. It’s not really for us in the financial press, because it’s one of those niche stories about crypto scams and I don’t really understand it properly” and it kind of fell between the cracks.
So no-one really covered it, because you guys thought, “this is so ludicrous and stupid, it’s not worth my time” and the mainstream press can’t tell the difference between a legitimate cryptocurrency scam and a straightforward pyramid scheme scam. So they just clump them and put them all together and that’s why it’s so little reported on.
Peter McCormack: Well, there’s a scale. I have a scale because “scam’ is so used now, it’s kind of lost meaning and I think people need to really get a grip on this because there are people who believe that everything that isn’t Bitcoin, is a scam and I separate it. I say there’s Bitcoin, then there’s projects which are legitimately trying to do something, but will probably fail on a stupid idea. I put Ethereum into that basket because from everything that’s been explained to me by the technical people I know and trust, this thing won’t scale.
Jamie Bartlett: But they’re not setting out to scam people.
Peter McCormack: No and this is where it becomes interesting, so I’ll come back to this. There are then the scams of people who are just creating a cryptocurrency for the sake of it, to exit scam and then there’s stuff like OneCoin.
Where it becomes interesting is because, whilst I don’t believe Ethereum is a scam and I don’t believe they set out intentionally to create scam, I do believe there are people working on it, who must be having second thoughts, who are now thinking, “hold on, I’m not sure we can deliver this” or they’re not being objective enough, because it is very weird that everybody who’s in the Bitcoin world, who’s got no interest in Ethereum, fundamentally says, “this is stupid, this is dumb.”
Then all the people in Ethereum say, “no, this is fine.” So what I think is happening and the question I was therefore going to go for you next with is that, did they set out to create a scam in 2014? Was it, “here is our plan, we’re going to create this fake coin, sell packages and then we’re going to exit with it.” Or is it like, “oh fuck, Bitcoin is cool, let’s create a coin. We’ll start here” and then it just became a scam? That’s what I didn’t know.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, do you know what? Weirdly, that is actually a harder question to answer than I thought. But people have got to firstly understand that it’s set out… The best way of describing it, is a classic multilevel marketing product. It’s like Avon ladies and that’s the massive one? Herbalife!
So you recruit friends and you have to directly sell to them and then they recruit friends and you make a cut or a commission on what they sell and the pyramid gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Multilevel marketing is not illegal, but if there’s no real product to sell and all the money you’re making is through recruitment of other people to sell, then it’s called a pyramid scheme and then it is illegal.
Peter McCormack: Well that’s funny. I was in the car with my son, listening to you and everywhere we’re going for the last week, him and my daughter, have had to hear you! So my son was like, “what is this?” And I was trying to explain him the difference between multilevel marketing, pyramid and Ponzi, and the best place I could get to is that it’s probably okay in the world of MLM, if there’s a product you physically get.
You get a vitamin or something, whereas if it’s a financial product, it’s probably more in the world of Ponzi/pyramid. Is that a fair assumption?
Jamie Bartlett: That’s not bad. Yeah, I’d say that the illegal pyramid scams are all Ponzi schemes, because they often will pay out commissions based on new recruits coming in and paying in, which is what a Ponzi scheme is. But not all Ponzi schemes have a pyramid selling structure. Bernie Madoff was a Ponzi scheme, but it wasn’t sold through pyramid style marketing, that was just taking money from people and paying off early investors at insanely high rates. So, not all Ponzis are pyramids, but most pyramids are Ponzis, if that makes sense.
Peter McCormack: Yeah that does make sense.
Jamie Bartlett: So OneCoin is kind of all of them together, a fake cryptocurrency is the product that they are selling through a pyramid scheme. So they started off, it was always the plan that this would be sold through a pyramid selling structure, because the people involved in it are not crypto specialists, they are multilevel marketing specialists.
Peter McCormack: But do you believe they wanted to create a cryptocurrency?
Jamie Bartlett: Well my personal view is that originally they may have thought, “we’ll see if this works, we’ll pretend we have a blockchain and an amazing new cryptocurrency and if it gets big, maybe we can turn it into a real one.” So they started off without having a blockchain, without any currency and they were just using an SQL database to essentially tell people, “this is how much money is in your account” and “you’ve just bought a hundred coins” and “that’s the price of the coin, so that’s how much money you’ve got now in your account and one day, in six months”.
But then it was 12 months, but then it was 18 months, “you’ll be able to trade them on the markets like Poloniex or Kraken or wherever, one day and then you can get all of that dollar or euros back for your amazing coins because this is going to be huge!” I think what actually happened was that maybe they had an idea that “we’ll see if this works, we’ll see if it spreads and it’s kind of maybe a small scam, but is anyone really going to notice a few million here or there disappearing?
There’s loads of these ICOs going on all the time.” But because it was such an amazing product, like imagine how difficult it is to sell vitamins to your friends and family to get commissions? And there’s loads of programs about how hard multilevel marketing is and that people don’t ever make money because, or very few, maybe 3% or 5% make money at the top, because it’s very hard to recruit enough people to start selling. I remember my mum was an Avon lady for a while and the stress of getting your mates around and trying to sell them stuff, it’s really difficult!
But what if you could say to them, “I’m not going to sell you tupperware. I’m going to sell you the next Bitcoin that’s going to go up in value. So you’re basically changing pounds into another form of money that’s going to keep getting more valuable!” What an amazing product to sell through multilevel marketing. The genius of this was that Ruja Ignatova, who created this, along with another multilevel marketer called Sebastian Greenwood, thought, “well, what if we did multilevel marketing, but with a fake cryptocurrency, it’s going to spread” and it got so big so quickly!
One day it’s $10 million, a month later, it’s $100 million and they’re thinking, “oh my God, this is getting too big, we’re out of control” and too many people started investing, so they had maybe an idea to build a blockchain and try and put the old transactions or the old money that they’d been selling to people onto a blockchain. But it had gotten so big, so quickly and they didn’t really understand the technology behind it and then suddenly they couldn’t do that and they couldn’t create a real cryptocurrency at all. So they just had to kept selling these Ponzi points, that you’d be sort of pushing around the system.
Peter McCormack: So they never actually created the blockchain?
Jamie Bartlett: No and they tried to, I think they did try to. But to the best of my knowledge, they never did. Imagine you had, I don’t know, 10,000 people who’d suddenly bought your fake currency that was still on an Excel file basically, “you have 10, I have a 100, my neighbour’s got 50” or whatever, and suddenly it’s got 100,000 people and 100,000 entries and you’ve got to somehow build a blockchain that would then put all of those in very quickly, So you could carry on, on the blockchain.
Peter McCormack: No you could do that.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, but it would take a very long time and it would be quite difficult, as it was growing so quickly.
Peter McCormack: Well it’s just like a pre-sale. So a lot of the ICOs and what Ethereum did, is they did a pre-sale, where you would invest and you’d get the tokens on launch, so it is doable. I don’t think it’s technically not doable, I’m just wondering…
Jamie Bartlett: My theory is that it just got too big, too fast before they could do anything like that.
Peter McCormack: It’s still going now though, right?
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, but people have got to understand just how big this got and this is where I think some of the crypto people bear some responsibility for it, because obviously Ruja Ignatova and the OneCoin leaders were using all the hype of cryptocurrency, all the talk about it, financial revolution, banking the unbanked and they actually would often say “Bitcoin, they’re arrogant.” I can see your smiling, but “it’s not for ordinary people and they’re dismissive of ordinary people who don’t get it” and “I’m going to build a new one and it’s going to be for the masses.”
So they used all the language of it and they do these massive conferences and you wouldn’t find one crypto specialist there. They’d all be multilevel marketers and direct marketers, but who believe they were part of this brand new financial revolution. So they would be talking about Bitcoin prices and Ethereum prices and OneCoin prices, as if they’re all part of the same family.
And because it went through the multilevel marketing system, within months, it had reached 175 countries. It just grew at this incredible rate! But I don’t think the crypto world was fast enough at really aggressively calling it out, because they just thought it was another scam, not realizing… They thought, maybe you thought, maybe people like you thought, “this is so obviously a scam, no-one’s going to fall for it.”
Peter McCormack: Well, I thought it was already dead by the time I’d heard about it. So I remember the last time before I listened to your podcast, that I’d heard about it, was when I heard about the notice that was up on the government website.
Jamie Bartlett: The FCA, the Financial Conduct Authority?
Peter McCormack: Yeah.
Jamie Bartlett: 2016 they put it up and they took it down again in 2017!
Peter McCormack: So I’ve read about that maybe in 2017. I just assumed it was dead, only until I heard your thing. Then I wonder, has it a life of its own that they can’t even stop?
Jamie Bartlett: Yes and that’s I think what also happened, because the end of the day, if you think about the classic pyramid selling structure, you will have little nodes in the pyramid and you’ve taken a look at some of the products they offer, they’re insane products and the returns they are promising people are crazy! The ultimate package and it’s €118,000 and for that you’ll get millions of tokens that will mine your coins and you’ll get 2 million coins that are all each worth $30 or whatever. It doesn’t make sense!
But the people who are still running, who are quite high up in the pyramid, not the very top, they all have these weird names like “Diamond” and “Crown Diamond” and “Ruby” and “Emerald”, that’s how the system works and you’ve got to reach certain level… This is alien language for a crypto person, but in the multilevel marketing world, this is all very familiar, because if you worked for Herbalife, you’d know you have all these different levels of the pyramid and if you get $800,000 worth of sales beneath you, you become a diamond and you become all these things.
Peter McCormack: Like Scientology has.
Jamie Bartlett: Well yeah, levels! So you are always striving to reach the next level and to get to the next level in the pyramid, you’ve got to amass more sales, which means you’ve got to keep recruiting. So there’s people in the pyramid, the heads cut off, the founder disappears, the brother is arrested, who runs it after Ruja disappears until March 2019 when he’s arrested, but in the pyramid it can keep going, because you could keep selling more packages to people below you and keep pulling in the commission, as you get 10% commission on the sales you make.
Peter McCormack: But where’s the money centrally going to?
Jamie Bartlett: There’s the head office still in Sofia Bulgaria, which is still open.
Peter McCormack: That’s unbelievable!
Jamie Bartlett: Who’s going to shut it down?
Peter McCormack: Well you would’ve thought the Bulgarian authority?
Jamie Bartlett: Why? They’re not selling in Bulgaria and they’re making those of money and they’re paying taxes in Bulgaria and they have a huge office and they employ loads of people and they don’t really recruit in Bulgaria, which I think is quite intentional. There’s other rumors that swirl around about connections with the Bulgarian authorities, that I can’t really go into because I still haven’t figured out myself, but they keep running.
So you’ve got people in a village in Uganda, who I went to see, who were still buying packages and saying, “yeah, but the office is open still.” The people above them, they’re still making money because they’re recruiting people into the pyramid and they’re making a 10% commission that’s still being paid out through the head office.
But sometimes, it’s even darker in Uganda. So I heard stories that people are, let’s say I’ve got 100 OneCoin in my account and the “market price” is roughly $30 and the market price is set by the head office, but they claim it’s based on a really complicated algorithm that no one understands. I could transfer you my 100 coins through the internal system and people are turning up with bundles of cash in Uganda and giving the cash, so I can send you my 100 OneCoin and they’re paying the market rate for it. So it can run even without the head office.
Peter McCormack: A black market!
Jamie Bartlett: A weird black of sort of scammers scamming scammers and all sorts of weird things going on, because that’s the thing about these pyramid systems that people maybe don’t always understand, is it does take on a life of its own and it just explodes. There’s a weird incentive for people in it, even when they kind of know it’s a scam, to keep recruiting because they can still make money.
Peter McCormack: So with a show like this, I’m always thinking what’s the connection to Bitcoin and how can I help listeners. It is a Bitcoin only show, but I don’t mind touching other things, if there’s a relevant story.
One issue, I always take with certain people who are Bitcoiners and I get a lot of flack for, but I stand by, is that I think there’s a massive disconnection between somebody who’s into Bitcoin, who understands what a blockchain is, understands how it works, understands how consensus works, understand what censorship resistance is, and somebody who’s been told, “here’s another cryptocurrency, it’s better than Bitcoin, you should buy because of this.”
