Bitcoin spawns business in Tampa Bay area - WFLA News Channel 8

Bitcoin spawns business in Tampa Bay area

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WFLA's Lauren Mayk interviews Jonathan Simms about BitCoin. WFLA's Lauren Mayk interviews Jonathan Simms about BitCoin.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Bitcoin, the digital currency that's picked up investors and gotten attention worldwide, has some believers in the Tampa Bay area.

"I see this becoming the new currency of the world," said Jonathan Simms, a Tampa resident who works in the Bitcoin industry in Sarasota.

Simms says he got involved with Bitcoin when it was worth about $50. In recent days, the going rate for a Bitcoin has been more than $650 on online exchanges.

Bitcoins are not physical coins, but virtual money that users keep in digital wallets, and trade on exchanges similar to a stock or commodities exchange.

Bitcoin can be bought from someone online, but can also be earned in a process called "mining" by solving complicated math problems.  That's where Simms and his colleagues at Digital Mining Investments come in, using their computers to solve those problems for clients.

Bitcoins – or fractions of them – can be used to buy physical items at retailers that accept them, including Overstock.com and the café in the building where Digital Mining Investments is located in Sarasota.

But while the virtual currency has gained fans who use it as an investment or a way to pay for lunch, criminals have also started to exploit it.

"We know from experience that criminals have actually utilized virtual currency to traffic child pornography to purchase, to sell illegal weapons, poisons, toxins," said FBI Special Agent Dave Couvertier.

Agents are on the lookout for the use of digital currency on underground networks where transfers are hard to trace.

Last month, a 19-year-old Florida man was arrested after allegedly selling a potentially deadly toxin to an undercover Homeland Security Investigations agent in a Bitcoin transaction on a website known as "Black Market Reloaded," or BMR.

Related Links: Bit Coin information

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