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Stop Sending Me Bitcoins, Please!

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The Bitcoin community is an endearingly passionate group of people.

After I wrote a post last week expressing optimism about this technology's potential, I received 14 separate donations, totaling 4.097439 bitcoins (about $45), from generous Bitcoin fans. Most of them did so anonymously. (Bitcoins are infinitely divisible, hence the precise amount.)

Thank you. Now stop. Please.

My employer pays me to write about banking. It would be wrong for me to accept payments from any third party for work I perform for American Banker – even small, unsolicited donations, even after the fact, even if I have no idea who most of the third parties are. If you want to show support, leave a comment (or subscribe to American Banker if you haven't already).

I inadvertently got myself into this pickle. I'd included my 35-character Bitcoin address in the article, simply to illustrate the inscrutable, difficult-to-trace nature of the system's cryptographic identifiers. It didn't occur to me anyone would send me money.

I had underestimated the enthusiasm of Bitcoiners, which rivals that of Deadheads and Trekkies. Many of them were grateful that someone in the media had written a story that depicted Bitcoin as something greater than a criminal enterprise or a passing tech fad.

I call 'em like I see 'em. That's my job. But accepting even the tiniest denomination of coins for doing so would undermine my credibility as a journalist.    

So I'm going to try to return the bitcoins I received to the senders, and any coins I can't return I will donate to charity.

And no, I'm not going to say which charity. I prefer to give anonymously. See, Chuck Schumer? There are perfectly legitimate reasons to want to "disguise" the source of a payment.

Marc Hochstein is the executive editor of American Banker. The views expressed are his own.

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Comments (5)
Returning bitcoins to the "from" address doesn't necessarily do what you think it does. If the sender used a hosted (shared) EWallet, the coins that you return will go to someone else other than the sender.

You'll probably just want to pick a charity and send them there. If you wanted a charity that accepts Bitcoin, there are many:

- http://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Donation-accepting_organizations_and_projects

This is the same dilemma that NH State Rep Mark Warden is in. He accepted bitcoin donations and then realized that doing so for campaign contributions might be a probelm because they are sent anonymously, possibly from foreign sources. But he can't return them to the sender. So he'll probably be donating them as well.

- http://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=102022.0
Posted by sgornick | Wednesday, August 29 2012 at 2:25PM ET
@SGornick: Thanks for the advice. Charity it is, then.
Posted by Marc Hochstein, Editor in Chief, American Banker | Wednesday, August 29 2012 at 2:44PM ET
Mark Warden, a New Hampshire State Rep, had a similar problem when he announced he'd be accepting Bitcoin contributions. He actually did return the coins to the originating addresses, but since you probably have less bureaucracy to deal with, donating them to charity is likely the better solution.

https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=104544.0
Posted by joshmh | Thursday, August 30 2012 at 2:27AM ET
heh. bitcoins are even disruptive to 'sorry, but i can't accept this'.
Posted by VogueBlackheart | Friday, August 31 2012 at 11:07AM ET
Hi Mark, nice article. Just a quick clarification. Bitcoins are NOt infitely divisible. The smallest unit is commonly referred to as the 'Satoshi' or SAT. 1 Sat = 0.00000001 BTC.

http://bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/114/what-is-a-satoshi
Posted by jmzeidner | Sunday, October 19 2014 at 12:50PM ET
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