I think there’s a gulf in understanding between these people and why they get sucked into this and therefore for me it’s important. This is why it’s important to educate people about Bitcoin and how you approach it, because most people aren’t going to get into all the technical side of things and this is where I think it’s useful.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, there’s an American guy who was basically more or less two years of trying, who’s really into Bitcoin, called Timothy Curry.
Peter McCormack: I just wrote his name down, he was great!
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, he’s a Bitcoin fan, loves Bitcoin and what he saw with OneCoin, is that they were using the same language as Bitcoin and saying to people, in effect, “you’ve missed out on Bitcoin, but you haven’t missed out to be part of this revolution. So maybe the price of Bitcoin is beyond you, but you’ve got to get in now” and in the recruitment for the OneCoin videos and stuff, they’d always tell the story of the Bitcoin pizza guy, with Laszlo and the 10,000 Bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: The $100-million-dollar pizza!
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah exactly and lots of other stories of people who’d forgotten that they bought 2 Bitcoin in 2012 and then they suddenly realized they could buy a flat and all that stuff. He could see that what this was doing, because this reached millions of people this OneCoin.
They had three and a half million members and I reckon over a million investors and you could see that what this would do in the end, would be to either undermine people’s confidence in the whole idea of Bitcoin, because it’s just, “oh it’s another scam” and force regulators to clamp down even harder on “legitimate cryptocurrencies”, because they’d see how many people had lost the money.
So from a Bitcoiners perspective, he was trying to warn people about OneCoin, because you could see the damage that it would do to Bitcoin. That was his kind of thinking. He was accused of being a hater and a Bitcoiner who’s scared of OneCoin, “you’re scared of OneCoin because you know OneCoin is going to destroy Bitcoin. That’s why you’re trying to undermine it!”
So that was how the people tried to attack him. But there was just all these people out here, that had read about Bitcoin for the first time in the newspapers and all they’d heard was that it’s this amazing new thing that’s going to keep going up in value and you’re going to make loads of money.
Peter McCormack: It doesn’t make any sense when you first hear about it.
Jamie Bartlett: Bitcoin? For most people it doesn’t.
Peter McCormack: They’re like, “oh, it’s this magical money on the internet.” I was like, “well, who invented it?” “Well, no one really knows, but they have value you can transfer it to each other.” Look, you’re going to get the odd libertarian and Erik Voorhees is just going to click, he’s going to get this. For most people it’s like, “yeah, but my money comes from the bank and the government are responsible for it.” They just don’t get it.
Jamie Bartlett: No, and it’s a perfect opening then for a scammer to come in and say, “well, you don’t understand Bitcoin, Bitcoin’s really complicated. Our stuff’s really complicated too, but don’t worry too much about all the details of it. Here’s a package and it’s really simple. This is so easy, you don’t need to understand about that. Pay some money into this account and you’ll get some OneCoin into your account. Job done!”
I could almost cry when I think about the people, the Ugandans especially, because I spent a lot of time there, who put their money into OneCoin and if it was as easy to put your money into Bitcoin, they would have put all their money into Bitcoin and they would have made quite a lot of money from it! It’s like, “oh my God!” People were putting thousands and thousands of pounds into OneCoin in 2015, rather than Bitcoin because they thought “we’ve missed the Bitcoin boat” and stuff.
Peter McCormack: Well if you think about it… Have you ever bought Bitcoin? You know how it works, right?
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah.
Peter McCormack: So with OneCoin, I log into a website like I log into Facebook or Twitter and there’s my OneCoin. But with Bitcoin, you have to buy on exchange, you have to then transfer it to a wallet. A wallet can be a piece of paper, it can be a hardware wallet, it can be a software wallet, you’ve got to be careful which ones you have, you’ve got to protect your private keys. It’s a lot more work!
Jamie Bartlett: It is, and I think a lot of people who didn’t understand the tech, really felt OneCoin was easy and Ruja, the founder of OneCoin, was playing on the fact that Bitcoin was complicated, it was difficult and “the way that the Bitcoiners speak, you won’t understand it, but this is for the mass market, this is for the decent ordinary people.” She really played on that side of Bitcoin being complicated for the ordinary person, to get people to invest.
Yeah, there’s obviously a lot of things that are frustrating about it, but one of the weird ones is Satoshi, him or her or themselves, disappearing, because Ruja disappears on 25th October 2017. She takes a flight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Athens and no-one’s seen her since. Every time I would say to OneCoiners, and I’m still arguing with them today because they still believe, and maybe we’ll get onto the face that you cannot break their belief, because it’s more than just a coin, a bit like Bitcoin, it’s more than a currency, it’s a philosophy now for these people. I say “yes, but the founder has vanished.
There’s a US indictment against her” and they’d say, “yeah, but where’s Satoshi Nakamoto then?” I’m like, “well it’s different!” They’re like, “why is it different? They’re both vanished.” It’s like, “okay, but you know she’s wanted by the authorities?” They’re like, “what, you don’t think Satoshi would be wanted by the authorities too, they’d like to find him as well, wouldn’t they?” And I’m like, “well yeah, I suppose maybe, but the US authorities…” “But the US authorities, they’re in cahoots with the banks!”
Peter McCormack: Well without understanding the nuances, you can see how they are coming to these conclusions.
Jamie Bartlett: But that’s the thing, that it’s not ridiculous some of the things they say. It’s like, “yeah, but don’t you think that the FBI is trying to protect the banking system in the US and that’s why they’re scared of Bitcoin and OneCoin?” I’m like, “yes, I get what you’re saying, but there is a big difference between OneCoin and Bitcoin.” “Well, go on then, tell me, explain it to me?”
Peter McCormack: But it comes down to the blockchain.
Jamie Bartlett: Well yeah!
Peter McCormack: The blockchain exists and we can send to each other. I can send you some Bitcoin right now on your phone and no-one could stop it. That to me is the primary fundamental difference. That to me, is the point you can attack and say, “here you go.”
Jamie Bartlett: Yes and I agree. You can’t buy and sell OneCoin on a public exchange, which means the price is meaningless because there are currently 73 billion OneCoin that have been mined with a “price of $29.95”. They say that the exchange is going to open soon and then you’ll be able to sell them and I’m like, “who’s going to buy these coins at $29.95, that’s not how a market works!”
Peter McCormack: If they do it, there will be a market though. That would be the really interesting thing.
Jamie Bartlett: Price would plummet immediately!
Peter McCormack: But it will find a bottom, that would be the interesting thing.
Jamie Bartlett: But the thing about OneCoin and why it’s spread is because there was enough bits of truth that you can cling onto, even the extent to which you can send me a Bitcoin now on my phone, well I can send you a OneCoin via the website. You’ve got a OneCoin thing, I’ve got a OneCoin account, I can send it to you. So they’ll say, “so what’s the difference? You send a Bitcoin, I send a OneCoin.”
That’s the frustrating thing about a lot of these scams, in that you can take all the language and you can take certain bits of it and run it and for an ordinary person, it’s really difficult. I tried to explain blockchain to my mum on the show and she didn’t understand what the hell I was talking about. She wouldn’t know the difference between OneCoin and Bitcoin and I’d probably have to work quite hard to work out a way of explaining it, so she intuitively gets why they’re totally different. It wouldn’t be easy!
Peter McCormack: It’s definitely not easy. Again, I go back and this is the point I’m often trying to get with Bitcoiners. I try and take this approach whereby… So I used to be a UX designer and web designer, but I started out as a UX designer. There’s this book by a guy called Steve Krug called “don’t make me think” and the idea being, as a UX designer, whenever you use a product, every time you have to think about a decision to make, you should write that down and then you can actually design a better product.
Is it intuitive with my Apple phone, before to swipe up, you know all these different things are intuitive. I try with Bitcoin, I purposely don’t go too technical. I purposely don’t learn about how the protocol works because I always want to stay as close to the beginners as possible, so I can understand their experience.
There’s enough technical people out there, there’s so many of them, but I try to stay as far away as possible and that’s where I can then empathize with something like OneCoin and why people buy it. I can empathize why when somebody first hears about Bitcoin and why they buy Ethereum or why they buy fucking Dentacoin and why they buy Dash, because they can’t tell the difference when they first come in and even when they come in, for a lot of people it can be confusing.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah very, very confusing. I think as the Bitcoin community talks about how we’re going mainstream, we’re going to get bigger, we want to make sure this becomes a really big thing for people, I think there is a responsibility on them to understand the level of knowledge most people have and that OneCoin is the kind of thing that will happen if you just sort of ignore the mass market and the sort of the level of knowledge that most people have.
The fear of missing out on the next big thing, I kind of don’t think I really understood how powerful that is until I looked into OneCoin and the kind of fervour, the thrill, the excitement, and I’d even speak to a lot of people, who’ve still got money now in it, who still think it’s going to happen and they’d say things like, “well, loads of cryptocurrencies fail and some of them come off. This is just a bet, I’ve made a bet. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t work.” It’s like, “with Bitcoin it actually might make you money, with OneCoin, I promise you it won’t make you a penny.” I know that it won’t!
Peter McCormack: And it’s heartbreaking to hear.
Jamie Bartlett: It’s really, really hard to hear!
Peter McCormack: So Tim Curry, when he first spoke, I actually thought he was somebody else. I won’t say who, but I thought it was another person in the crypto community, because he talked just like them and the way he was talking to the Scottish lady, Jen McAdam, the way he was talking to her, like “it was a fucking scam”, he was just point blank with her, I was like, “that’s definitely Bitcoiner language.” He gets it, but he couldn’t convince her. Actually an interesting question, why was that even recorded? I thought that was quite interesting that that was recorded.
Jamie Bartlett: It’s very interesting. Well the first thing is that they showed… This is what is also interesting about pyramid schemes, Jen McAdam, the Scottish investor who is kind of the key victims in our story, was also a recruiter, because once you get into the network, you’re incentivized to recruit other people. So the reason he’s so angry is not saying, “oh you poor victim, you’ve invested in OneCoin.” It’s like “you’re still fucking recruiting people to join OneCoin, so you are a scammer!”
So he was angry with her, because she is still recruiting and it took her three months of reading through material that he’d sent her, before she started to come to the realization that OneCoin was not the next Bitcoin. The reason it’s recorded, I think this is quite an interesting reflection on media more generally, more and more people do Zoom chats and Skype chats and they just record everything, they just record it.
It’s amazing as a podcast person, because we were interviewing Jen and she says, “yeah, I do have footage of me and Tim arguing, when I was a believer and he was trying to talk me out of it from two years ago.” Me and the producer were like, “what?!” She was like, “yeah, I’ve got the footage” and I said, “can we please have that?” Because that is incredible! Then we got her to listen back to herself, defending the coin that she now hates and tries to call out.
It’s so weird, she sounds like a different person and she’s almost in tears listening to it, like, “I can’t believe that was me, but I was so brainwashed.” It’s talked about in cult-like language. “I was so blinkered. I’d been told that this Bitcoin person was a hater, that he was scared of OneCoin.
I thought he was mentally unwell. I thought he was just so scared of us and our amazing revolution.” It was interesting though, because we spoke to a lot of people, who have this weird footage of recorded conversations that they have, that you can use to really understand the psychology of why people invest in stuff.
Peter McCormack: That was a very gripping part, because I think it plays out twice or three times and that part I was like, “wow, you’ve got that” because it was an amazing interaction. I could totally picture each of them, why they’re saying what they’re saying…
Jamie Bartlett: You can play it on this if you want, feel free to use it.
Tim Curry: Let me explain. Can you see my video? Can you see my face?
Jen McAdam: Yes.
Tim Curry: Okay, good. When you and I got into cryptocurrency, we had a very similar experience and that experience was that cryptocurrency can bank the unbanked. It can provide banking for 2.5 billion people on this earth that do not have the means to be banked. Cryptocurrency can do that, I promise you this much, because all you need is a cell phone, that’s it. Now, OneCoin is a company that prints its own money. There’s no government in the world that is going to allow ever, a company to print their own money.
OneCoin is not licensed anywhere in the entire world as a money services business. In order to print money, you have to be a money services business, you have to have what’s called an MTL, which is a Money Transmitters License, and the reason that cryptocurrency in general can accomplish that, is because it’s decentralized. It’s not a company, there is no CEO, there are no employees of any cryptocurrency in the world, other than OneCoin.
