The year of 2017 was a fantastic year for some Bitcoin users, but others were not so lucky with the cryptocurrency.
Below, we’ll look at some of the most impressive success stories of the year, as well as the profiles of people who probably wish they’d never touched Bitcoin at all.
It’s a highly erratic currency, but people who invested in it before its recent prominence often found their foresight was lucrative in ways they never imagined at first.
This Anonymous Person Who Became a Bitcoin Millionaire
One anonymous person who posted a detailed story on Steemit said that in 2010, the price of each Bitcoin was so low that it was not even valuable enough to buy a pizza. Still, by the end of that year, the person reportedly had 12,000 Bitcoins and collecting the large number of them paid off.
That’s because by April 2013, the worth of each Bitcoin had ballooned to over $100. Due to some issues in the individual’s personal life and a few other non-Bitcoin-related factors, the person took a couple of breaks from Bitcoin but was never completely out of the loop with them. Eventually, this anonymous Bitcoin user heard that the 12,000 Bitcoins were now worth over $10 mln.
Despite that fortunate turn of events, the person only began selling them in small quantities so as to not attract attention. The individual also planned for the future by choosing investment strategies and did not let the rapid wealth impact their employment. As words of advice, the person suggests exercising patience and not getting greedy, while also keeping up on newsworthy events.
Erik Fineman began investing in Bitcoins in 2011 when he was only 11 after his grandmother gave him $1,000 and his brother offered him a tip about what to do with the money. In those early days, Bitcoins were only worth $12 each. However, when Fineman sold his first Bitcoins at the end of 2013, each one had a value of $1,200.
By then, Fineman had turned the $1,000 from his grandma into $100,000 and used it to start an online education company in 2014. He hadn’t had a pleasant experience in high school and thought that his new business venture could connect frustrated students and willing teachers over video chat. Fineman also moved to Silicon Valley, traveled the world and made a bet with his parents that if he were a millionaire by age 18, he’d not have to go to college.
In January 2015, Fineman sold his education company and was given the choice of accepting $100,000 or 300 Bitcoins. He took the Bitcoins. Fineman also achieved his goal of becoming an 18-year-old millionaire and won’t be going to college. He says he’s happy learning from real-world experiences. However, Fineman stays busy with numerous projects, including involvement with NASA. Those activities — and savvy business sense — feasibly helped him get where he is today.
Jeremy Gardner is another person who boldly began investing in Bitcoin during the early days — notice a pattern here? — and received a substantial payoff. In 2013, one of Gardner’s friends got him some Bitcoins in exchange for cash and Gardener began feeling fascinated about how he could work with the currency with nothing more than an Internet connection. He also loved how there was no centralized regulatory body for Bitcoin.
As Gardener became immersed in the Bitcoin world, he became a strong and emphatic voice in the cryptocurrency world, often using social media as a platform. He also wisely invested money into starting and supporting companies associated with Bitcoins and Blockchain technology.
Gardner stops short of disclosing how much money he’s made by investing in Bitcoin technologies, but is referred to as a “self-made millionaire.” Plus, he keeps a realistic perspective and understands that whenever the value of Bitcoins goes up rapidly, it’ll likely also go in the other direction soon. However, Gardener has a broad network of investments. Those interests are arguably helping protect his worth and allow him to get financial benefits from numerous sources.
Mr. Smith (not his real name)
Traveling the world is something many people dream of doing, but Mr. Smith has turned that aspiration into reality, all due to Bitcoin investments starting in 2010. A man with a college education and former Silicon Valley employee, Mr. Smith, heard about Bitcoins in July of 2010 and began investing in them a few months later.
Knowing he was in it for the long haul, Smith put his Bitcoin investments on the backburner until 2013, a time when the cryptocurrency’s value started rising rapidly. Eventually, the price per coin went up to more than 2,000 times what Smith originally paid for it. He now claims to have made $25 million from an initial $3,000 investment and uses the money to go on lavish, round-the-world travels that involve only staying in five-star hotels and flying first-class.
Smith still owns 1,000 Bitcoins, but only wants to sell those once the per-coin value reaches $150,000. He has no regrets about selling the rest and says he has everything he ever wanted, thanks to Bitcoins.
Tim Enneking is a prime example of how to succeed in Bitcoin investing. He’s a hedge fund manager who achieved the all-time annual records for both funds and funds of funds.
Enneking was skeptical of digital currencies, although he started running the world’s first digital currency fund. During his work, Enneking decided to rigorously research Bitcoins. After realizing he didn’t find any red flags, he concluded perhaps there was more to the cryptocurrency than he’d originally thought and started looking for ways to become more heavily involved in funds management.
Enneking now has experience overseeing funds within the US and abroad. He advocates being cautious while investing and taking time to understand market trends. Furthermore, Enneking reminds potential investors that due to the rapid fluctuations of digital currencies, it may take time to see investments become fruitful.
You might not have heard of 26-year-old Olaf-Carlson Wee before, but he’s another person who recognized the potential of Bitcoins before many other people and got rich as a result. In February 2013, at a time when a single Bitcoin’s worth was between $20-30, Carson Wee began working for a Bitcoin startup called Coinbase.
At that time, Bitcoins were not part of the cultural consciousness yet, and the mere mention of them caused raised eyebrows if people were aware of them at all. However, Carlson Wee viewed Bitcoins as a promising currency. He made an arrangement with his employer to only get paid with them instead of physical money and started making transactions with Bitcoins whenever possible. Those decisions were ultimately profitable because they made Carlson Wee a millionaire.
