Why The Myth of The Miserable Lottery Winner Just Won’t Die

On Friday night, Mega Millions held a drawing for a whopping $1.28 billion jackpot, the third largest in American history. Late in the evening, officials announced the winning numbers—13-36-45-57-67, with a Mega Ball of 14—and on Saturday morning, said that one jackpot-winning ticket had been sold, in Illinois.

One in eight American adults play the lottery at least once a week, and almost half buy at least one ticket a year. Unfortunately, even if you bought your annual ticket sometime in the last few days, that winner is probably not going to be you—unless you happen to be that lucky Illinoisan. Maybe that’s okay, you tell yourself. Don’t lottery winners end up broke and miserable? It would be great to be rich, but I don’t need $1.1 billion.

Except most lottery winners do not wind up broke, or miserable, or bankrupt. Stories about regretful lottery winners are trotted out whenever jackpots get big. But as much as jealous losing bettors might want to think that winners’ unfathomably good luck is balanced out by bad, most people who strike it rich this way settle into lives of quiet, comfortable anonymity.

And yet, the myth of the miserable lottery winner persists. The history of this myth reveals a longstanding national discomfort with gambling, and exposes deep-seated cultural beliefs about the connection between wealth, work, and merit.

In the United States, media coverage of lottery winners is nearly as old as lotteries themselves. The first American lotteries were held in the 17th century to raise funds for colonial infrastructure projects. Lotteries appealed to gamblers at the time for many of the same reasons they are popular today: they offered a chance to dream of instant affluence, and provided a rare opportunity for the poor to hit it big.

But starting in the colonial period, a specific genre of human-interest story became widespread: lottery winners who wound up broke, beleaguered, or worse. From the 18th through the 20th century, newspapers in the United States recounted the misfortunes of lottery winners from across the globe: A baker and his pregnant wife murdered for his winnings by an employee (Paris, France, 1765). A squandered jackpot invested in a failed shipping venture (Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1883). A winner dying of a heart attack immediately upon hearing news of his windfall (Bilbao, Spain, 1934).

These stories remained common as states began legalizing lotteries in the 1960s and 1970s. With so many lottery prizes being handed out—and so many winners’ stories to choose from—journalists began to frame miserable lottery winners not as unique curiosities, but as a trend. Jackpots at the time were small, and some winners reported being hounded for money from strangers and family members.

Partly due to the federal government’s semi-adversarial approach to state-run gambling, many also faced problems with the IRS. University of Buffalo sociologist H. Roy Kaplan interviewed around 100 early lottery winners in the mid-1970s and found most of them happy, despite these challenges. Nonetheless, a narrative was born. “Instant millionaires: Dream becomes nightmare for some,” one 1976 headline noted. “Million-dollar winners find reasons to cry in their champagne,” read another.

The myth has been with us ever since. With the rise of rollover jackpot games in the 1980s, prizes got a lot bigger, and the tragedies suffered by some winners became even more dramatic: Jack Whittaker, a West Virginia man, won $314.9 million in 2002. He was robbed multiple times and lost a granddaughter to a drug overdose, an event he blamed on the windfall. Abraham Shakespeare was killed by an acquaintance three years after winning $30 million in 2006.

William Post won $16.2 million in 1988 and spent lavishly. He quickly faced legal troubles, and his brother tried to hire someone to kill him and his sixth wife. Post died broke in 2006. A headline from the satirical website The Onion, the day after a record-breaking 2012 jackpot, captured the prevailing wisdom about lucky lottery players: “Powerball Winners Already Divorced, Bankrupt.”

But unlucky winners like Post, Whittaker, and Shakespeare are the exception, not the rule. Their stories are repeated so often not because they are representative but because they are some of only a few examples of regretful winners. The vast majority of jackpot recipients collect their novelty checks at press conferences and are never heard from again.