Jen McAdam: I just want to add to that. So you’re saying, “de-centralized”, I get that. Guess what? That’s why I didn’t invest the money in Bitcoin, I didn’t like the idea of that at all, because… No, let me finish!
Tim Curry: I’m going to listen to you, I promise. Thank you for giving me the opportunity for us to have a face to face. I will listen to whatever you say.
Jen McAdam: I chose not to go with a decentralized Bitcoin. I didn’t want to do that because I’ve read so many stories, how it can be hacked, how it has been hacked…
Tim Curry: It’s never been hacked, that’s a lie. I can prove it to you.
Jen McAdam: It’s all over the internet, but that’s a lie?
Tim Curry: No, let’s think about it. Bitcoin has never been hacked, period. What has been hacked, is there’s been bank robberies, which means that exchanges have been hacked. Okay, so exchanges are virtual banks that hold digital currency. Those virtual banks that have been hacked, such as Mt. Gox, such as Bitfinex and things like this, did not have the proper security measures to hold private keys. OneCoin does not even allow you to hold your private key. Bitcoin as a protocol, has never been hacked.
It uses something called sha256, which is an algorithm that has never ever been hacked. I’m looking for a paper wallet, in Bitcoin, there is a 35 hexadecimal character for your public key and there’s a 64 hexadecimal character for your private key. Your private key is made up of both numbers and letters, from A to Z, lowercase and uppercase, plus the numbers 1 through 10 and 64 measures long.
A private key is more unique than a single grain of sand in this entire earth, if that grain of sand, in this entire earth was 7 whole worlds and each of those worlds was a grain of sand. It is an astronomical number and it is debatable whether even quantum computing could hack a sha256 algorithm. Bitcoin has never ever been hacked. Exchanges have been hacked.
Jen McAdam: That’s not what my research told me on the internet and believe you me, I’d have figured this, as probably you have, as you said…
Tim Curry: But look look look, I will send you $100 in Bitcoin, I swear to God. I’ll send you $100 in Bitcoin, I swear to God!
Jen McAdam: I chose to go with a centralized cryptocurrency and whether you don’t believe that or not, I chose to go with that, because I felt secure where my money was going.
Tim Curry: You’re foolish, I’m sorry. Do you know that Ruja Ignatova is a convicted criminal?
Jen McAdam: Do you realize the messages that you have sent me, have been abusive, harassing?
Tim Curry: I’m trying to help you.
Jen McAdam: You’re not helping me whatsoever, you’re upsetting me. I’m a single parent of a son of 28, I have two…
Tim Curry: And you’ve invested $10,000 in this and you’re going to lose it.
Jen McAdam: I’m happy with that, I made a decision. If I put my money into shares, any investment, if I chose to buy gold, that…
Tim Curry: You have no chance in winning, this is a scam. Do you understand what I’m saying? You have no chance.
Jen McAdam: I do not believe that it is, 100% in my heart, I do not believe it is a scam.
Tim Curry: I understand that, that’s why we’re talking.
Jen McAdam: And you have to understand that, that this is my choice. You’re becoming abusive and harassing and all the things that you’ve written to me.
Tim Curry: If I see a woman getting her purse robbed on the side of the street, I’m going to tackle the guy that’s robbing her purse.
Jen McAdam: I’ve got a kid in heart, I care for everybody, not just my family…
Tim Curry: You’ve been deceived by professional criminals, by professional con artists, you’ve been deceived!
Jen McAdam: You don’t know that! What you have to understand Tim is you have your opinion and I have mine.
Tim Curry: It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact, I can prove it!
Jen McAdam: See when you say it’s a fact, see when I read your Bitcoin file last night that you sent me, and you made a fact and gave a specific number of suicides that’s going to happen…
Tim Curry: There’s going to be over a dozen suicides that happen over this. I promise you, I swear to God, I’ll bet $1,000 on it.
Jen McAdam: That is absolutely shocking that you can do that.
Tim Curry: This is the biggest scam in the world right now, do you understand?
Jen McAdam: Anything that you have to say that discredits it, that was that for me. I couldn’t read anymore.
Tim Curry: They’re facts! Was Ruja Ignatova convicted on 24 counts of fraud or was she not? Let’s start there.
Jen McAdam: I haven’t read that. What I can tell you is, everybody in life has had things like that…
Tim Curry: Do you know how many scams she’s been involved in? Have you ever heard of Bigcoin? She was the treasurer for Bigcoin, which defrauded investors $50 million! This is way bigger than that. This is $1 billion!
Jen McAdam: What about all of the rest of the entrepreneurs who have tried something in life and it hasn’t worked? What, are you going to know them for that?
Tim Curry: Listen, she’s a fucking scammer, she’s a fraud. She was not “Business woman of the year” for two years in Bulgaria, the title doesn’t exist. She hired a PR company led by a person by the name, of [Inaudible 46:34], who specializes in… Listen, I’m telling you the truth, you can find…
Jen McAdam: I have read this. What I’m going to say to you right now is…
Tim Curry: Do you know that the Financial IT magazine does not have her issue on there anymore? Do you know that?
Jen McAdam: I do know that, but Dr Ruja…
Tim Curry: She’s not a doctor, she does not have a PhD! It’s a fucking lie. They claim that she has a PhD from Oxford in law. Oxford does not offer a PhD class, there is no PhDs that come out of Oxford! Look it up!
Jen McAdam: I looked it up. It seems that your Bitcoin file, what I read… Where’s your proof in the pudding so to speak, because there were a few links on that, that you highlighted in blue and I clicked it and it didn’t go anywhere.
Tim Curry: Wait, wait, wait, wait. I’m sorry. I didn’t understand what you said, please repeat that.
Jen McAdam: The Bitcoin file that you sent me to read and you’re saying this and that and click here. I clicked there, and it didn’t take me anywhere. For proof! So to me, that told me, where’s this link, why is it not taking me to where he said this information is, which is discrediting OneCoin, he’s discrediting Dr Ruja and he’s saying that this is information and yet when I click on it, numerous times…
Tim Curry: You’re looking at me in the eye, we are having a conversation right now. Tell me what you need and I promise that anything that I have claimed, I can back up with facts. Listen, the article that I wrote for bitcoin.com was the first article I’ve ever published in my entire life. I’m not a blogger, I don’t get paid to write shit.
Jen McAdam: What do you do this for? Why do you do this? Because you say you’re going to protect people, but you’re actually…
Tim Curry: No, no, no, that’s the number three. There’s three reasons that I’m doing this. The third reason is to protect people. I’m not entirely altruistic. The first reason is because this shit is going to make a bad impression on all of cryptocurrency, regulators are going to say, “Oh OneCoin was a billion dollar scam. OneCoin was similar to Bitcoin. OneCoin is not a cryptocurrency, there is no blockchain” and I can prove it to you.
Jen McAdam: Yes it’s a blockchain Tim.
Tim Curry: How? I can prove it to you that there’s not!
Jen McAdam: All right, well then prove it to me!
Tim Curry: Okay, I’ll do it right now, are you ready?
Jen McAdam: I’ve got to go, but I’ll see it when I come back from my baby shower because you know what? Yeah, you prove it to me, because every link that I press on that file that you sent me…
Tim Curry: I’ll fucking prove it! Listen, I’m telling you, prove anything I’ve said ever, anything, prove any of it wrong and I give you $100. I swear to God!
Jen McAdam: You need to stop harassing people and you need to stop upsetting people because that’s…
Tim Curry: I’m not going to do that because you people, are scamming people out of money and this company is going to collapse.
Jen McAdam: You are so obnoxious. I have never met anybody…
Tim Curry: I don’t give a shit. This is a fucking scam!
Jen McAdam: I think the way that you are speaking is disgusting and people are meant to take you seriously? Oh, come on!
Tim Curry: Look, guess what? We’ll both know the truth, very soon!
Peter McCormack: I actually found her story heartbreaking. There are two really heartbreaking moments, that and what happened to the Ugandans. Hers in some ways is more heartbreaking because the Ugandans, it’s almost like they’re used to being scammed, they’re all like giggling about it!
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, that was so weird with the Ugandans, like that feeling that like, “ah, another scam. It’s another multilevel marketing promise that didn’t come off!” Sort of like “God’s will.” I was so surprised that the Ugandan people weren’t as annoyed as Jen McAdam, that they weren’t as upset or as annoyed and scared and embarrassed.
Peter McCormack: Well that’s the difference. I think with her, there’s the social aspect to her friendship groups and her family, that she’d brought them into this, like how fucking embarrassing.
Jamie Bartlett: You know what’s weird though? I found that to be a real revelation about these pyramids schemes. People are so embarrassed to talk about it because they have recruited other people into these scams and they have made even money from recruiting them in and then their friends and family have lost their money. It destroys relationships! But at the same time, I’ve given the odd bit of crypto and people come to me and say, “I’ve seen about cryptocurrency, I read your book and saw about Bitcoin and I bought it.
But it’s gone down in value loads.” I’m like, “shit! I didn’t tell you or advise you to”, but it’s like you feel somehow responsible as well. To be honest, for ordinary people, whether you’ve invested in OneCoin or you put loads of money into a cryptocurrency that you thought was legit and then collapsed, it feels the same, doesn’t it? I mean, you’ve lost your money. What’s the difference?
Peter McCormack: Well, so interestingly, when I first got in, like late 2016 early 2017, the prices were going up and so I did a Facebook group for my friends just to talk to them so we could talk about it. I just started writing and then I was writing more and then writing blog posts before I did the podcast and in some ways I was actively promoting cryptocurrencies, not just Bitcoin, I believed in it all and I thought this was a technical revolution.
I’ve got no doubt some people will have invested because of my period in that time and maybe have lost money. I can’t undo that. I’ve deleted all the posts, I don’t talk about that and I’m very focused on Bitcoin now. If someone asked me whether they should buy now, I have a very different message, it’s like “look, you should look at it, be very careful, have a long-term timescale. This is what I do, but be very, very careful.” I’m reluctant to give any advice but I can see how people got sucked into it, because of the incentives!
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, exactly.
Peter McCormack: I felt sorry for her when she was crying.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, because the thing with her was that she invested her dad’s inheritance and it was almost… The weird thing about that program is that everyone was almost from central casting, like all the characters that we met were just these almost caricature old versions of people that you expect in a story like this. Jen’s dad was like a miner who’d saved up his whole life, working down the mines, she inherited after he died and after she’d looked after him, inherited his money and she put it all into OneCoin.
So it was even more than, “I’ve lost money”, It was like “my hardworking dad” and she kept coming back to this distinction, “my dad would spend his life and he wouldn’t waste one penny. If he was alive he’d say, “don’t even think about putting it into something like this. I worked 30 years to make that money.”” We’d shared stories because my dad’s the same. My dad cycles around car parks looking for buy one get one free parking tickets for McDonalds, do you know what I mean?
He doesn’t believe anything that sounds too good to be true, he’ll work hard to save his money and sort of the difference, the comparison between that mindset and “I’ve just blown it all on a cryptocurrency”, I think really eats her up inside and there’s something wider there. I said to her, “why did you think you could make 1,000%? What sort of society are we living in where that seems reasonable to you, that you’re obviously going to just keep making loads of money by doing nothing more than putting some money into your OneCoin account?”
There is something, and I say this at the end of the show, it’s like OneCoin is possible and people believed incredible returns on their investment because it was happening, as people were making millions investing in Bitcoin. So it doesn’t sound ludicrous, but to her dad, it would have sounded insane and he never would have put his money into it. So I think it was the fact that she felt greedy, she felt selfish, as well as being ashamed to have recruited other people in.
Peter McCormack: Do you know how she is now? Is she okay?
Jamie Bartlett: I speak to her all the time still. You know one of the weird things, I don’t say this in the podcast, but one of the weird things about it, is one of the joys about being involved in maybe all cryptocurrencies and probably especially Bitcoin, is feeling like you’re part of a community of people that are all in it together, you’ve got the shared language, you’ve got this vision, this ideal.
