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I have always enjoyed trying to stay current with our emerging information revolution. My wife may think my 1984 Osborne 1 chilling in the garage is a piece of junk. I deem it a glorious trophy #attached to the birth of the personalization of the information revolution.
I first sniffed the scent of bitcoin on some afternoon in 2012 and may actually have downloaded the client. But I was not yet skilled enough to make the program mine bitcoins. With a bit of more perseverance, and maybe three commands on a system terminal, I could have been one of the really early bitcoin miners. I must definitely doff my hats for them.
In early January 2013 I happened to be closely monitoring the movement for human rights in Iran when I chanced upon an article describing how an Iranian underground was beginning to engage in Bitcoin transactions. The implications swirling around this startling phenomenon motivated me to undertake a long, cold, objective analysis. I read the Bitcoin white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto. I learned a lot from other folks on bitcointalk.com and the internet.
Two things I learned were: (1) don't invest an amount that if totally lost would affect your lifestyle, and (2) reduce your risks by buying bitcoin from the world's largest exchange. Ummm. At the time, that would be Mt. Gox.
At that time, my wife and I had a joint account at TDAmeritrade. We did online stock trades and at times held money in a money market account. When bitcoin began to soar in value in January 2013 I was definitely in a panic buy mode. I sold stocks and twice wired the proceeds to Mt. Gox. Both times, in response to standard banking form questions, I declared my intent was to buy bitcoin.
Both times the request went through. The third time, however, the request did not go through. The timing of the third request was unfortunate. Just a few days before, TDAmeritrade had published a report on its website indicating its awareness of bitcoin's existential threat to the banking industry.
This is the text of the email I got from TDAmeritrade explaining why my request for a wire transfer was not honored:
From: Message Center Client Services|Date: 02/14/13 2:12 PMMessage available until 02/14/15.
Thank you for choosing TD Ameritrade! We have received instructions to wire funds out of your TD Ameritrade account ending in 3085. Regrettably, we are unable to process the request at this time for the following reason:TD Ameritrade¿s business practices preclude us from wiring funds to firms involved in certain lines of business, in this case:Purchasing of BITCOINSPlease complete a new request to an account not in this line of business.You can fax this material to our Outbound Wire department at 800-875-5485; attach scanned copies to a Message Center email (see below); or mail it to us at:TD AmeritradeOutbound Wire Department1005 N. Ameritrade PlaceBellevue, NE 68005We appreciate your cooperation in resolving this matter. If you have any questions, or if we can be of any assistance, please log on to your account and click "Message Center" (under Home) to write us. A representative will respond through your Message Center inbox. You can also call the Outbound Wire department directly at 888-723-8504, option 3. We¿re available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET (excluding market holidays). Sincerely,Jane D.Outbound Wire DepartmentTD Ameritrade(KMM78082520V69938L0KM)
When my request for a wire transfer was denied, I was livid. I felt like I was a victim of highway robbery. I strongly felt that every day my attempts to buy bitcoin was being delayed and costing me many thousands of dollars of future income. What's the point of having money if you don't have control over how you spend it?
When I tried to figure out what I could do about TDAmeritrade's restriction on the use of my money I happened to run into Mark Karpeles, the CEO of Mt. Gox, on one of the chat boards. He ran this story by his attorneys and he informed me, in an email, that because TDAmeritrade is a broker and not a bank, it is likely they are subject to different rules. TDAmeritrade may have been legally justified in using business risk as a disqualifying reason for issuing a wire transfer to Mt. Gox.
I can only thank Mark Karpeles for his insight at that time as to the true nature of the business risks I was undertaking.
Oh, the third thing I learned from all of this is to become proficient at using cold storage for bitcoin. Thankfully, I learned this well before Mt. Gox imploded. Never, never, never relinquish your private key to anyone. Mt. Gox in its days of glory. Hmmm. Now there's a bit of history for you.
- by Kipp Elliott Watson
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