The non-miserableness of lottery winners is borne out by studies from across the globe. Research into winners in Germany, Singapore, and Britain found that winning the lottery does, in fact, make people happier, and a 2004 study found that 85.5 percent of winners in Ohio kept working, a sign of how many carried on with their normal, pre-jackpot lives. A commonly cited statistic about the percentage of lottery windfall recipients who wind up bankrupt—often attributed to the National Endowment for Financial Education—was refuted by the organization in 2018. Money, it seems, really can buy happiness.

And yet, the myth endures. Stories about the lottery winner “curse” are deployed whenever jackpots approach the billion-dollar mark. Though he won his jackpot 34 years ago, William Post’s story was retold in a Washington Post article just last week, under the headline “s Mega Millions hits $1 billion, winning doesn’t mean a happy ending.” Why, despite all the available evidence, does the myth persist? What does it mean that this narrative is believed so widely?

Gambling has long been an alternative form of upward mobility in the United States. For anyone who could not or would not climb the traditional class ladder—or who faced discrimination in the mainstream economy—lotteries offered a seemingly fair shot at the American Dream. Especially over the last forty years, as economic opportunity has dried up or became concentrated in certain pockets of the country, lotteries have served as an important means of trying for a new life.

But Americans’ enduring love of gambling has long been in conflict with an important element of the nation’s mythology: that the United State is a meritocracy founded on hard work, a place where the smart, the savvy, and the deserving rise to the top, no matter their background. The implication of this ethos is that hard work always yields a just reward. By design, the meritocracy leaves little room for chance.

In this context, the tale of the miserable winner is less a human-interest tabloid tale and more a moralizing lesson about wealth, merit, and class mobility.

All of these stories bear a single message: it is not healthy to win a windfall. The implication is that if someone won money through gambling, they had somehow violated the natural order of the universe and would inevitably suffer a comeuppance to restore things to their proper place.

The myth reinforces the supposed direct connection between work and merit. Because these winners lost it all, their stories suggest that if they had worked for their fortune, they would have truly deserved it. And anyone who deserves a fortune would know how to live with it, and such a fate would not befall them.

The tale of the regretful winner seems to confirm that a society built on luck is dangerous, even for the very lucky.

The myth, then, is not just an outdated and factually inaccurate narrative. It is a story that reinforces the idea that hard work always and automatically earns just rewards. And it disparages anyone who reasons that it is worth their while to search for an alternative route to the American Dream.

So lottery fans across the country can play with confidence, and can buy a lottery ticket (or five) when a jackpot like Friday night’s is in the offing, secure in the knowledge that a windfall is unlikely to invite a life of pain, suffering, and regret. The bad news, of course, is that they still face nearly impossible odds of winning. But American gamblers have faced long odds for centuries, and it should not be surprising that so many are so eager for a chance to test their luck.

Source: Why winners of jackpots like the Mega Millions are, contrary to popular belief, probably going to be just fine.

Related contents:

Winning lottery jackpot is lucky for some, tragic for others Belleville News-Democrat, Illinois

16:22
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Welcome To The Vice Age: How Sex, Drugs And Gambling Help Americans Cope With Covid

The pandemic caused millions to lean in to good old-fashioned bad behavior. Two years later, business has never been better for cannabis, gaming and porn—and the high times are here to stay.


On March 13, 2020, everything changed for Doug, a 35-year-old manager at a supply chain logistics company in Chicago. He was told his offices were closed until further notice. Then the stock market took a dive, his 401K plunged, and several family members fell ill with Covid-19. As a father of four, in a house he recently bought, he was afraid for his family’s future.

For Doug, the glass of wine he usually had every night to unwind turned into a whole bottle. “My alcohol consumption turned into a seven-day affair,” he says. He’d usually top it off with some THC-infused gummies. And when sporting events returned, gambling helped him assuage his fear of an uncertain future.

Doug was not alone. As stay-at-home orders swept across the country in March 2020, Americans got high, got drunk, and turned to porn in order to cope with the many fears and anxieties that were symptomatic of the pandemic. Alcohol sales in 13 states surged more than 10% that first month of lockdown while wine sales jumped nearly 9%, according to a study conducted by the University of Buffalo. The number of cigarettes sold in the U.S. also increased in 2020, the first time in 20 years, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Cigarette Report.

Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, saw more of his patients turn to drugs and alcohol to “blot out reality” after the start of the pandemic than the years before.

“In a perfect world, when under stress, we do yoga, eat tofu, exercise, talk to our best friend, but in reality, most of us rely on some kind of substance,” says Grinspoon, who has specialized in medical cannabis for more than 25 years. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that while people are home, bored and lonely they’re going to drink and get high.”

Covid Lows, Cannabis Highs

As the pandemic took an unimaginable toll on thousands of lives a day and brought the global economy to a standstill, it also helped legitimize the legal marijuana industry. With lockdowns rolling across the country in March 2020, many states deemed cannabis dispensaries “essential businesses,” meaning they could stay open along with pharmacies, grocers and liquor stores.

Cannabis sales in Washington state rose 9% over the same month in 2019 to $99 million while in California, weed sales grew by 53% over March 2019 to $276 million. Several months later, on Election Day 2020, five states passed marijuana legalization laws. Overall, the legal cannabis industry had a sky-high year in 2020: legal sales surpassed $17.5 billion, a 46% increase in sales over pre-pandemic 2019.

With Covid attacking respiratory systems, many longtime pot smokers made the switch to edibles. According to Headset, the Seattle-based cannabis analytics firm, sales of edibles grew by 54% across six states—California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington—during 2020.


Cannabis Laws By State


“In a lot of ways, Covid accelerated the cannabis industry 10 years,” says Aaron Morris, the co-founder of Clackamas, Oregon-based edibles manufacturer Wyld. “It legitimized it in a way as a mainstream coping mechanism along with alcohol.” For Wyld, one of the country’s best-selling edibles brands, the pandemic put the company into overdrive. “Sales got crazy,” says Morris. “It was like toilet paper—edibles flew off the shelves.”

Morris says the pandemic spiked Wyld sales by 20%, but the uptick never slowed. Instead, sales were “boosted permanently,” he says. As a new normal took hold, the only fluctuations Wyld saw in sales were when stimulus checks went out. “Every time the government sent out checks, sales went on steroids for 30 days,” says Morris.

In 2019, Wyld generated $25 million in sales and by the end of 2020, it sold $64 million of its natural fruit gummies. By the end of last year, the company nearly topped $110 million in sales.

Morris is obviously pleased with how the company performed, but not surprised. “Everyone loves cannabis, everyone’s at home, you aren’t socializing, so what are you going to do on a Tuesday night or a Friday night?” says Morris. “Everyone just got lit.”


Higher and Higher

Annual state cannabis sales have grown rapidly and consistently since 2019.


In the United States, annual cannabis sales hit $25 billion in 2021, a 43% increase over 2020. Sales in Florida, where only medical marijuana is legal, and sales in Illinois, which has both medical and adult-use, jumped 70% from 2020 to 2021. In Massachusetts, sales increased 85% during the same period.

Despite the growth of edibles, marijuana flower sales didn’t slow down either. For Emily Paxhia, cofounder of cannabis investment fund Poseidon, what sticks out to her from the past two years is the rise in pre-roll sales. Joint sales shot up 47% from April 2020 to October 2021 in California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Paxhia believes a touch of nihilism is driving this statistic. “I think the pandemic shortened the timeline of how we view and how we live our lives to be focused on today, tomorrow versus what’s happening in five to 10 years,” she says. “Why not just live now and live well now?”

Betting Against Covid

The start of the pandemic hit the gaming industry hard, and as travel restrictions expanded globally, Covid looked like a losing proposition for the house. Casinos across the U.S. shuttered for months due to stay-at-home orders. In Nevada, the country’s gambling mecca, gross gaming revenue dropped from $12 billion in 2019 to $7.8 billion in 2020.