She is now part of an anti-OneCoin community, that gives her the same feeling, that she is part of a group, “we’re fighting against these scammers! She now believes in Bitcoin, she’s read up on it and she’s really into it, but she now has a mission and purpose in life, which is to… She’s made loads of amazing friends who’ve never met! Tim Curry and Jen McAdam, they’ve never met, but they’re like best friends!
I dream one day to be able to get them together and that’s the amazing thing about the internet, you create these communities online of people who you feel so close to and she spends all day in these OneCoin support groups, thousands of people in them and I sometimes wonder whether she wouldn’t change it. She’s found a purpose, a mission, she’s found friends, she’s helped loads of people, I never really asked her that, but I wonder whether fighting the scams has given her this whole new life.
Peter McCormack: So it’s very interesting because it makes me think of two things. Firstly actually, it makes me think of Brittany Kaiser, that we obviously talked about previously in that she’s gone from working from within Cambridge Analytica to fighting for privacy rights. So that makes me think of her and I think you can go through something and it makes you… It’s like the poacher turned gamekeeper kind of situation.
Jamie Bartlett: It’s addictive! It becomes addictive, like fighting OneCoin becomes an addiction.
Peter McCormack: But it also makes me think of somebody else, it makes me think of Lynn Ulbricht and I’ll tell you why. She would change the past if she could, but on the back of campaigning for Ross and trying to have Ross released, she has a bigger mission now. She’s actually looking much more broadly at the US prison system, that there are nonviolent prisoners who are serving long sentences, like people in for selling marijuana who are on 25 year sentences.
She is now fighting to try and change the injustices in the US correctional system. Now if you turn around to Lynn and said to her, “would you change it?” Yes she would of course, because she wants her son out of prison. But if you turned around to her and said, “if Ross is released, would you stop this?” I don’t think she would, because she has found a mission because of this.
Jamie Bartlett: I’m sure that’s right, I can well imagine it! Sometimes I even think that they wouldn’t want, in a weird way, they wouldn’t want Ruja to be found because that keeps your purpose, “she’s still out there, we need to find her.” I don’t know how to put it, but there is a bigger purpose here. The sad news of course is that OneCoin dies and another very similar multilevel marketing fake cryptocurrency scam emerges.
There’s lots of them out there, which I probably can’t name for legal reasons, but they’re never going to be short of mission and purpose, the people that now fight OneCoin. One of the really interesting things though, probably so strange, one of the best interviews I did for that, was with a woman who knew nothing about OneCoin called Eileen Barker, who was originally at London School of Economics.
Peter McCormack: Was this the psychologist?
Jamie Bartlett: Yes, who specialized in cults!
Peter McCormack: I always tend to focus on things and this to me was the most important part of the whole eight part and the reason this interview is most relevant to this interview we’re doing is because the cults exist in cryptocurrency. You’ve got the Ripple cult, you’ve got the Ethereum cult and what tends to happen is you can see the way they work, because they hold and we call them “bag holders,” they hold a bag. But I think to be fair, you have to say it exists with Bitcoin as well.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, the weird thing with her interview, and again I’m sort of taking my lead from you in terms of how relevant it is to the wider community because I don’t know that anywhere near as well…
Peter McCormack: Well the reason it’s relevant is because of objectivity. So I think sometimes Bitcoiners… Like I piss a lot of them off because I say things that annoy them and sometimes I get things wrong, I say stupid things, but sometimes I believe I’m right and I think because this cult-like behavior exists, they lose objectivity.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, it’s weird and you can only see it when you leave, that’s what a lot of cult members say. So Eileen Barker, I think her PhD was studying the Moonies or Scientologists or one of those sorts of groups. She took a little look at OneCoin for us, but she just delivered all these amazing insights that were better than anyone that understood OneCoin fully. We’d say, “but what about the fact that Dr. Ruja has disappeared? Surely that means the believers will stop believing?” She was like, “no, the opposite.
She’s taken a sacrifice, she’s had to go into hiding for you and because she has your money, she’s looking after your best interests.” Then I’d interview people who still believed in OneCoin and they’re parroting the same lines, “she’s gone into a safer zone for the revolution!”
She knew that through studying millenarian cults and stuff like that and it was so interesting to see her insights, which had nothing to do with cryptocurrencies really, but the way that people who invest heavily in something put all their money and their hopes into, it’s very hard for them to leave because they have to accept that all that was a waste, that they’d been duped, that they’d been tricked and they tricked other people and psychologically we don’t really want to ever do that.
So you just double down on your belief, harder and harder and harder and get deeper and deeper and deeper and then you come to believe that people that are being legitimate critics, hate you and want to destroy you and do you down. For OneCoin, they had these little WhatsApp groups and they would say, “don’t listen to Bitcoiners, don’t listen to Google, they’re all haters, they don’t want us to succeed and if we stick together, we’ll overcome this.”
You see that everywhere, in every political movement, you see parts of this. One of the things she said that was interesting that we didn’t include, was that anti-cult groups can sometimes take on a cult like behavior as well. They become obsessed with taking the cult down and they exhibit the same closed mind certainties, as the people that they’re bringing down as well.
I’m not accusing the OneCoin critics of that by the way, but it’s true that the OneCoin critics have become very obsessed about taking it down and they’re so into it and I think that’s perfectly legitimate on their behalf. But you do sometimes see as well the critics of certain movements take on the same weird behaviors as the people that criticize them, because they create a small group, who share the same language and all the rest of it. It’s quite exciting to be part of that!
Peter McCormack: What I think the biggest lie told in cryptocurrency is people not accepting that the majority of people are in this for a financial return. Not everyone and people have different… It’s a bit like our other interview, which I’ll link people to about Silicon Valley is that all the Silicon Valley companies tell of the social impact, but really it’s about making money. “Facebook’s about connecting us”, no, it’s about making billions in advertising. This is similar.
So whether or not you’re talking about separating money and state, or whether it’s Ethereum and people talking about democratizing finance and decentralized finance, in the end they still care because they own some of it and they are looking for a financial return. Now I must be very specific and say that that’s not everyone, but the majority of people are, and this is where they come to repeat things because I’ve seen it with myself.
As you know, I’m being sued by Craig Wright, they repeat his messages, they call me “McDruggie” or “McClown” because he calls me those names, because I have a history of being a drug addict. Five years clean, doesn’t matter, you’re a druggie or they talk about failed marriage or they talk about me losing all my money for my children and the other one they say it’s that I’m only doing this because I hate him.
No, the truth is, the reason I challenged him is because I believe he’s a liar and that needs saying, but they just repeat and repeat these messages and it doesn’t matter how many times you defend them, even if you produce factual evidence that they’re wrong, they don’t care.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah and again, that’s one of those things that is much wider than any cryptocurrencies. It’s just about how groups of people that are invested, that spend a lot of time together, come to naturally create this bubble around themselves and especially when you put your money and your time in and you’ve done it to your friends, you almost can’t admit to yourself where you are, it’s too difficult. I felt that when I was speaking to people and interviewing people that are still recruiting and promoting it.
Peter McCormack: I can’t believe that! The guy you had the call with, was that in the final episode? That was a weird call!
Jamie Bartlett: It was in the penultimate episode and he said, “you’re the one that’s going to be in trouble Jamie, when we go to Ofcom. Did you not ever think, why has the FCA not shutdown OneCoin yet?” Which is part of the problem when the authorities do nothing, scammers use that as proof that everything’s okay.
But this question of almost using the cover of being part of a financial revolution to excuse more base moneymaking efforts, which it partly is, some of it’s about the revolution, some of it’s about making money and when you put the two things together, it’s kind of mixed in and you can’t tell one from the other and some people are in it for one, but use the language of the other.
Some people are very honest, “I’m in it for the cash” and some people are in for the cash, but say “no, no, no, this is all about the financial revenue” and some people are just in it for the financial revolution and have accidentally made a bomb!
Peter McCormack: Yeah like the original cypherpunks.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, they don’t care about the money! So OneCoin kind of did the same, because they would say, “we’re not selling you coins, we are selling you educational packages because this is about financial revolution and with our education packages, you will get some free coins that will always go up in value and that you’ll be able to sell one day.” But that was not really what it was about, it was about the education and the financial revolution.
So in the public presentations they did, they’d always talk about education, but then in the private seminars they’d be much more likely to say, “oh, it’s going to keep going up in value, you’re going to make loads of money” and no-one really cared about the financial revolution. So even down to that bit, OneCoin mirrors the experience of some of the Bitcoin investors.
Peter McCormack: Do you believe you ever got close to her or even in the same room as her?
Jamie Bartlett: Spoiler alert here, but in episode seven, we make a prediction of where we think she is and it’s very hard to find someone that’s been on the run for two years who’s wanted and who’s gone with at least $500 million. They’re not easy people to find and to be honest, there was two of us working on it, me and the producer and at the start, I’ll be perfectly honest with you, we thought we’d get nowhere near to her at all.
But we thought a missing woman’s thread through this story will be exciting for the listeners and that will take a listener all the way through understanding blockchain, multilevel marketing, how authority is created, that thing about fake Forbes covers, and she would speak at the Economist magazine, done a big summit in Bulgaria and she spoke at it and they obviously didn’t check her out properly, but then she uses that in her marketing and so people can create fake authority very easily today.
So we wanted to all of those bits of the story and the sort of vehicle for that would be us trying to find her. On the face of it, a podcast about cryptocurrency is pretty boring, you know what I mean? So we never thought we’d get anywhere near her, but I actually think in the end, we actually did get quite near to her. She’s not in one place. We say “spoiler alert”, she either is in or has recently been in Frankfurt, Germany, but that is probably one of several places she’s been.
There’s a possibility still that she’s dead, that is possible and we couldn’t rule it out. So one of several places, but we actually think we might have been right about that and we might have been in an event where she was at, but with plastic surgery and stuff. We never thought we’d get close and I think we raised expectations too much to be honest, because then everyone’s like, “what? You didn’t find her? For fuck’s sake guys!” Jesus, come on! Do you know how difficult it actually is to find somebody?!
Peter McCormack: Do you believe she was the head of it all or do you believe she was like a spokesperson for it?
Jamie Bartlett: Another thing where rumours circulate about who’s really in charge. Don’t take this as the official line, because I don’t even know whether me and the producer agree on this entirely, but my personal view is that she was the person who came up with the idea along with a multilevel marketing professional called Sebastien Greenwood, there was no one else really behind it.
She saw, and she says this in some FBI documents on intercepted emails, where she says, “I am genius at working in the grey area, where regulations aren’t clear and it’s not obvious what’s allowed and what’s not. I’m really good at operating in that grey zone and cryptocurrencies are in that grey zone, so I’m going to be really good at selling this.”
So she does that. Then as I said before, it grows so much faster than she thought and suddenly they’re sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars. Now what happens when you’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars that you need to start moving around and you’re based in Bulgaria? Who do you need to start working with?
Peter McCormack: The bad dudes.
Jamie Bartlett: Well suddenly you draw attention to yourself, you need security, you need to move money around and you get into shadier and shadier corners. So that’s all I can say about that really. but that’s what I think might have happened.
Peter McCormack: You talk about €4 billion, but actually at one point they discussed almost €15 billion going in!
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, it’s very hard to fully work out the size of this scam. We were, we were leaked internal confidential documents…
Peter McCormack: That was unreal! The day you got that, you must’ve been like,” wow!”
Jamie Bartlett: It says, and we worked it out between August 2014 and March 2017, over €4 billion was invested from all over the world and we were like “€4 billion! I cannot believe this!” But that was only up to March 2017 and we don’t know if they were full records of all the things that was going on, because the country hit hardest by this was China. We didn’t talk about that all that much.
China probably accounted for about half of that, but you cannot get anything out of China. We couldn’t wander into China and start talking to people in the same way we could elsewhere, so it was very hard to cover that side of things. There is a whole other story about what happened with OneCoin in China. So other people we spoke to then had heard estimates that were actually significantly bigger than that, up to €15 billion.
Peter McCormack: That’s unfucking believable!
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, I thought that and there were times when I saw that and I thought “that’s just not possible, the numbers must be wrong.” But then you go into a small… You speak to Jen and she’s like, “just me and my small group of people, we’ve invested a quarter of a million” and I’m like, “oh right” and then I go to Uganda and I’m in a little village with three or four people and they’re like, “we’ve all invested $5,000 and we all know 10 other people” and I’m like, “shit, it is that big!”
