Do more to warn public of risks of initial coin offerings

Recently, my elderly uncle was informed by his friends about investment opportunities involving a growing number of companies which are trying to raise funds through initial coin offerings (ICOs), one of which is a property portal which makes unsubstantiated revenue projections.

When he sought my opinion on whether this was a suitable investment opportunity, I wrote to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to find out its stance on ICOs.

It replied that "consumers seeking investments from persons unregulated by MAS should exercise caution and consider the risks of dealing with entities and products that are not regulated by MAS", and included several links to MoneySense articles, the MAS' financial institutions directory, the MAS Investor Alert List and a link to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's consumer guide.

Such resources are inaccessible to many elderly folk who are unfamiliar with the Internet. More should be done to educate the public about the new technologies that they face.

Many companies take advantage of this and push products which may be worthless. There is no doubt that every investment should be entered into only after careful consideration, but there are segments of the population who are especially vulnerable to scams.

I hope to see more being done to warn potential investors about the pitfalls of investing in the name of blockchain technology.

Also, the MAS should come up with mandatory regulatory requirements and due diligence processes on all ICOs, regardless of what these tokens represent, especially when the increase in future token value is used as a lure.

Camilia Ng (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2018, with the headline 'Do more to warn public of risks of initial coin offerings'. Print Edition | Subscribe