But when vaccines became available and Covid restrictions eased, Americans flocked to Sin City and regional state casinos as gambling became a way for the country to let loose after the height of the pandemic. By the end of 2021, Nevada reported a 10-month winning streak of more than $1 billion in monthly gambling revenue and an annual record of $13.4 billion, an 11.6% increase over pre-pandemic levels.

“People were cooped up for, depending on their risk tolerance, six months to two years,” says Colin Mansfield, an analyst who covers gaming and leisure at Fitch Ratings. “There was a time when there was not much to do from an entertainment perspective except go to a casino. After the shutdown people wanted to go out and have a good time and spend some money.”


The Money Lines

Annual state gambling revenue has recovered from the pandemic thanks to pent-up demand and the rise in mobile betting and iGaming.


And as states were eager for more tax revenue, many pushed through laws to get mobile sports betting programs off the ground. In 2018, there were eight states with legal sports betting and by the end of 2021, 31 states had legal markets with 18 launching mobile sports gambling.

New York, which launched its mobile sports betting program in early January 2022, surpassed $1 billion in wagers in the first two weeks of legalization, double the amount sportsbooks took in on The Las Vegas Strip in all of December. By the last week of February, New York bettors had wagered a total of $3.1 billion since the program launched, translating into $204.6 million in gross gaming revenue and $104.3 million in tax revenue.

Mansfield says the pandemic gambling boom is far from over. The industry is growing as more states are legalizing sports betting and the broader casino market is also expanding. “We’re not forecasting any strong pullback in gaming revenues,” he says. “People like to gamble. I don’t think that’s really going away at all.”

Over time, gambling has made the leap from a vice that cities and states wanted to hide on riverboats and away from big cities to placing it in the center of major entertainment districts. The combination of the pandemic and the expansion of mobile sports betting brought gambling to the “mainstream conversation,” says Mansfield. “You can’t watch a game anymore without hearing about gambling.”

Gaming may be on a serious roll right now, but few are thinking about the long-term consequences. Bill Krackomberger, a veteran professional sports gambler, grew up in the seedier edges of the industry among loan sharks and underground bookies. Legalization of sports betting is a good thing, no doubt, but Krackomberger feels uneasy about how quickly an addictive pastime has gone mainstream.

“We’re going to see a fallout in about 10 years, not just among regular degenerates,” says Krackomberger. “I’m talking with doctors, lawyers, professionals, Wall Street guys, you’ll see—you won’t be able to get into a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.”


Legal Sports Betting in the the U.S.


Porn This Way

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Maya Morena, an adult film performer and sex worker living in New York, knew she had to stop meeting clients. The respectable and polite ones disappeared, and it seemed like the only johns willing to pay for sex and risk getting Covid were the “scummy ones.” So, Morena, like millions of other workers in America, started doing business online—she began treating her OnlyFans page like a full-time job.

By the end of that first month, Morena says she made $4,800 producing and selling erotic videos on the U.K.-based streaming platform best known as the billion-dollar tech company that porn built. By January 2021, Morena, who is originally from Honduras, was making $6,000 a month on OnlyFans. As the pandemic wore on and she advertised her page and recruited new customers, she saw her business boom again. By September of last year, she hit $12,000 for the month.

Of course, the idea that anyone can launch an OnlyFans page and start reeling in money by showing a little skin is a lie, Morena says. It requires a lot of hard work. The number of paying users and content creators joining adult streaming platforms like OnlyFans, FanCentro, IsMyGirl, ManyVids, and others, is exploding but only the most dedicated creators can make a living. “It’s a thriving economy that’s ruthlessly competitive,” says Morena.

For OnlyFans, the pandemic helped it become one of the biggest social media platforms seemingly overnight with more than 180 million users and more than 2 million content creators who have earned a collective $5 billion by selling subscriptions to content. In 2019, it had 348,000 creators and 13.5 million users. In 2020, OnlyFans grew revenue by 540%, hitting $400 million.