But this multilevel marketing, direct marketing world, this is why the crypto community didn’t really hear about this because it’s enormous! People selling vitamin tablets to each other and all that stuff, it’s massive and it’s often in parts of the world where there aren’t many opportunities to make money in other ways, so this is kind of an opportunity to make something of yourself, but it’s ignored by everyone.
Peter McCormack: Well that’s where it takes me to the person who was the most interesting character in the whole thing, you know who I’m going to tell you about?
Jamie Bartlett: Igor Alberts?
Peter McCormack: The Dutch guy.
Jamie Bartlett: That’s him
Peter McCormack: God, that guy! That’s where I was thinking, “I just want to be there and see this guy.”
Jamie Bartlett: Have you seen a picture of him? Can I just show you…
Peter McCormack: Yeah, get me a picture of him, but I tell you what also, part of that… Did you listen to Serial?
Jamie Bartlett: I’m vaguely familiar with the most successful podcast of all time!
Peter McCormack: Did you listen to Shittown?
Jamie Bartlett: I certainly did.
Peter McCormack: Do you remember the bit with the guy who’s been shot in the head, who’s in the background and who’s always yelling out?
Jamie Bartlett: Yes!
Peter McCormack: His wife or girlfriend reminded me of that guy, the way she just was in the background yelling and finishing sentences.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, I know what you mean, just go back to what I said about central casting! So he’s someone that is one of the world’s top multilevel marketers, he says that he’s made over a $100 million, although you can never be entirely sure, as you can’t check these things out easily.
This was what OneCoin did, they create this fake coin and then they think, “let’s go and recruit all the best network marketers in the world, some of whom have teams below them, thousands of people, and tell them to stop selling vitamin tablets and start selling this fake cryptocurrency OneCoin” and that’s what they do.
He was making over $1 million a month in commission, getting his commission from the downline, they call it. This language is so weird, isn’t it? Crown Diamond, downlines, uplines, 10% commissions, education packages, have you ever heard any of that in a cryptocurrency conference?
Peter McCormack: No, it felt like a shadow world actually to be honest.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah that’s how I felt about it, but this is him.
Peter McCormack: Wow! So I’m just looking at a picture of him in his pink suit and his girlfriend has a pink suit and pink shoes, he looks larger than life.
Jamie Bartlett: These are motivational speakers, that’s what they are. Their job is to get on the stage, he says, “I know nothing about cryptocurrency, no clue” and yet he has sold to hundreds of thousands of people maybe or maybe tens of thousands, I’m not sure, who have bought into what they thought was cryptocurrency because of him promoting it.
Peter McCormack: They’re rely on gullible people who want to get rich and they believe in a story that they can do this.
Jamie Bartlett: Think about it from the perspective of an investor though, you think she’s appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine? She was actually on the cover of the Bulgarian edition of Forbes magazine on a sponsored post that looks exactly the same as the real cover and in Bulgarian it says, “this is a sponsored post.” Do you speak Bulgarian? How many people investing do? So that goes in all the marketing material. Then she’s on the Economist, she’d spoken at an Economist conference and they shared that in the marketing material. She does have a degree from Oxford, I checked it out.
Yeah there are gullible people, but it’s understandable why you would invest and they’re very rich, so the people at the top like Igor Alberts are making a lot of money through commissions. So they’re saying, “look, I’ve got a Maserati, I’ve got an Aston Martin, I’ve got Ferrari, I’ve got big house and I’ve got it all through OneCoin.” So people are like, “oh, well how’s that different from the pizza guy? It’s the same story.”
Peter McCormack: The one thing I don’t understand, and this is where I’m probably being naive, but I don’t understand how someone can actually do this to other people. So whilst the story of Jen McAdam, whilst that was heartbreaking because of her cry and the Ugandan one was kind of funny, because they were laughing at themselves, at the same time the whole Ugandan thing was heartbreaking because these people are just so constantly abused and constantly being scammed.
When you’re hearing about people, like “it was $25, I couldn’t even get that together”, thinking “that’s what we spend on a round at the pub”, thinking about that and they’re getting scammed for that, I actually don’t understand how the person at the top can live with themselves and do this! I can’t quantify that level of scamming that people do to people.
Jamie Bartlett: So the thing with something like OneCoin and this is what I think might have happened partly, if you don’t ask too many questions and you don’t investigate too much, you can hide the truth from yourself about it, so you don’t feel too guilty. A lot of the people that recruited their friends and family really did believe in it, so the thing about the way its spread is that Jen recruited her friends in, not to scam them, but she thought she was telling them about the next Bitcoin.
So she was like, “I don’t want my friends to miss out.” So it’s not like they’re doing something bad, they think they’re helping. The way I’d think about it is, no-one’s completely innocent in a pyramid because they have been victimized, they’ve lost their money, but they’ve also recruited other people in as well. So blame is quite hard to apportion clearly, but the higher up you go in the pyramid, presumably the more responsibility you have to check what you’re selling for obvious reasons.
I think a lot of people at the top maybe started out believing, asked some questions, started to get worried, and then didn’t want to look into it too much because if they did, they knew they’d have to stop and they’d stop making the money and they’d have to admit to themselves that they’re now knowingly scamming people.
So I wonder whether it’s sort of a crime of omission rather than commission for some of them, like refusing to look too deeply into things. You cover it by saying, “but I believed, so you can’t blame me, because I’m also a victim. I’ve got 10,000,000 OneCoin” which is what Igor Albert said.
Peter McCormack: Well look, if I stopped believing in Bitcoin, my exit from that would be very difficult to explain. I do believe in Bitcoin, but just say I didn’t, try and imagine that I have to detach myself from my show, my investments… It would be very hard work. But then it’s like anything, it’s almost changing your political beliefs, it’s very hard.
But it’s kind of also weird because… I always think in these situations where you’re trapped by a lie in a situations and I look at someone like Lance Armstrong, it almost is like the truth set him free and sometimes the truth does set them free and perhaps that’s what happened for Jen and other people don’t really realize that, because you have that inertia to do it.
Jamie Bartlett: I think that’s exactly right. I think that’s why, the series, the last episode was out exactly a week ago and I think there’s a lot of people out there that are going to be really pissed off with me, for lying about this because I’ve said, “you know that money you thought you had and you were happy thinking you had it, it’s not worth anything!” Some conversations I had with the investors, it was almost as if they knew it was gone, but their life is better to believe it’s still there, because they think they’re rich.
So they’re walking around being in a good mood about it and why change that? They’ll blame me for a while and it’d be my fault. I’ve had a lot of that online already, saying to me “why are you trying to destroy the lives of 3 million people?” Not blaming Ruja for blaming the lives of these people, but blaming me for ruining these lives and there’s probably a bit of truth in that, as saying that it’s a scam does kind of mess you up.
But what happened with Jen is she said it took months to get over that, to accept it, to let it go, and then to be set free by it and then comes out all guns blazing trying to take it down. You often find people are trapped in it and once they got out and got over that, they turn all that belief that they had against their own former love.
So I think there might be a lot of people out there that are probably suffering and struggling with it, but hopefully will realize at some point, this was my hope for the project, they’d also say, “I’m not the only one that was gullible, I’m not the only one that’s embarrassed. Millions of people might have made this mistake, so that gives me strength to be honest about it.”
Peter McCormack: So where does the story go now? What’s next?
Jamie Bartlett: I really don’t know. It’s only just finished and a lot of it was in real time, we were making them as they were coming out. We’d be finishing on the night before it was published.
Peter McCormack: That’s really brave by the way.
Jamie Bartlett: It was stressful because we were working a lot of late nights, because sometimes with podcast people make them all, like make the whole eight episodes and then release them one a week, but they’re all done. We made like three of them and then we knew we’d be getting comeback from OneCoin, because by the way, I suppose I could say, or you could say that they deny all the allegations that we made.
They say they’re a legitimate company and they have a real blockchain. So we were including all of those responses they gave to us in the podcast, we knew we’d be getting leads from people, we knew we’d be getting victims coming forward and so we left a couple of episodes basically open.
So week one, we release 1 and 2, but we know in six weeks’ time we don’t have a podcast, we’ve just got to hope things start coming in. So it was a bit risky, but we felt like it would be an interesting way of trying to do it, like as the story unfolds, we needed to be agile with it. But it was pretty scary! What that has meant that the last episode there’s a bit of a cliff hanger.
Peter McCormack: There’s a massive cliffhanger come on! I was like, “what!”
Jamie Bartlett: And it’s a cliffhanger for us too, we don’t know! We got that information in five days before the podcast went out. So we’re still dealing with it, we’re still working and I’m speaking to the producer every day even now, figuring out what we’re going to do next. People might think that we’ve got a series two lined up, we haven’t! We’re deciding what we’re going to do.
Peter McCormack: I mean it’s clearly not over and it’s clearly not over for you personally. I can tell, there’s still something there.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, there’s an obsession about it.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I’ll be interested to see where it goes and I’m going to share out, to get as many people to listen to it as possible. I think it is fascinating and I do think Bitcoiners can learn a lot from it.
Jamie Bartlett: Oh that’s cool. What do you think though? I’ve been wondering myself, because I’ve been thinking whether crypto people are going to find this silly? One thing I had worried about was that Bitcoiners might think, “you’re undermining Bitcoin talking about this scam.”
Peter McCormack: There’ll be a range of opinions. Some people will just be like, “it’s so obviously a scam, you’re a fucking moron if you fell for it” and those are the people I just can’t even bother to talk to. There’ll be people who just find it interesting as a story, there’ll be other people who will dismiss you and be like, “well he’s not an expert, listen to him talk about blockchain and Bitcoin.”
They’re the ones… That’s why I sent the tweet yesterday, because they’re the ones who missed the point that actually you’ve made it accessible, you’ve actually made the information accessible. The most important thing about this, I’ll come back to that, the most important thing about this is there’s going to be hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who will listen to this, who are what is known as a no-coiner.
They are going to go in, if they decide to buy Bitcoin or anything else, at least they’re armed with some knowledge that scams exist, so it’s obviously positive.
Jamie Bartlett: What can the existing Bitcoiners learn from this?
Peter McCormack: Well the most important thing I think for a Bitcoiner, as I said earlier, is trying to understand the gulf in their understanding of Bitcoin and other people’s understanding of cryptocurrency. I have to say “cryptocurrency”, because anyone coming in with… I did a show recently with this guy called Hotep Jesus, which a bunch of people didn’t like it, but the point being, the title of the show is “nobody is born a maximalist”, the idea being is that you don’t wake up, you don’t suddenly hear about all cryptocurrencies and go, “well Bitcoin is definitely the one that has the best consensus mechanism, best consensus for miners, the most technically proficient…”
There’s a bunch of stuff and you have to kind of figure it out. Some get it very quickly, just almost immediately, some take some time. For some, the bag holders are cultish because they have a financial incentive for their thing to come back. There’s a whole range of things, but I really think it’s important for Bitcoiners to try understand the gulf between their understanding and these people who are new to this.
So that’s the first thing. Secondly, I think the whole part on the cults bit is super important because it does relate to Bitcoin, because I think sometimes people lose their objectivity and that’s really important. So that’s why I wanted to do this interview because there are other scams out there I could touch, but they’re not as interesting. This one’s really interesting because there’s a couple of key messages in there.
Jamie Bartlett: Okay, well that’s good to know because I’ve been thinking, as we’ve obviously aimed this at the general market and not for the crypto world and not for the Bitcoiners, but I really, and this is why I was so pleased that you got in touch, because I really want… I think I got in touch with you and said please let me on your show.
Peter McCormack: Didn’t somebody tweet saying “you’ve got to get Jamie Bartlett on.”
Jamie Bartlett: Oh yeah maybe, I think I was trying to amplify that because I wanted to get on your show because I want to know what the Bitcoin people think about this and whether they feel any responsibility and what they can take from it.
Peter McCormack: I don’t think they have any responsibility actually and like I say, I think the responses will be mixed, I really do. My view, I think the reason we’re speaking and we’re doing this, well firstly I like to do them in person and today I’ve managed to do one in my country, which is a lot easier than flying to Taiwan or something, but it is that I feel that I understand what you’re trying to do with it.