The success stories you just read might be enough to make you want to start investing in Bitcoins immediately. But, if there’s a consistent thread in all those outstanding stories, it’s that the Bitcoin value changes without warning. However, some people have unfortunate circumstances related to Bitcoins that aren't always about their falling value. You’ll see some examples below.
James Howells, a 32-year-old man from Wales, started working with Bitcoins from a computer in 2009. A year later, he disassembled the device and stored the parts in a drawer, then eventually threw them away.
Because several years’ worth of trash now lie on top of the valuable but discarded hard drive, retrieving it is an expensive process, and the condition of the hard drive is unknown. However, the reason why the ramifications of this failure became especially evident this year is that estimates suggest the hard drive and the Bitcoins it contains are worth more than $100 mln at today’s prices.
Howells keeps an upbeat attitude about his lost fortune and knows there’s no point in getting too upset about it. If he ever does recover it, however, he’ll buy a Lamborghini.
Despite how things turned out for Howells, he hasn’t given up on cryptocurrencies. He’s still active with them today and puts his energies into one called Bitcoin Cash.
Most people have gone through the frustration of forgetting passwords and PINs, but they probably don’t have to deal with the aftermath of losing the equivalent of $30,000 because of the blunder. However, Mark Frauenfelder invested $3,000 in Bitcoins last year and had numerous profitable ventures afterward. He talked to Bitcoin experts who told him that using a hardware wallet was the best way to protect his Bitcoin cache, so Frauenfelder bought one in November 2016 for $100.
While setting up the hardware wallet, he had to set up a PIN, along with a 24-word list used to recover access if needed. Frauenfelder wrote down the words on a piece of paper. Unfortunately, a cleaning company employee threw the document away. Frauenfelder didn’t think that was a big deal at first until he discovered he’d forgotten his PIN.
Desperate to regain access, he went online and posted on forums, plus contacted customer service representatives associated with the hardware wallet manufacturer. Frauenfelder even visited a hypnotist this spring, but the session did not bring about successful results.
At long last, he got help from someone who helped him hack into the hardware wallet and get the PIN and 24-word list. But, not without substantial heartache, stress and paying money for retrieval methods.
This woman who used Bitcoin to hire a hitman
The anonymous nature of Bitcoin may compel people to use the currency for illegal things. However, as a 58-year-old Italian woman who lives in Denmark learned, doing that can cause trouble. She hired a hitman to carry out a failed murder plot related to her boyfriend and used Bitcoin to pay for it.
A court ruling resulted in a six-year jail term. It also caused her to lose residence privileges in Denmark, where she’s lived for 30 years.
Cody Brown, a startup executive, saw first hand how bad things could get during a Bitcoin theft. He lost $8,000 worth of Bitcoins in 15 minutes after a hacker got into his Verizon account, which was connected with Coinbase. Brown believed he got targeted because of a tweet he’d RT’d from a friend who’d also been hacked earlier. Brown is not hopeful of ever getting the stolen cryptocurrency back.
However, he’s also not giving up on Bitcoins. Brown believes that the companies involved in it will eventually figure out how to lock their systems down tighter and potentially add more fraud protection resources for customers.
Simon first used the TOR network in 2011. He stumbled upon one of those shady online marketplaces that offered all kinds of illegal things, — guns, drugs, counterfeit documents, you name it.
As a teenager, Simon decided that getting a brand new passport for a certain European country would be a neat thing to do. The price tag was 10,000 BTC. If he threw in an extra 6,000 BTC, the seller promised to get Simon a press ID from an esteemed newspaper, too. He couldn’t resist.
Simon transferred his funds to a crypto-exchange platform but, when it came time for the merchant to deliver, the merchant disappeared. ‘Maybe he got arrested?’ Simon wondered to himself. He was confused, but he still had his money safely tucked away in the exchange account since the seller had vanished. All was okay as far as he was concerned.
Two years later, newspapers began reporting the arrest of a Russian man accused of money laundering. The name of the laundering service he had controlled was Liberty Finance, which Simon instantly recognized as the crypto-exchange platform he had used to keep his 20,000 BTC.
In light of the scandal, the FBI seized control of the exchange platform and all money associated with it. Simon kissed that money goodbye long ago, but it doesn’t make it easier for him to see how Bitcoin has appreciated over time.
If Liberty Finance hadn’t been a money laundering scam, Simon would have acquired some $400 mln dollars.
Despite the lack of regulation in the Bitcoin world, entities that are breaking the law still get caught. Case in point? BTC-e, a long-running Bitcoin exchange.
It received a $110 mln fine from the Federal Trade Commission for alleged money laundering. Also, Alexander Vinnik, a Russian man associated with the exchange got arrested and faces over five decades in prison if convicted.
Another recent incidence of alleged questionable behavior from Russia comes from Anatoly Kaplan, the owner of ForkLog, a Russian cryptocurrency news outlet. According to reports, the Ukrainian Secret Service is investigating Kaplan in connection with alleged associations with Americans involved in unlawful activities.
The Ukrainian authorities searched Kaplan’s apartment and confiscated his laptop. Also, this is not the first time ForkLog has come to the attention of law enforcement officials. Kaplan maintains his innocence and asserts his site does not have technology capable of the things the Ukrainian police accuse him of doing.
Kaplan also says during the search and seizure related to the investigation, one of the Ukrainians tried to transfer some of Kaplan’s Bitcoins. Kaplan and his attorney plan to take legal action and are confident about a positive outcome, but even so, this event has already caused stress and unfavorable publicity for Kaplan and his ForkLog site.
The people who engage in them must be ready for ruin, but they might become amazingly prosperous instead.