The popularity of OnlyFans, which has attracted a diverse group of creators from a former pastor to porn stars like Sophie Dee to celebrities like Cardi B, has given birth to a whole new adult-rated streaming economy.


Naked Ambition

Since 2019, the number of content creators on OnlyFans has increased nearly sixfold, while the number of users has expanded by a factor of 13.


Evan Seinfeld, the Brooklyn-born second cousin of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who launched the online adult content platform IsMyGirl in 2017, says the pandemic turbocharged his business. In 2019, Seinfeld had 500,000 users on his platform and 8,000 creators. By the end of 2020, 25,000 creators signed up and 1.5 million users joined. Today, the site hosts 2.5 million users and 50,000 creators, who collectively make millions of dollars a month.

“Everybody’s business is booming and growing,” says Seinfeld. “When people are alone in the house, people crave stimulus, they crave stimulation, they crave sexual excitement.”

While many sex workers and performers may have first joined a site out of desperation, he says, many eventually realized that selling erotic content to lonesome people stuck at home was a sustainable business.

Adds Seinfeld: “A lot of people needed a pandemic to realize that people who aren’t paying your bills don’t really have a right to have an opinion about how you earn your living.”

Or enjoy life.

Two years into the pandemic, Doug from Chicago is doing better financially—no other industry was in more demand than supply chain logistics—but he held onto some of his new vices, which he describes as “comforts.” Before the pandemic, he was trying to live a healthier life and moderate his food, drug, and alcohol intake. But his perspective has changed—happiness, not moderation, is part of his new approach.

“I’m enjoying the comfortability of my life,” says Doug. “Does it come with a few asterisks? Yes. But we’re not going to live forever.”

Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip.

I am a staff writer on the vices beat, covering cannabis, gambling and more. I believe in the many virtues of vices. Previously at Forbes, I covered the world’s richest people as a member….

Source: Welcome To The Vice Age: How Sex, Drugs And Gambling Help Americans Cope With Covid

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More Contents:

Alcohol Addiction 101 – What You Should Know For most adults, moderate or social alcohol use is not problematic, however, approximately 18 million American adults have an alcohol addiction. Here is some basic information to help individuals navigate problematic alcohol use.

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Curious About Crypto? Here’s What 10 Financial Experts Think

A photo to accompany a story about financial experts' advice for investing in cryptocurrency

Everyday investors are overflowing with cryptocurrency questions, according to the financial advisors hired to answer them.

There is clearly an “emotional euphoria that seems to be sweeping through the public around cryptocurrency,” says Frederick Stanfield, a CFP with Lifewater Wealth Management in Atlanta, Georgia.

But for the average person focused on retirement planning and financial stability, is it time to consider investing in cryptocurrency?

The answer is complicated, so we asked financial advisors for their crypto advice, and here’s what 10 of them are telling clients. In an emerging field with few set rules and norms, we discovered some universal truths that everyone should know before putting money in cryptocurrency.

First of all, financial advisors say a healthy dose of skepticism is a crucial place to start, and you should never invest in crypto if it takes away from other goals and financial fundamentals like paying off debt, building an emergency fund, or maxing out your retirement accounts.

As difficult as it may be, do not become seduced by the intrigue and allure of this new technology, says Stanfield. Instead, employ the same mindset you bring to your regular investment strategy.

Here’s what else the experts want you to know about cryptocurrency investing:

Be Prepared for Loss

As with any investment, financial gains are far from guaranteed with cryptocurrency investing. For some financial advisors, crypto looks more like a lottery ticket than an investment strategy.

That means you should only put in what you’re OK with losing. “On a spectrum between gambling and investing, I think it’s closer to the former,” says Matt Morris, principal advisor at Sanderling Finance in Columbia, South Carolina.

As a high-risk, high-reward investment, keep any crypto investments in perspective amid your broader goals and finances. As with certain types of gambling, “you have a high chance of losing it all, but a small chance of winning it big,” says Nate Nieri, a CFP with Modern Money Management in San Diego, California. “Just don’t gamble an amount that would burden your family or prevent you from achieving your goals” if you lost it all.