Whereas I think some of the other podcasters maybe don’t and the people who understand what I’m doing and my approach will understand why I’m doing this interview, because I try and talk to the beginners and no-coiners. The more Bitcoin you are, the less I think my show is for you.
I think it’s for the people who don’t have a deep understanding of the technical and economics side of things or are never going to or who are hardworking and come home at the end of the day, they’re going to put the TV on and maybe they’re going to spend half an hour on the computer reading about Bitcoin and buy some. That’s who I’m trying to target, that’s why your show worked for me.
Jamie Bartlett: Oh that’s cool, because that’s the next wave of people, isn’t it? I mean that’s what we’re saying, we want this currency and I didn’t go into it as disliking cryptocurrencies and some people were annoyed at me for having even said in a line, in the final episode, that Bitcoin is a really good idea and that cryptocurrencies could really help places like Uganda. They could actually bank the unbanked and that’s what’s really frustrating about this, is that they took some of the positive messages and then flipped them and used them to recruit people.
Peter McCormack: “Bank the unbanked”, that’s so used at the moment!
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, so I’ve got some criticism for that, from people who are critics of every cryptocurrency including Bitcoin, saying, “why aren’t you just hammering them all?” So I didn’t come into it as a critic really of crypto.
Peter McCormack: Where are you now then?
Jamie Bartlett: Bit of a critic, but definitely someone who’s quite open minded about it I suppose.
Peter McCormack: Bitcoin or cryptocurrency? Be careful!
Jamie Bartlett: I am conscious of who I’m talking to here.
Peter McCormack: Don’t worry, they’ll give me shit either way.
Jamie Bartlett: I’m probably not even well enough qualified to really have a strong answer, but one thing that Tim Curry, who is like you I think, he’s a Bitcoiner through and through, I wouldn’t say he’s a maximalist but he’s definitely, “Bitcoin is the one, there are some other interesting ones maybe, but I’ll check them out.”
He says, and this is why he spent two years trying to call out OneCoin and he was getting very annoyed that Roger Ver is not doing this every day, because he said, “if we want to be self-regulating, which is what I want us to be, we’ve got to fucking self-regulate and that is going to mean we go out and call out the scams and tell ordinary people, in an accessible way that they understand, that they’re being scammed.
That’s self-regulating and if we don’t do that, we are going to get regulated more by the government!” So he’s like, “when we talk about self-regulating, what do we actually mean by that? Surely one of the things we mean is protect ordinary people from the scammers.” I was like, “yes, that’s exactly it, that’s really important.”
Peter McCormack: That’s how the libertarians want society to be, to self-regulate.
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, but self-regulate means people who understand it, actively going out on the level that ordinary people are going to get scammed and talking in a way they get, to protect them, not just talking theoretically about setting up a self-governing foundation that looks after the consensus, that isn’t the only bit of self-regulation. Self-Regulation is the whole community figuring out how to protect people.
Peter McCormack: Well listen look, it was absolutely fascinating, there’s so many bits of it we haven’t even touched on, like other little bits in it, there’s so many brilliant parts of the story. I’m going to encourage people to go and listen to it, maybe they will, maybe they won’t. I don’t think the story’s over.
I’m almost certain you’re going to do something else and I do look forward to it, but I think this is useful for Bitcoiners and I think there’s going to be people who are going to listen to this and they’re going to go, “I understand why you did this interview Pete, and it’s relevant and it’s important” and they’re going to get what you’ve done.
Others are just going to dismiss and go, “well, fuck the morons, let them get wrecked!” But listen, I do appreciate it, you should close out by telling people how they can find it and how they can follow you.
Jamie Bartlett: Well it’s on all the places you get all your podcast, it’s a BBC Sounds podcast, but it’s available in other places as well. It’s called the “Missing Cryptoqueen”, download it!
Peter McCormack: If people want to follow you?
Jamie Bartlett: Yeah, I’m on Twitter actually, @JamieJBartlett, that’s where I post most of this stuff.
Peter McCormack: Cool! Well listen, I appreciate you coming on!
Jamie Bartlett: Thank you, thanks for having me!
Peter McCormack: Tim, how are you?
Tim Curry: Excellent, thank you Peter.
Peter McCormack: Thank you for coming onto this show. So as I told you previously, I met up with Jamie a couple of days ago and I’ve listened to the whole of the “Missing Cryptoqueen.” I obviously heard your interaction with Jen and I spoke to Jen today and I think it’s going to be a nice appendix to this interview with Jamie to have both yourself and Jen and just hear from you, because you know about my show and I always think, is there something we can learn from here?
I actually feel as Bitcoiners there’s something we can learn from this story, because as I’ve always said, I think there’s a gulf between the understanding of Bitcoiners and new people who are coming into crypto. So just as a starting point, where does your story start with OneCoin. How did you come to be like a campaigner against it? How did you hear about it and what started happening?
Tim Curry: With OneCoin, on March 28th 2015, I was contacted over Facebook about if I wanted to check out this new cryptocurrency and I think that the person who contacted me probably had looked at my site and maybe seen that I was posting Bitcoin stuff and things like this.
Now as a quick pre-req to that, PayCoin had just begun crashing that year and that was a drama of a crypto ponzi scam that I’d been following closely on Bitcointalk and stuff like that. I went to the North American Bitcoin conference in hopes of actually seeing Josh Garza speak and he didn’t, but anyhow, so that was when I was introduced to the OneCoin scam and recognized it as such within about three minutes.
Peter McCormack: And what was it that stood out for you that it was a scam? How did you know immediately?
Tim Curry: So as soon as I went to the website there are some things that you definitely need to look out for. One is just the amount of time that was put into the site, the talent in building it, if it has a good and professional presentation, which it didn’t at that time. It certainly did some point after that, but there was a lot of spelling and grammar errors and as I’ve said before, the lexicon of the site was clearly not written by someone who understands or is familiar with cryptocurrency.
Peter McCormack: And what did this trigger you to do? Because obviously you decided to kind of get involved somehow to make people aware, what did this trigger you to do?
Tim Curry: Yeah immediately I told the person who had contacted me that this was a scam and I go, “this company doesn’t even take cryptocurrency, yet it’s talking about Bitcoin and all these other things and the only form of payment is traditional payment channels and the whole idea of joining a club and paying to get involved in something like this is the antithesis of cryptocurrency itself.”
So I pretty much tried to leave it at that, although he was offended and really pushed me to watch a video about OneCoin mining, which at that point super sealed the deal for me because that just blew it out of the water and I knew absolutely 110% for sure that it was a scam by that point.
o I forgot about it for a couple weeks, maybe two months and I began to see a little bit more of this OneCoin thing begin popping up in newsfeeds on Facebook, on Twitter and stuff like this and soon I became aware that there was going to be a USA launch and this was in July 2015, so four months later. Between that period of time and May, there had been a Dubai event in which there were probably 3,000 people in one of the largest theater type venues that I think I’d ever seen.
During that event, Ruja was saying that OneCoin was now backed by gold and that they had this coin and it was this joint venture and this gold was secured in a vault deep under the sea that she and Sebastian had visited!
Peter McCormack: Sounds ridiculous!
Tim Curry: Exactly, so how could I miss not going to this launch party here in the US? It was about an hour away from me and I’m like, “dude, I got to go check this out.”
Peter McCormack: So you were there, so you saw it all! So listen, one of the things that I think is the reason they’ve got away with this is because I actually wasn’t that aware of OneCoin. I’d heard about it and I knew it was a scam, but I hadn’t paid any attention to it and I think the reason being is, one of the things I explained to both Jamie and Jen is there’s such a gap between Bitcoin and OneCoin in that you have Bitcoin and you have some people who believe that anything that isn’t Bitcoin is a scam, anything!
Then you have some people who are a bit more kind of like, you could say reasonable, but then it depends on your perspective, but there are a group of people that think there are some legitimate attempts to create something with a blockchain that isn’t Bitcoin and then there’s a whole bunch of stuff that is created with a blockchain that is a scam and then there’s OneCoin.
OneCoin is so on its own as a scam, so not part of CoinMarketCap, it doesn’t have a blockchain, it can’t be traded anywhere and it feels like for me, it passed most people by and that’s what’s allowed it to proliferate because people like me have just completely ignored it. What do you think?
Tim Curry: I think that when it comes to people who’ve gotten involved in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, there’s two groups, one who’ve gotten in philosophically and another who has gotten in from an investment standpoint and speculation standpoint. For me, when I got into crypto in March 2013, I was just fascinated by it.
I was studying the Ron Paul movement and a friend introduced me, I listened to Andreas Antonopoulos and I couldn’t get enough of it for like three days and it really took me time to digest what the real significance of this technology was and the implications for the world and for the unbanked, which was a tagline that OneCoin adopted.
I think that there’s maybe a difference in that and people who just, “oh Bitcoin has gone to the moon and I’m going to buy some Bitcoin, I’m going to buy some shit coins” and whatever, just wanting to see the 10x, 100x, whatever. Whereas I think that OneCoin really aligned with those more so that wanted to see a stratospheric rise like Bitcoin in this particular investment, but didn’t want to do the due diligence.
So people like you and I and a lot of people in this space on the philosophical side, really took time to try to at least understand the rudimentary elements of how this even works, whereas when OneCoin presented it and with some people that speculate in the space, they just get in and it’s an investment or it’s gambling or whatever.
I think that that was a significant difference and when OneCoin pitched that it was going to be the next Bitcoin and that we would do all the thinking for you, one click mining stuff like this, then that’s what made people go, “cool, I don’t have to work, I don’t have to really study this stuff, the company is going to take care of everything, awesome!”
Peter McCormack: How did you end up coming to talk to Jen?
Tim Curry: Towards the end of 2015, after I went to this event, which was just a crazy bombastic, but rather small event, this guy named Dr Breakthrough was smashing boards and smashing bricks and yelling at the top of his lungs, “you’re all going to have a breakthrough here! We’re going to break through finance, we’re going to break through relationships” and all this stuff, so these amps just went to 11.
I interviewed, not that I had a camera or a microphone or anything, but I interviewed some of the people that had been on stage that had completed their fifth level of education in OneCoin, so I wanted to see what their fluency in cryptocurrency was, which was literally zero. So I was blown away by it. Now, at the end of that year, there came out that Ruja was on the cover of this Forbes magazine and I knew for sure it couldn’t be true and within a few days it was proven that it was a second cover in Forbes Bulgaria etc, it was an advertisement piece.
At that point, I knew that this company was willing to sink a ton of marketing dollars behind it and do a lot of deceptive advertising and propaganda and I was beginning to see how people were falling for it. So Ruja had been made to be this goddess on a pedestal, which everyone just kind of ended up worshiping. They said that she had a 200+ IQ and a lot of bombastic claims and I could just tell that people had this admiration and this wasn’t going to change and it was only picking up steam.
At that point, I recognized three things specifically. Number one, this is going to be bad for the regulatory environment coming up for cryptocurrency, it’s going to cause hyper-regulation, it’s going to raise the barrier of entry and it’s going to stifle innovation from startups that are working out of their garage because now new compliance laws and licensing are going to require a company or a wealth entity to come in and inject $250,000 or whatever into this company with these brilliant ideas and these genius guys that are getting together on this project and they’re going to lose 51% of their interest in the company, rather than being able to build it just because of a-holes like Ruja Ignatova and OneCoin.
So that was number one. Number two was that this is going to be very bad for public perception. Public perception of cryptocurrency based on a scam that I felt at that time would already grow pretty big and which I wrote in 2016, would be bigger than Mt. Gox, that’s not good for the general public, that affects the general public’s perception of “what is Bitcoin, what is cryptocurrency?”
When I would tell friends that were not in the crypto space about OneCoin and how ridiculous it is, they would repeat and say, “oh yeah, I heard that there’s a lot of controversy with Bitcoin.” I’m like, “no, I said OneCoin”, but they heard “Bitcoin” because the words “cryptocurrency” and “OneCoin”, the only thing they knew and many of them know is Bitcoin.
