WASHINGTON, February 26, 2014 —The largest virtual currency exchange website, Mt. Gox, now contains only two short messages to their customers.
The first message is from Mark Karpeles, CEO, reassuring customers that he is still in Japan and working to find solutions to recent issues. Karpeles also asks customers to not ask any questions of the staff.
The second message is from the entire Mt. Gox team explaining that the exchange was closed to protect the site and its users.
With these two brief, vague statements, the virtual currency exchange of Bitcoins shutdown on Tuesday leaving customers who have purchased Bitcoins on the site wondering about the status of their investment.
Since there is no regulatory monitoring of virtual exchanges and currency, despite the meteoric rise over the past year, there may be nothing people can do when the exchanges shutdown.
The closing came after months of issues including reports of repeated hacking attempts and internet rumors that the exchange had lost over 744,000 Bitcoins in a long running scam. If true that would equal about $400 million.
Bitcoins are a form of electronic currency that has been around since 2009. It is internet cash.
Every Bitcoin transaction is verified and recorded by a network of computers. Although this currency worked like any other type of money, it does not have a governing body regulating and printing the Bitcoins.
The exchange rate in dollars is posted in the site Bitstamp every day and shows the high volatility of these coins, with a one year range of $30 to $1,000.
Proponents say Bitcoins could one day become widely used by consumers for online shopping and other electronic transactions.
Bitcoins are the Dungeons and Dragons of currency. Those who tend to use the Bitcoin are intelligent, nerdy types with a little Libertarian mixed in.
Bitcoin wallets are created using pairs of cryptographic keys, one public and one private. Miners are power users who crunch numbers on behalf of the network, and some have racks of computers dedicated to the task. They are called miners because, just as gold miners increase the supply of gold, they create new Bitcoins.
Some online retailers such as Overstock.com and physical stores, mostly smaller businesses, already accept the digital currency, but its adoption is not widespread.
There are sites dedicated to direction users of Bitcoins to sites that use the virtual currency.
Where part of the appeal of the currency is that it is backed only by the faith and credit of its participants and is outside the scope of any banker, politician, or the Federal Reserve, it also leaves users with nowhere to turn after a breach such as at Mt. Gox.
Japanese authority made statements on Wednesday that they will be investigation the status of the Mt. Gox exchange.
Mt. Gox began as a website for exchanging trading cards before changing to Bitcoin.