Did I just get defrauded by Coinbase?



I bought 10 bitcoins, 4.5, and .4 on Oct 18/19 @ around $150-160. On Oct 24, within almost the hour that the coins were supposed to arrive, I receive the following email for all 3 transactions:

On Oct 18, 2013 you purchased 10.00 BTC via bank transfer for $1,556.76.

Unfortunately, we have decided to cancel this order because it appears to be high risk. We do not send out any bitcoins on high risk transactions, and you will receive a refund to your bank account in 3-4 business days.

Please understand that we do this to keep the community safe and avoid fraudulent transactions. Apologies if you are one of the good users who gets caught up in this preventitive measure - we don't get it right 100% of the time, but we need to be cautious when it comes to preventing fraud.

You may have more luck trying again in a few weeks. Best of luck and thank you for trying Coinbase.

Kind regards, The Coinbase Team

I didn't think it was a big deal after doing a little research since they have squared things away with similar situations, and I've made a 10BTC transaction in the past, but i was a bit worried because of the size of the transactions and the movement of the market. I ask this how could this be fixed?

6 days later, I finally get a response:

Sorry for the confusion on that. It looks like your recent purchases were canceled due to appearing high risk, and a refund has been sent to your bank account.

I know it must be frustrating to have this happen, but it's an unfortunate necessity that we exercise caution when selling bitcoin online in order to protect ourselves and the bitcoin community from fraudulent transactions. While bitcoin transactions from one account to another do not face this kind of cancellation, we can't guarantee the sale of bitcoin to every account due to the high risk nature of selling them online. If you try a purchase at a later time then you may have success getting it to go through. Please don't hesitate to shoot me an email if you have any further questions!

-Rees D. Sloan

Customer Support Specialist

This response really didn't tell me anything. So I ask what my other options are and here is there next response:

Hi _ ,

I am extremely sorry for the confusion on this. I've taken further steps to review your account and at this point we've been able to get you whitelisted. Any future purchases you make from this point forward will not encounter this cancellation. Unfortunately, since the refund has already been sent out on these original purchases, I'm unable to push through or re-create the original transactions.

Again, I apologize for the frustration this has caused. If you need further assistance please let me know and I'll be happy to help!

-Rees D. Sloan

Customer Support Specialist

Something really just doesn't add up here. At the date and time that the bitcoins were supposed to be added to my account, the price was at like ~199 and 200+ on bitstamp and mtgox. Thats ~$50 increase since the time i bought it, costing me nearly $7-800.

So what did coinbase do with the ~$2500 that was in limbo for so long? And what happened to the bitcoins that was purchased at much cheaper prices?

I mean coinbase could have just denied these transactions right away, and I could have went to another site to buy it right away.

The thing that really hurts about this is that none of this money was mine. I am just a student and I finally convinced family and friends that bitcoin is a worthy investment and they finally trusted me giving me this money to invest. Is there anyway that this could be reconciled?


Posted 2013-10-31T00:52:02.843

Reputation: 169

3One thing to learn from this: never take others people money to invest in something you are not sure buying this from people you have no reason to trust. – Salvador Dali – 2013-11-01T00:23:00.360

2Use LocalBitcoins - There the seller has to have the Bitcoins on account and they get deducted when you ask to buy into an escrow with no return for him. THen you pay him into bank or cash wahtever and he presses a button that its all good. YOu get the coins. Coinbase is a bit dogey and I stay away from them. Never had an issue on LocalBitcoin - just make sure you deal with reputable people.e – Piotr Kula – 2013-11-01T13:00:47.030

2I have yet to receive a payout on my coins and I put in a sell order over a week ago. The money for the coins should have arrived in the bank by now but they havnt. I hope coinbase is not going out of business or something. – None – 2013-11-05T16:43:18.627

3Too localized, only invites discussion. – Stéphane Gimenez – 2013-11-14T21:36:09.163

@ppumkin, what do you mean by "dogey"? – Pacerier – 2013-11-22T20:20:35.570

@Pacerier "dodgy" – NReilingh – 2013-12-07T17:30:01.720



No, you were not defrauded because you did not lose anything real.

  • You did not lose 10 BTC.
  • You did not lose $1,556.76.
  • You lost potential, yet unrealized gain as a result of the delay in processing your order.

You may have not had access to either amount for a period of time because of the flag thrown on your transaction.

AFAIK, Coinbase does not publish its criteria for flagging transactions. Doing so would likely make it more difficult to detect transactions that would defraud them.

One way to look at it is that this is not Coinbase's fault. Coinbase has to protect itself from both financial and legal liability. It can refuse to do business with anyone it so desires if it feels the transaction may not be made with legally obtained funds by people with whom it can legally conduct business.

If you are unhappy with the delay, and that's enough of a transgression for you not to use Coinbase again, then that's your decision to make. However, this can happen with anyone as automated and needfully paranoid as Coinbase.