So that was number two and number three was the human element. Seeing PayCoin go down and watching other scams like MMM and MMM Global destroy lives, people committing suicides and things like that, there was a human element to it. It was never my first concern, my first concern wasn’t “I’m philanthropic and want to save a bunch of people.” No, you’re coming into my office, you’re coming into my community and you’re taking a shit there and we don’t let that happen! That’s what I wanted to push out.
Peter McCormack: So that interaction with Jen, I’ve obviously heard it a couple of times and I’ve now got a copy of it. Look, it’s fascinating and I see two sides. I felt very sorry for her and a lot of empathy with her, but I also felt your anger and I think your anger wasn’t at her, I think mainly your anger is like a lot of Bitcoiners, who keep seeing scam after scam after scam and eventually you lose your patience with telling people. You were tough with her, right?
Tim Curry: Yeah absolutely and to lead up to your question, I kind of skipped over that with that interlude, but I would start finding and trying to confront with logic and with reason and with math and documentation, some of the top leaders that were promoting this scheme. So during this course I would contact them on LinkedIn, I would contact them on Facebook, if there were phone numbers, I would call them, if they did podcasts or videos or anything like this, I would contact them.
I was successful in having a few interviews that were semi-amicable, that were just discussions, that were talking about the facts, talking about the math, talking about the documented lies and propaganda that you couldn’t deny about OneCoin and this is what led me to Jen about a year later in November 2016.
During this whole amount of time, the lies and the propaganda just began to exponentiate and so when I saw Jen on Facebook promoting OneCoin, promoting propaganda, then she was just one person of many, whom I reached out to, to determine a few things, whether she was a scammer or whether she was a victim, unwittingly promoting a scam.
It took me some time and even after that call, I still wasn’t sure. By the way, that call was about 20 minutes long, maybe 30 minutes and of course BBC would use the most intense moments of it! So that wasn’t how the entire conversation went, it started pretty mellow and conversational, but that’s the direction that it went and it’s very difficult to break through that layer of ice or that shell, in order to let anything that is logical sink into someone who is that deep.
Peter McCormack: Well that’s a problem across all of crypto. I said to Jamie that I think the most interesting part of the whole 8 episodes was the bit where he was with the psychologist talking about cults. The reason I thought that was so interesting was because, if you’re a Bitcoiner and you’re talking to a Bcasher, it is close to impossible to convince them that they’re wrong and that Bitcoin is right. It’s very difficult to convince somebody who is in deep with Ripple, that Ripple is just a centralized company selling off hundreds of millions every quarter to finance a business at their cost.
It’s very difficult to convince somebody who’s deep in ETH, that it’s almost impossible for this to scale without it becoming centralized. So that was the thing I felt was most interesting and for me, as somebody who’s into Bitcoin, who’s often talking to new people coming into the space, whether it’s friends or listeners of the show, you find people when they first arrive in the world of cryptocurrency, it’s very rare that someone writes and goes, “oh this Bitcoin thing is amazing, everything else is terrible. I’m all in Bitcoin.”
Quite often people are wondering, “what is Bitcoin? What is Bitcoin Cash? What are all these other tokens? What should I invest in?” And it’s very hard. So have you learned anything from this in terms of trying to educate people and help people understand and navigate this?
Tim Curry: Well one thing that I told Jen is that her and I had very similar experiences when we got involved in “cryptocurrency” and OneCoin was super effective in mimicking that experience with the taglines and with everything else. So she was convinced and she was as excited as I was about Bitcoin when I got into Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, but one thing that I think is super important is that words matter and one word that we see thrown around way too much in the crypto and the blockchain space is the word “scam.”
By calling this project a scam and that project a scam, rather than entering into intellectual debate about it or about its people, its founders, its history, and things like that, then it cheapens the word and people say, “well everything’s a scam.” In fact, OneCoiners will say, back in the early days, they will say, “well just Google, “is Microsoft a scam.”
You’re going to find that it’s a scam. Is Kentucky Fried Chicken a scam? You’re going to find out that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a scam.” So we have to be more articulate when we’re communicating if we’re trying to deliver a proper message.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I think that’s very important! It’s really tough running this podcast, I’m Bitcoin only now for a number of reasons, but if somebody came to me with a project and they said, “this uses a blockchain and it’s a legitimate idea”, I don’t want my starting point to be “you’re a scammer, fuck off.” I don’t want it to be that, because whilst I’m skeptical that anything else will successfully use a blockchain for something, there may, and I think the overuse of the word “scam”, actually kind of gives a layer of protective cover for something like OneCoin.
Tim Curry: Well I was a paid hater and a blogger and all these things! I had never done any blogs, I was never paid for hating on OneCoin or whatever and the thing that’s so funny is that there is what’s called a “Ponzi playbook”. This Ponzi playbook takes place in every Ponzi scam that there is and these key words, phrases and expressions and accusations just play out.
They’re used in every one of them from Bitconnect, you look at old Bitconnect videos, “you guys are just jealous Bitcoiners, you guys are just haters!” It’s the same thing and that’s how a lot of these scams end up growing and forming that protective layer around their victims.
Peter McCormack: So how do you feel about it all now, reflecting on it? Is it something you’re still actively involved in or have you moved on from it?
Tim Curry: Yeah it is, but if I were to do it again, I wouldn’t probably, just because when I saw it, I’m like, “okay, well this will be over in six months, let’s see if we can destroy it or help bring it down in four months.” Then after six months, the Forbes cover comes out and this and that, and all of a sudden it’s gaining steam and like, “man, this thing could last another year.”
Well, now we’re at half a decade and $5 to $15 billion! I would talk about this on Reddit and I would post some of the facts and the math and things like this in order to try to gauge participation from the community to try to actively extinguish this fire that was happening in our house, so to speak, or at least in our front yard and I actually got kicked out of Reddit for a while for that and I ended up speaking with one of the guys that kind of reinstated me or whatever.
But my point is, is that the crypto community did ignore it because it was so obviously a scam to us, but it just wasn’t everyone else, so most people just didn’t pay attention.
Peter McCormack: Do you see Jen as a victim or do you hold her responsible at all for any of the decisions she made?
Tim Curry: Well I think everyone is responsible to do their own due diligence, but Jen is a standout as far as anyone I’ve ever seen in OneCoin, in that she was the only person to step up and once she had realized her mistake, she re-approached me by the way and she still had resentment towards me, but she wanted answers to questions that she didn’t have and she wasn’t getting from the company or her leaders.
My answers and I say I, but I’m not the only one that fought this, there’s a group of people internationally that have contributed to documenting and taking this down. So it’s very important that this isn’t just about me, there’s a number of people that have done this, but we would provide the facts, sources, information that can be checked and verified, “don’t trust, verify”, that kind of thing.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so just finally, just to close out on this… And do you know what? I think it’d be great for you and I to actually do a show one day, I like your vibe! But I do have a closing question, do you think there’s anything that Bitcoiners can learn from the OneCoin scam?
Tim Curry: Yeah absolutely! You don’t want shitty people in your community, you don’t want jerks, you don’t want scammers, we have to self-police because regardless of whether we do, the regulators are going to do that for us, but if we can take care of some of our own business, then maybe it’s not going to be as harsh and that’s part of the reason that I started this.
There was a fourth reason that I did kind of continue down the path and that was if myself and the people that are coming against this and exposing this, can give people that are involved in this a paradigm shift, to understand the difference between a single point of failure and a trustless system between centralization and a decentralized distributed system, then that’s a lot of people that can come into our community, having had a bad experience that can turn it around and come out with something successful or positive to say about that experience.
Peter McCormack: I think that’s a really great way to end it. All right Tim, I do appreciate this, thanks for coming on and yeah, I think we should try and get together and do a show together one day.
Tim Curry: Awesome man, thank you so much!
Peter McCormack: Morning Jen, how are you?
Jen McAdam: Good morning Peter, I’m well thank you! Thanks for inviting me on.
Peter McCormack: No problem, nice to talk to you. I’ve obviously been listening to you over the last week in various parts of Jamie’s podcast series and you really stood out to me because it was quite heartbreaking listening to you sometimes and I found myself wanting to reach through the podcast and just kind of give you a hug and see how you are. I hope when people have listened to mine, they’ve also listened to the Cryptoqueen and got to hear from you. So firstly I just want to ask, how are you? Are you okay? Are you coping?
Jen McAdam: Yeah, I’m coping! It’s been a really tough two and a half years since finding out it’s been a scam. Yeah it’s getting easier.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Well for me, I want this episode to be helpful for Bitcoin people to try to maybe understand what it’s like for somebody who’s new to hearing about cryptocurrencies and some of the things they hear or get confused with and I think there’s a real learning exercise for us in this. So I’m going to ask you just a few questions and we’ll work through this. But just to begin with, when you first heard about OneCoin, had you heard about cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin before or was OneCoin the first time you heard about it?
Jen McAdam: Vaguely I’d heard of Bitcoin. My background previously was in IT, I had IT clients. So I’d heard about it back in 2010, I’d just heard about it in talking, but that was it. So I hadn’t heard anything more about it until my best friend approached me and she spoke about it. She knew I was looking for an investment opportunity to place the money that my dad had left me. So she says “Jen have a look at this.” The first time, I didn’t take her up on it, it just went over my head and then the second time there was an urgency with it, to look at it and that’s what I did. But up until that point, not really, vaguely.
Peter McCormack: What was your kind of awareness of Bitcoin? What did you know about it? What did you think it was?
Jen McAdam: Well I knew it was digital money, but how that was created or the technology behind it, I had no clue.
Peter McCormack: Okay. With OneCoin, your first kind of interaction with it, was it via their website or YouTube videos? How did you first start reading about OneCoin?
Jen McAdam: Well as I said, it was my best friend, someone had approached her and then it was a phone call, she said, “speak to this chap.” So it was a phone call and her re-enacted the Bitcoin story into OneCoin, so you almost felt as though OneCoin was Bitcoin. I know it sounds ridiculous, but for someone who doesn’t have the knowledge that I have now, it was very plausible. Then he invited me onto a webinar and these webinars at that point, I invested early February 2016 and I went onto my first webinar where there was about a hundred people on it and that was my first interaction, that hour and a half webinar.
It was all Bitcoin, it was really all about the Bitcoin story, so when I came off that webinar at the end of it, I really felt OneCoin was a legitimate cryptocurrency. It had an exchange, it was growing in value and of course it interacted with the Bitcoin story. I was shown Ruja Ignatova’s 15 minute presentation with the Economist, you’re shown the Forbes cover, which you think is a Forbes front cover magazine, but I know now it was a second page advertisement in Bulgaria Forbes and also Financial IT magazine.
So this is all in the webinar and I really thought that this woman’s really so clever and being a business women previously, I just thought it was an amazing investment opportunity and that this is what I had been looking for, somewhere really safe to put my dad’s money.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So I won’t repeat the whole story because a lot of that’s covered in Jamie’s podcast and I want them to listen to that. But what was the total amount you invested?
Jen McAdam: Personally I invested €10,000.
Peter McCormack: Okay, and you encouraged some friends and family to invest?
Jen McAdam: €250,000 in total.
Peter McCormack: And over what period was that?
Jen McAdam: That was, I would say about 3 months.
Peter McCormack: Okay. When was your first suspicions that this wasn’t legitimate and that this was a scam? What first triggered that?
Jen McAdam: Well they told me that I could get my initial investment back after 12 weeks, after all the splits had taken place. So if you buy a OneCoin package, depending on what package you buy, you have a number of splits and basically what that was, was a doubling of the tokens you received and whatever package you bought. So they said after my splits had taken place in the packages that I had bought, it would be 12 weeks.
Well that didn’t happen, the money didn’t come out. Then when you questioned it, it was said to you, “why do you want to take it out anyway? Look at what’s happening to Bitcoin and the value, we’re going to be the number one cryptocurrency! Why would you want to take your money out?” I think at that point, that was the first red flag for me. Internally, I gave myself maybe an excuse saying, “okay, yeah, that makes sense, why would I want to take it out?”
Peter McCormack: Did you have any sense of the technology? So for example with Bitcoin, once you get into it, you understand there’s a blockchain that you can send your Bitcoin from one person to another, it’s censorship resistant, you can look up the ledger, but they’re quite complicated technical concepts for somebody who’s new to this. Were you aware of any of that technology going on with Bitcoin and were you aware of any of the technology that was there with OneCoin and there was some kind of disparities between the two or were you oblivious to it all?
