If you are interested in investing in Ethereum, Bitcoin, or other cryptocurrency from an overseas duty location, there are some things you need to know about protecting your investment and making sure you don’t lose your money.
Know The Rules
As a military member, you have much more to lose by not following the rules of cryptocurrency investing. Why? Security clearances, for a start, can be jeopardized by those who do not follow federal law and that includes investing in crypto.
What kind of laws do we mean? For starters, anyone who holds accounts in overseas holdings is required to report those accounts to the Internal Revenue Service.
If you have holdings worth more than $10K in overseas accounts, you need to discuss your tax position with a qualified tax professional or contact the IRS for information on how to properly file in such cases.
In addition to IRS guidelines for individuals, a law called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act requires such taxpayers to report overseas accounts on IRS Form 8938.
Ignorance Of The Rules Is No Excuse
Failure to do so, intentional or not, could create problems for someone about to be reviewed for a security clearance. Don’t take an unnecessary risk-if you don’t know or are not sure, ask a tax professional or contact the IRS.
Furthermore, you may be subject to the laws of your host country if you are investing in cryptocurrency in the host nation you have PCSed to–Status of Forces Agreements may or may not apply to investments made in another country–you will need to understand any laws you may be subject to as an American investing while living in a foreign country.
How will such laws affect your ability to invest while serving “in-country”? Will they affect you? If you don’t know the answer, you’re already at a disadvantage. Know before you invest.
For example, in Germany, cryptocurrency is defined as a financial instrument that can be taxed. Some uses of cryptocurrency in Germany may require a permit. In America, Ethereum, Bitcoin, and other virtual currencies are regulated as property and not as a financial instrument.
That distinction might not mean much to some, but in the eyes of the law, it is a major difference.
The Unregulated Nature Of Ethereum
The problem with people investing in cryptocurrency while serving in the military from an overseas location? More often than not for some users there is a serious issue with not being able to keep up with the latest trends and developments that affect how virtual currency is bought and sold.
A good example?
China Bans Cryptocurrency
On May 18, 2021, Reuters.com reported that China issued a ban on that nation’s financial institutions working with cryptocurrency.
China-based companies cannot offer services related to cryptocurrency transactions, and the Chinese government issued a warning to investors not to engage in “speculative crypto trading” according to Reuters.
If you are investing in cryptocurrency from overseas it pays to know what kind of geopolitics (such as China’s move against virtual currency) could affect the Bitcoin investment world. Being ignorant of issues like these when dealing with an unregulated and highly volatile form of speculative investment is a recipe for serious loss of your principal investment.
Online trading has its share of perils starting with the most basic technical issues–online connectivity. If you lost your connection during a crucial moment in an Ethereum trade, will you lose the transaction altogether? That is a common worry among those who have not traded online before.
The real issue isn’t so much whether you will lose your transaction altogether if you experience internet trouble, but whether or not you missed out on a chance to buy or sell at an ideal moment.
Some will play a risky game with cryptocurrency, treating it like a day trading situation or investing aggressively enough to want to monitor prices in real time before making the right move to sell or buy.
For these people, the loss of connectivity could be far more troublesome than those who treat crypto like a fun hobby. If your goal is to buy and sell for profit like a pro or semi professional investor, any local issues you have with your internet connection in the host country could be a serious issue.
Securing Your Investment
One of the first things you learn about investing in crypto is that you have to hang on to your secure keys for each Bitcoin or other type of currency you have. Lose your crypto keys and you lose your Ethereum.
People tend to store their keys in several ways–on a thumb drive, stored in the cloud, or even printed on paper and locked away.
Your preferred method of storing these valuable keys may work for you when things are normal, but if you go on a PCS move and don’t take steps to safeguard your cryptocurrency you could lose your investment. How can this happen?
- The thumb drives you store your cryptocurrency get accidentally packed in your household goods, leaving you unable to access your virtual money until the shipment arrives at your new assignment anywhere from 6-12 weeks from the time it departs your previous duty station.
- The same scenario above, but the drive or other storage method you were using gets damaged, destroyed, or lost in the move.
- You leave your cryptocurrency platforms unused for a longer-than-usual length of time and your account is hacked or otherwise compromised.
- Your data is stored on drives or by other means and you’ve remembered to keep it out of your household goods, but the bag or drives containing this information are stolen while you are in transit.
- The exchange you registered with to trade virtual currency goes out of business while you are in the middle of PCS travel. This isn’t as much of an issue for those who don’t store their crypto keys offline, but it can be a serious issue for those who aren’t as diligent about anticipating such contingencies.
In each one of these scenarios, there are simple solutions that can be used to add more protection against data loss. In the case of your crypto accounts, the most important thing to do is to NOT store your Ethereum or Bitcoin on a third party exchange for an extended period of time.
Use complicated passwords, change your passwords just before you embark on your PCS travel, and make sure to safeguard your passwords carefully.
Remember, if you lose access to your crypto keys, you lose your money and that may be as true of a lost password to a crypto exchange as it is lost keys themselves.
For all other scenarios in the list above, making copies of your bitcoin keys and keeping them in an extremely safe place is the most effective way to prevent a loss of your investment. Traveling with your Bitcoin keys or Ethereum keys is much safer when you have redundant copies of those keys.
You may consider printing a list of these keys and putting them into a safe deposit box or some other form of secure or more secure storage ahead of any travel you have to do.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News