VANCOUVER – The money virtual world now has its first actual automatic teller machine, but industry experts say consumers should still be aware of the risks associated with the digital currency Bitcoin.
Mitchell Demeter of Bitcoiniacs — a Bitcoin broker and the firm that installed the ATM in a Vancouver coffee shop — says the firm intends to set up the machines in other Canadian cities as well.
Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency, and proponents argue it is a convenient alternative to other forms of banking because transactions are instant and there are no processing fees involved.
People trade cash for the digital coins at a current rate $211.79 per Bitcoin, and so far about 16 Vancouver-area merchants accept the currency.
But Catherine Johnston with ACT Canada, a group that works to ensure secure online payments, says the fact that Bitcoin is not backed by a central bank means it is not subjected to the same regulations surrounding money laundering as other currencies.
Earlier this year, U.S. authorities shut down anonymous online marketplace Silk Road, whose users allegedly used Bitcoins to buy and sell drugs illegally.