Jen McAdam: I was absolutely oblivious to the technology. OneCoin, they say there’s education levels and it doesn’t even cover the blockchain technology. So no, at that point I was absolutely oblivious, but I do remember when this chap had asked me… I invested in February, and this was August, September time and this one chap said to me, “what about nodes?”
And I was like, “what?!” So I went back to the person who I had connections with in OneCoin, who was told to speak to and he said to me, “you’re being difficult Jen. Why do you want to know about nodes, you don’t need to know about that.” I said, “yes I do, I want to know about it! What’s this guy asking me? You should know about it, should you not?”
“You don’t need to know about that.” So that was another red flag come August, September. Also in that period from February to August, September time, bank accounts were closing down, the business bank accounts and then another one would pop up. Sorry, I’m off the tracks here, but I didn’t have any clue to the technology.
Peter McCormack: When did Tim Curry come into the picture?
Jen McAdam: Oh bless Tim! Tim came into the picture at the end of November, one Friday evening.
Peter McCormack: Is that 2017?
Jen McAdam: 2016. So he came in, one Friday evening through Messenger and he was like, “you’re a scammer!” And I was absolutely horrified and then I saw his name and I thought, “that’s that guy they have been speaking about in the OneCoin groups.” People had mentioned him and these OneCoin leaders had said, “oh block him, he’s a hater, he’s crazy! Just block him automatically.” But I wanted to speak to him and say, “how dare you say that about me, I’m an honest person!”
Peter McCormack: And you had the conversation with him, which I’ve heard?
Jen McAdam: Yeah, I had the conversation and that lasted over that weekend. It was like a fourty hour, non-stop debate air and eventually I gave him the link for the Zoom and said that I wanted to speak to him face to face, and that’s what is on the podcasts.
Peter McCormack: So you had the conversation with him. His approach was quite blunt and I’m used to that from Bitcoiners, when they see something that’s a scam, they say “scam” and they just won’t have it or they’ll call it a “fucking scam”, they’ll say it to your face and they’re quite blunt about that. Obviously you were very defensive, after the Zoom call, what happened for you?
Jen McAdam: After the Zoom call I spoke to my best friend that initially showed me this opportunity and at the time I said “this guy was so passionate, there’s something not running true here.” I said, “I’m actually going to dig into the information he’s left” and there was a lot of information he gave me that weekend. It took me about three months to just digest it. I said, “I’m just going to sit back and watch what was said in the groups” because I couldn’t really ask questions.
I was at that stage with the OneCoin leaders from the UK that I was already asking questions, so I was told I was being difficult. You see people get removed from the groups for asking questions, so I had that fear that that would happen if I asked too many questions and then I wouldn’t have no clue as to what I thought was a genuine investment at that time. So yeah, it took me about three months after I spoke to Tim.
Peter McCormack: So what was the kind of the light bulb moment where you went, “okay”, and you came to the acceptance that this was a scam?
Jen McAdam: It was back in January, February time and a friend had called me who invested €9,000 in it. He says, “Jen, there’s something wrong here. I was speaking to two Blue Diamond leaders in OneCoin and they’re saying there’s not a blockchain!”
At that point, with all the information Tim sent me, with the previous red flags I had and it was just, “oh no, there’s something wrong.” So there was a Blue Diamond leader I messaged and I said, “listen, I want to know about the blockchain, I want you to give me information about this” and he came back and he left a voice-note and that’s when he said it was a SQL server with blockchain technology behind it!
I kid you not, my legs went like jelly and before I knew it, I was at the side of my bed on the floor because that was the light bulb moment, I knew it wasn’t possible.
Peter McCormack: So the money’s gone, all the money for your friends and family is gone. Did you have to break it to all of them?
Jen McAdam: Yeah.
Peter McCormack: And I’m guessing that was probably one of the hardest things you’ve done?
Jen McAdam: Worst thing ever. I opened up the communication with Tim because I had blocked him previously, and I did what I was told. I opened it up after everything and said “Tim, you said you had a contact for UK police.” He gave me it, I spoke to the police, they confirmed the investigation and they believed it was a Ponzi fraud scam.
So the following day, I held a webinar and there’s 13 members and told them. [Inaudible] family I bought the packages, so it was friends and I’m still friends with them all, except for one who continued to do it, who continued to promote with this. So that horrendous.
Peter McCormack: What’s the impact been?
Jen McAdam: The impact? Initially it was just absolutely devastation, just utter devastation. It takes the wind from you and it’s not something that you recover from overnight, because it’s shock. It’s utter shock and disbelief. Even when the DC from London City Police told me they had been investigating and they believed it was a scam, there’s still that bit of doubt that coming in going, “this can’t be true!” It’s just shock.
Peter McCormack: And in terms of the impact and the kind of devastation, how much of that is due to the loss of money and how much is it down to the actual feeling of just the deceit of being scammed. Is it just the money loss or is it the shame? What kind of different emotions are going on with this?
Jen McAdam: It comes in waves, initially it’s the shock and that your money’s gone. So when that hits, that just hits you hard and then for me, it was all the people that I had spoke to about this and the money that they had lost, so that was next. Just so upset and in disbelief really.
Peter McCormack: So what now for you? I believe you’re running some kind of support group? Explain to me the group you’re running or involved in.
Jen McAdam: Yeah, it’s called “The OneCoin Victim Support Group” and that group I’ve initially opened up to update the 13 people in that group about what had happened in April 2017. Very quickly after it, we were getting messages from other OneCoin members, “can we join?” Now two and a half years later, we have over 7,000 members. We have WhatsApp victim support groups covering every continent and a Facebook group and it’s increasing every day, with members requesting to join. They’re devastated, they’re absolutely devastated.
I’m speaking to people every single day who either go between shocked, depressed and tears and some suicidal, because they have literally sold their homes to buy these packages, no joke! Their life savings are gone. I was speaking to one Asian women the other day, a Muslim women, because the Muslim community was targeted also.
She said, “I invested €700 but I’m not too bad about that. But my concern is, my elderly aunt sold her house, £80,000 to buy these OneCoin packages! Since the elderly aunt has found out it’s a fraud, she’s not been able to speak and she’s now seriously ill in hospital.” That’s just one of so many stories of what’s happened to people.
Peter McCormack: What would you say if there might be some kind of harsh critics who would come back to you and other people and say, “well it’s obviously a scam, it’s kind of ridiculous. You clearly didn’t do your research. Why would you invest all your money in this?” What would you say to somebody who was kind of tough on you like that?
Jen McAdam: I would say that I didn’t have the understanding. This is financially hard times and I can only speak for me personally, I was going through some hardships, as happens in life. My dad died, I was still grieving and I sometimes ask myself, maybe was I not in right frame of mind, I didn’t do the proper due diligence I should have. I never thought I would be scammed in my life, I thought I was wise enough and it happened to me.
Could it happen to me now? No, because of more knowledge! The blockchain specialists in the group, the crypto specialists that help and support victims, they have given me so much education and I’m at a different place now. I wasn’t then and also there wasn’t as much information about OneCoin then.
Peter McCormack: One thing I’ve observed, which I said to Jamie yesterday, people in Bitcoin and crypto are very quick to call out scams and for some people almost everything that isn’t Bitcoin is a scam. But there is such a gulf between Bitcoin and OneCoin, for somebody who’s into Bitcoin, it’s so obviously a scam, it’s kind of been ignored. When I heard about it, I just ignored it and I totally just forgot about it. I was like, “oh that’s just a Ponzi, that’s just a scam.”
I didn’t even talk about it and it was only when I listened to Jamie’s podcast that I realized the scale of it. But I’ve always ignored it, because I’ve always just thought it was such a scam, it was so obvious and I think that’s one of the things that maybe hasn’t actually helped it. If it had had a blockchain for example, and maybe it was listed on CoinMarketCap or people were talking about it in crypto communities, then maybe there would have been more information out there, but it was so far removed from the crypto industry and so obviously a scam, that I think it’s not been picked up as much.
Jen McAdam: OneCoin is, and there’s a lot of other crypto scams, people have been contacting me saying “Jen, can you raise awareness about this one and that one” and I’m thinking… This is my question to the blockchain and crypto industry, I feel there’s a lot of silence about it and is it not time to come together and speak about it and highlight that these scams are tarnishing everything. I absolutely think Bitcoin is amazing, what it can do for people and I just feel that these crypto fake scams are not going to go away, they’re in this industry!
Peter McCormack: Well one of the difficult things Jen, is that because Bitcoin itself is decentralized, there isn’t really a central body who can take care of this and regulate it. You can have state level regulations, like the UK can have regulations and the US can have regulations, but a lot of people would say that there isn’t actually a crypto industry. There is Bitcoin and then there’s a bunch of other stuff. The way I see it, there’s actually different levels.
So there’s Bitcoin and then there’s questionably, arguably, legitimate attempts to use a blockchain to do something else. Now some people will say they’re all scams, some people will say they’re legitimate. There are then blockchain projects which are just straight up scams and then there are things like OneCoin which is just a scam, it’s not even got a blockchain. So there’s so many gaps between say what a hardcore Bitcoiner would see and OneCoin, it’s very difficult to therefore kind of offer the support for something like OneCoin.
Then add to that, is that the scam has been so used so regularly, it sometimes has also lost meaning, because like I say for some people there are legitimate scams and there are other people who say anything that isn’t Bitcoin is a scam. So it also becomes quite difficult to identify what actually is a scam. I would be at odds with some Bitcoiners, where I don’t think it’s useful to call everything that’s not Bitcoin a scam, because I believe that with some people, their ideas might be misguided, they are still legitimately trying to do something.
I think a straight up scam is something where somebody set out to rip people off and I think that’s a more useful use of the term scam. I think we should separate what are stupid ideas and what are straight up scams, but yeah, it’s very difficult.
Jen McAdam: Yeah, I know and I don’t know what will happen in the next few years, but here’s another thing to think about. I thought about it Peter and a chap said to me, yesterday in fact, that he works in blockchain and that he was approached by a Bulgarian company, oddly enough and that there was lots of red flags. I said, “well this is a scam” and he said, “that’s all right, we’ll just get sued, so what?”
Peter McCormack: Last thing I’m going to finish on with you is that since this, you’ve obviously learned more about Bitcoin. What is it you’ve learned about Bitcoin and why do you now understand that it is a legitimate project? What is it that clicked for you that made Bitcoin legitimate and that you trust it?
Jen McAdam: The financial independence and the technology behind it. But the financial independence for me Peter, when I was 16, I became pregnant and I was homeless. I remember going to the bank and I couldn’t open a bank account because I wasn’t credible, as a young girl.
That fear has never ever left me, so when I was divorced 15 years ago, I remember having to change bank accounts and do you know what that fear was still with me, “what if I’m not credible for a bank account?”
Even though I knew I was, but what if I’m not? I’ve been thinking about it and I think for me, I know what it’s like when a bank says to you, “you’re not credible” and the difficulties that brings with it. So for me, Bitcoin is amazing in that respect and it does bring financial independence. So for me it’s thumbs up.
Peter McCormack: Yeah I say it’s the potential of financial independence. Obviously you can create a wallet and you can get Bitcoin. I still think we’ve got a number of hurdles to get over, if somebody can’t get a bank account, can they survive with a Bitcoin wallet and Bitcoin? There’s issues to do with volatility of price and being able to use it, but the potential for financial independence is there, so I’m with you on that. Well listen look, it’s been great to talk to you.
I’m very sorry you’ve been through that, but you’re not alone and you’re not even alone just with OneCoin, so many people have got caught up in so many scams, hundreds of millions, maybe billions have been lost, you’re not alone. I think the work you’re doing now to try and support people and help people who have been scammed by OneCoin is great and I hope you don’t beat yourself up about this for too much longer because it was heartbreaking to hear you on the documentary.
I know it sucks, but lots of people have been sucked in, you’re not alone! So I do hope you get to a point where you find peace with this and can get on with your life.
Jen McAdam: Fingers crossed Peter, thanks very much! I really appreciate your kind words there.
Peter McCormack: No worries! Anything you ever need, just reach out to me.
Jen McAdam: Thank you Peter!