Colin Dean

Posted 2013-10-31T00:52:02.843

Reputation: 6 834

5This is a nonsensical argument. That potential had some fair market value. Now he no longer has that value. That reflects a loss of the value of the potential. Say the fair market value of that potential was $1,000. And say he had sold that potential to someone else for $1,000, its fair value. Would you argue that the person who bought the potential for $1,000 and got nothing for it didn't lose $1,000? Or would you argue the potential had no value? – David Schwartz – 2013-11-14T04:18:42.480


@DavidSchwartz You are conflating speculation with investment. Professional speculators have contracts that stipulate maximum transaction delay and penalty rates to eke out the most market responsivity. Most Bitcoin providers, like Coinbase, are not day trade exchanges. What Concerned experienced was an opportunity cost loss and these are not generally enforced within common law; they must be stipulated and enforced through contract law. You would have to purchase a more expensive speculative trading account, if such exist, to include a contractual liability clause.

– LateralFractal – 2013-11-15T01:07:40.713

@DavidSchwartz Or put another way: Coinbase was not selling market potential. Hence monetary assignment of loss is specious from product standpoint, unless Coinbase explicitly advertised itself as a speculative get-rich-quick scheme. If such assumptions of Bitcoin are brought to the table by new adopters - there is not much anyone can do about that; except I assume educate people as to exactly what risks they will absorb. – LateralFractal – 2013-11-15T01:14:16.737

@LateralFractal I don't see where you think I'm conflating speculation with investment. Can you cite the particular point in my argument where you believe I first make this error and explain why you think so? If you lose something that you previously had, and that thing had some fair market value for which you could have sold it, haven't you lost something real? And isn't that the very thing the argument I'm replying to denies? It says, "... you did not lose anything real". – David Schwartz – 2013-11-15T03:52:17.943

@DavidSchwartz The volatility of Bitcoin tempts newcomers with the idea of capital gains through currency speculation. In macroeconomic terms, currency speculation is by definition not investment. The daily spot price of Bitcoin is stochastic, so differentials across short timeframes amount to gambling. The default attitude by the courts is that gamblers bear the risk of their activity, not service providers. So yes, in certain key legal and economic ways the lost opportunity is not considered "real" to anyone but the buyer. – LateralFractal – 2013-11-15T16:05:08.210


@DavidSchwartz If you contact a farmer to buy a pig and when you get there the farmer isn't home - the farmer didn't steal a pig from you. This is a fundamental question of perception and expectation. You should not treat a virtual loss the same as a real loss. No one should invest real money without the ability to make that distinction. A virtual loss or gain only exists in so far as it leverages future opportunities; which in the case of currency speculation is a future sale of said currency.

– LateralFractal – 2013-11-15T16:06:26.390

@LateralFractal You didn't lose the pig, but you lost the opportunity to buy the pig, which is real. As for it not being considered real to "anyone but the buyer", that's nonsense. It has a fair market value. It can be bought, it can be sold. If that's not real, I don't know what is. – David Schwartz – 2013-11-16T19:23:55.180

@DavidSchwartz You bandy the term 'fair market value' as a form of retrospective determinism. You have what you have, nothing more. You had a $1000 => You had a pig => You had $1200 => Etc. At no time was the pig and the money superpositioned; though this what 'fair market value' implies to the uninitiated. Every thing you do every second of every day entails opportunity costs (future 'fair market value' being a euphemism for a certain subset). These opportunities are real to you but their inherent contextual relativity mean they are not as real to other people.

– LateralFractal – 2013-11-17T00:36:02.653

Because everything induces opportunity costs and our lives are obviously impacted by other people, a functioning society limits liability of other's incidental actions upon our alternate future selves. You can state that opportunity costs are important - which they are - but you can not assert an answer that distinguishes between inferred opportunity cost and actual loss is a "nonsensical argument". Because there is never one opportunity cost or future branch but many such branches. Of which most cancel out - or are even orthogonal to each other in the manner of their value proposition. – LateralFractal – 2013-11-17T00:37:01.033

@DavidSchwartz If you insist on reifying currency speculation, there is really nothing I can do about that and I have nothing more to say. – LateralFractal – 2013-11-17T00:39:59.567

@LateralFractal Say I bet on a particular horse to win a particular race and pay $10 for the ticket given to me. If I then lose that ticket before the race, have I lost something real? If that ticket has a fair market value of $10 and can be sold for $10, why is losing it not losing something real? (Regardless of how the race turns out of course! That would be the fallacy of retrospective determinism.) – David Schwartz – 2013-11-17T00:47:30.617

