It appears that the pumpers and dumpers of the cryptocurrency community are in for trouble.
The US Justice Department and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have together launched a criminal probe into cryptocurrency market manipulation, Bloomberg reports.
The investigations, which are still in an early stage, are looking into all forms of illegal activities that can unfairly affect the market prices of cryptocurrencies, including pump-and-dump schemes, spoofing and wash trading.
This isn’t the first time authorities have taken notice of market manipulation. In February this year, CFTC announced a rewards program for whistleblowing cryptocurrency pump-and-dump schemes.
Investigators asked users to submit tips about any suspicious activity related to cryptocurrency market manipulation, offering monetary rewards between 10 to 30 percent for any catch above a million dollars.
Pump-and dump schemes are rampant in the cryptocurrency community — even industry celebrities such as John Mcafee are alleged to have abetted such schemes.
The schemes are often organized on private groups created especially for this purpose, using services such as Telegram. The admins of the Telegramgroups, which have thousands of members, announce to their members specific times at which the ‘pump’ or ‘dump’ will take place. The users are then encouraged to buy and sell at that time to artificially affect the market price.
The scams in the space are not just limited to market manipulations either. A recent study by WSJ found that one in every five initial coin offerings (ICO) is phoney.
US authorities have increased their efforts to better educate cryptocurrency investors on the risks involved.