Steer Clear if You’re Risk Averse

If you’re risk averse, crypto isn’t the investment for you.“How well can you sleep at night knowing that this is an emerging asset class with high volatility? And if you were to wake one morning to find that crypto has been banned by the developed nations and it became worthless, would you be OK?” asks Stanield.

If you’re going to be constantly stressing about your crypto investment, or tempted to change your investments in light of the volatility that comes with crypto, then you’re better off putting your money in a more stable investment, according to Stanfield.

“I believe it is still in its infancy stage, and just like any new fund or IPO, there is a level of uncertainty about the future that I’m not ready to stomach,” says Alajahwon Ridgeway, owner of Ridgeway Wealth Management in Lafayette, Louisiana. “I believe it … is an unnecessary risk at this point for my clients to reach their financial goals.”

There’s also far less historical data available about cryptocurrency to help investors make informed decisions — unlike conventional ETF and index/mutual funds. Crypto investors face additional risk in the form of poor or inaccurate trade data, competition among fellow investors, theft, loss of wallet passwords, supply and demand issues, government regulation, and energy consumption concerns, says Chelsea Rude, a CFP at Rude Wealth Advisory in Olney, Illinois.

“Most importantly for investors, there is a lack of a well designed and tested way to value the assets,” Rude says. This means crypto investors are essentially going in blind, and subjecting themselves to the uncertainty that comes with any new business or investment

Know Why You’re Interested In the First Place

Some people see crypto as an emerging investment, while others see it as an interesting new global currency you can use instead of the U.S. dollar or other international currencies. But whether crypto has long-term staying power on either front is still uncertain.

“I strongly believe the vast majority of people who own crypto currency are doing so for all the wrong reasons and misunderstanding what they are truly buying,” says Ben Lies, chief investment officer at Delphi Advisers.

Many experts are concerned about people dumping their money into crypto without real understanding of the area. Do your own research, and make sure you’re thinking about your investment in the right way.

“Hype and excitement around the space are not reasons for inclusion into any portfolio, but I believe there are compelling reasons to consider cryptocurrencies,” says James Vermillion, owner of Vermillion Private Wealth in Lexington, Kentucky. “When discussing crypto with clients I emphasize education and understanding. It’s important to note that there are thousands of cryptocurrencies in existence and they are not created equally. Due diligence is important, just as it is when looking at stocks or other investment vehicles.”

Nieri warns those who see Bitcoin as a currency to think about what that means for investing. “I don’t typically trade or have a currency hedge as part of my investment strategy. Would you have ever thought about trading dollars for Euros as an investment? In order for Bitcoin to be a legitimate currency, the world’s governments would need to accept it as a global currency, something that has a remote likelihood,” Nieri says.

Keep Crypto In Its Place

Don’t rely on crypto investments for your retirement or overall financial strategy. Make sure the majority of your investment portfolio is made up of stable assets projected for long-term growth.

“What I am sharing for [my clients] to do is build their future financial pie with investments such as stocks and bonds. If there is extra money they want to play with, buying crypto is an option,” says Eric Powell, financial advisor and founder of the Future Mill.

Make sure your overall investment portfolio is predominantly made up of conventional investments like stocks and bonds, says Powell. But within any crypto investments you might have, experts recommend sticking with the big names.

“I personally do not go beyond Bitcoin and or Ethereum,” says Michael Kelly, a CFA at Switchback Financial in Madison, Connecticut.  “I feel those two have a bit more of an established base and feel the risk of other coins becomes too significant.”

