The United States Federal Reserve is studying the impact of online payment options such as PayPal and Bitcoin to determine potential risks associated with them. The Bitcoin community is apprehensive following recent comments of Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who said, “We have been talking at the Fed and with banking organizations, trying to more carefully understand what the concerns are with these new payment mechanisms”.

While that comment was made in response to a question regarding regulatory scrutiny over online payment providers such as PayPal, Bitcoin users are fearful, keeping the recent shutdown of Liberty Reserve, a virtual currency site, and the seizure of an account belonging to Mt. Gox, a digital currency exchange operator, in mind.

Yellen’s comment follows a recent US Treasury Department ruling which states that online banking providers are subject to the same money-laundering rules and regulations as traditional banks and banking institutions. These rules apply to Bitcoin and other digital currencies, even if they are not under the governorship of a central bank, or indeed a central company or government.

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The chief fear of banking officials appears to be that virtual currencies may be used by criminals or terrorists for money-laundering purposes, or by multinational companies to transfer money without tax repercussions. As Bitcoin is one of the fastest growing alternative currencies, it is coming under increasing scrutiny.

It is unclear yet what the ultimate attitude of the Federal Reserve will be in regard to Bitcoin and other online payment options. However, according to Yellen, “This (concerns over new online payment mechanisms) is very much on our radar screen and we are carefully trying to identify where the risks are”.

The original article was posted behind the Wall Street Journal paywall.

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