- Don't talk about Bitcoin
- Second rule is: DON'T talk about Bitcoin.
Of course it's too late for me now, but Bitcoin has been my job for four years so it's kinda hard to backtrack. I could say I don't hold any bitcoins and never have, but who'd believe me?
But part of me wishes I could just rewind the calendar to 2012 and keep it all secret. You see, when I started out in Bitcoin, most people thought it was a joke and no-one took it very seriously. It was worth 'real' money but only to visionary bitcoiners – no government (and more importantly, no customs officers or tax officials) cared how much I had or where I traded it.
That's all changed. In some countries now they'll ask you specifically about digital currencies on your tax return; they'll expect you to account for every bitcoin you ever hedl, where you got it and how much you paid for it. As Gandhi said: first they laugh at you, then they realize they can squeeze a bit more tax revenue out of you for it.
The police will happily sell bitcoins on the open market as proceeds of crime (if you happened to get it that way) but it's still not 'real' money and you can't actually pay your taxes with BTC. Not now, probably not ever.
So anyway, tax is one big reason not to talk too much about your Bitcoin hobby. If you trade discreetly and away from the authorized, KYC'd exchanges, you'd do a better job of keeping it secret. But all that effort is wasted if you hang out at Bitcoin meetups wearing a Bitcoin T-shirt, your Twitter avatar is a big orange 'B' and you spend all your time bragging about how much you made selling the bitcoins you got at half the current price.
Tax authorities notice that kind of stuff. We're talking about national governments – they have employees who literally have nothing better to do with their days than stalk your social media.
Idiots with badges
Another reason not to talk about Bitcoin is plain ignorance. Not yours, theirs. We've all laughed at the stories of TSA officers who rifled through some poor slob's luggage "searching for bitcoins". Think about it though: do you want to be the person who has to explain the intangible nature of cryptocurrency to an idiot with a uniform and the authority to detain you? Or would you prefer to be the guy who walks through the airport with a million bucks' worth of BTC in your pocket without anyone even thinking to bother you about it?
Some people actually enjoy arguing, and explaining the intricacies of law as it pertains to new technology with LE officers wherever they find them. I'm not one of those people. Think of that Chris Rock skit about not getting your ass kicked by the police – but instead of kicking your ass, they're trying to confiscate your bitcoins somehow.
I'm talking about the more mundane version of theft here, not the one two sections above. You wouldn't walk through a city with a big purse full of cash with a blinged-out dollar sign on the front, would you? (OK some would, but they're also advertising their rob-ability).
Likewise, if you're sitting in a coffee shop using the free wi-fi and your laptop is covered in Bitcoin stickers, you're an open invitation to any talented hacker nearby to try and grab your private keys or wallet passwords. Or they'll just mail you a copy of Cryptolocker instead. Maybe you think your security's tight, but so have lots of people who got ripped off – better not to test it.
I've been that sticker guy. I even had five different altcoin logos on my laptop for about two hours to show how cutting edge I was, before realizing it was a dumb idea. Lucky me, so far I've only ever been ripped off by Bitcoin exchanges.
At the risk of putting a bunch of "To the moon!" T-shirt sellers out of business, I'm not into Bitcoin apparel so much these days either – for all the reasons described above. Maybe that's too paranoid. But times are different now, a lot more people are interested in Bitcoin that you probably wish weren't.
Maybe Bitcoin is like Fight Club, or Narcotics Anonymous – you hint at it subtly in public, but let it all hang out when you're in a closed room full of like-minded people. If everyone kept completely quiet about Bitcoin, most of us would never have heard of it. The solution may be to just tone down the enthusiasm a little.
"Bitcoin? Yeah, I can tell you about it, I've played around with a few bucks' worth. Not one of those millionaires though..."