@DavidSchwartz Sigh. Somehow I doubt you digested what I said in 7 minutes. In any case, you are diverging from the facts as Concerned put them. The OP did not permanently lose their $1500. Their ticket, to use your analogy, was refunded but after a delay that could have been used to buy a similar ticket from another bookmaker. Put simply, Coinbase at worse took Concerned's $1500 for a six day joyride before returning it. – LateralFractal – 2013-11-17T01:16:29.800

'Real' - another word being bandied about - is an incredibly fluid word and the term must always be read in context. The context that Colin and I am using is that deferred engagement of currency speculation is not as real as the money (USD or BTC) you had and have. Your context as far I can determine is to reify the deferred engagement in of itself as a real capital gains loss despite no provider agreeing to such terms and no application of common law supporting systemic monetary valuation of forgone opportunities, without either a contractual basis or an established precedent. – LateralFractal – 2013-11-17T01:17:01.477

You're making this way more complicated than it needs to be. It's really this simple: If something can have a fair market value, can have an owner, and can be bought and sold, is it real? And even if there's some technical sense in which it's not, what does that matter to the person who lost it? You are going to great technical lengths to obscure a simple, common sense fact. This is why the general public hates lawyers. – David Schwartz – 2013-11-17T01:18:27.720

How about this: You give me $500, and then in five days, I give you the equivalent number of Bitcoins at today's prices -- unless the price of Bitcoins goes up, in which case I'll give you back your $500 plus $10. Is that fair? According to your reasoning, under no circumstances can you lose anything (at least nothing "real"). And you could even make $10! – David Schwartz – 2013-11-17T01:27:06.893


let us continue this discussion in chat

– LateralFractal – 2013-11-17T01:28:49.603


Basically, yes. Coinbase is notorious for this type of shady practice; hit me just last week. At least you got a reply, their customer service ignored my requests for updates. A few quick searches will find you quite a few repeats of this same old story. It's best to not think of Coinbase as an exchange at all; think of them as just a store that sells bitcoins at a mark-up.


Posted 2013-10-31T00:52:02.843

Reputation: 250


Coinbase did not defraud you. I've done over 500 transactions with Coinbase since July 2013. They are a legitimate Venture Capital funded startup. They do however make mistakes / have bugs in their software. However they always straighten everything out after I submit support tickets.

Once they made a mistake that I submitted a support ticket about requesting they fix it. By the time they responded fixing the mistake would have cost me a few hundred and made them a few hundred, but they gave me the option to fix it or keep things the same, which I opted to do since it helped me out by a few hundred dollars.

David Silva Smith

Posted 2013-10-31T00:52:02.843

Reputation: 1 038


Surely you were screwed. Before buying something from the internet, it is a good idea to look how legitimate is the source. Just a quick search on the internet is showing that a lot of people have these problems. If it would be really something with fraud prevention, they could have cancelled the money right away and you will receive them back in one day (like if you reserve a hotel and then cancel it). I understand that right now I sound like this guy :-)

Most probably if the situation with bitcoins ended up other way around from 160 they dropped to 100 you would have received it.

What they have done can be described this way:

You are trading on some exchange. And you decide to sell bitcoins there. You sold them and one of the two things happened.

  • bitcoins lost 30% of their value. Cool you got 30% profit. You are happy.
  • bitcoins increased their value by 30%. You disappointed and undo the transaction.

They just undid the transaction. I hope you will at least receive your money.

One thing to learn from this: never take others people money to invest in something you are not sure, buying this from people you have no reason to trust.

Salvador Dali

Posted 2013-10-31T00:52:02.843

Reputation: 3 160


Coinbase says that their security cancellations are purely algorithmic cyber security measure that will flag suspicious accounts according to their own unpublished security criteria. I say that the security they are worried about is their own financial security. If they do obtain bitcoins to fulfill an order and the value has risen enough while the contract was pending why not sell them to someone else, bank the profits, cancel the transaction, and tell their clients it is all to "protect" them. It doesn't take any humans to do this it is all calculated into the algorithm, but it is the calculation by Coinbase's owners to take profits for themselves when they rightfully belong to their clients that makes this company a scam.


Posted 2013-10-31T00:52:02.843

Reputation: 29


Coinbase did cancel my order a while ago. However I emailed them, verified my identity and they sold me the bitcoins at the price I originally bought them at. Great company, I am continuing to buy bitcoins from them. Keep in mind Coinbase provides a service almost no one else is willing to provide due to the ease with which people can scam such a business out of bitcoins.


Posted 2013-10-31T00:52:02.843

Reputation: 1


It's a common practice on shady exchange.

You buy something

Price went up. They cancel "the order". The truth is your order went through. They just cancel the order so they can keep the profit.

When price went down the order will go through just fine.

Now, they deciding whether your order went through or not after they knew price go up or down is very shady.

I would avoid that like plague.

Also my buddy put $5k on coinbase and pretty much lost it.



Posted 2013-10-31T00:52:02.843

Reputation: 1 146