By:

 

Source: Curious About Crypto? Here’s What 10 Financial Experts Think | NextAdvisor with TIME

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Decentralized finance (commonly referred to as DeFi) is a blockchain-based form of finance that does not rely on central financial intermediaries such as brokerages, exchanges, or banks to offer traditional financial instruments, and instead utilizes smart contracts on blockchains, the most common being Ethereum.[1] DeFi platforms allow people to lend or borrow funds from others, speculate on price movements on a range of assets using derivatives, trade cryptocurrencies, insure against risks, and earn interest in savings-like accounts.[2]

DeFi uses a layered architecture and highly composable building blocks.[3] Some DeFi applications promote high interest rates[2] but are subject to high risk.[1] By October 2020, over $11 billion (worth in cryptocurrency) was deposited in various decentralized finance protocols, which represented more than a tenfold growth during the course of 2020.[4][2] As of January 2021, approximately $20.5 billion was invested in DeFi.[5]

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References

Braun, Alexander; Cohen, Lauren H.; Xu, Jiahua (May 2020). “fidentiaX: The Tradable Insurance Marketplace on Blockchain”. Harvard Business School. Retrieved 2021-01-05.

Cybercrime Joker Retires With A Reported $2.1 Billion In Bitcoin

The most popular stolen payment card marketplace on the dark web is no more. The criminal behind the Joker’s Stash site, which trades in stolen credit and debit card data, has announced that all servers and backups will be wiped, and the site will never open again. That criminal, who unsurprisingly goes by the pseudonym of ‘JokerStash’ or Joker for short, has shut up shop and is going into retirement. A rather comfortable retirement, assuming Interpol and the FBI don’t catch up with them, with a reported $2.1 billion (£1.5 billion) in Bitcoin.

Joker’s Stash was the biggest of the carding sites on the dark web. Carding being the process of not just selling that stolen card data, but also enabling criminals to launder their illicit cryptocurrency balances. The stolen card data is used to buy gift cards or other easily traded items which are then sold on for cash. In 2019, I reported how a single payment card database, of more than a million market fresh cards in total, was being offered for sale at $130 million (£93 million.)

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In a January dark web blog posting, the Joker warned customers of the infamous carding site that it would shut up shop for good on February 15. However, according to financial crime compliance blockchain analysis specialists Elliptic, the site went down on February 3.

As you might imagine, this will not have pleased those customers who thought they had 12 more days to cash out their crypto balances. Although it hasn’t been possible to determine exactly how much money these cyber-criminals may have lost, the reverse is not true: Elliptic analysts have calculated the size of the Joker’s retirement pot based on incoming crypto payments to the Joker’s Stash wallet. MORE FOR YOU

Why Huawei’s New Update Is Seriously Bad News For Android UsersWhatsApp Users Suddenly Get This Surprise New Boost From FacebookHuawei’s Striking New Billion-Dollar Gamble Targets Apple, Google (And Tesla)

How big a pension has Joker built up through this criminal enterprise since it started operating in 2014? Elliptic said that, in 2018 alone, $139 million (£100 million) in sales went through Joker’s Stash, by way of example. More recently, revenues dropped significantly as payment card fraud detection technology improved. However, more than $400 million (£288 million) flowed through the site between 2015 and 2021.

Joker’s Stash made its money by charging deposit fees for converting Bitcoin to a dollar balance and also through taking a commission on all trading in stolen cards. Although that commission rate cannot be pinned down precisely, Elliptic analysts based their calculations on an average of 20% as seen at other carding operations.

“If we assume an average total commission of 20% on sales,” Elliptic wrote, “then considering bitcoin alone they would have taken a total of at least 60,000 bitcoins.”

Or, to put it another way, around $2.1 billion (£1.5 billion) currently.

Which leaves the departing statement from the Joker with the irony volume turned up to eleven. After telling cyber-gangsters not to “lose themselves in the pursuit of money,” the Joker went on to declare that “all the money in the world will never make you happy and the “most truly valuable things in this life are free.”

That’s easy to say when you have so much cash, regardless of how you came by it.

Maybe the pandemic played a role in both the site closure decision and that display of sentiment. In October 2020, Joker disclosed to customers that he, or she, had been in hospital for a week after contracting Covid-19.

Whatever, Joker’s Stash is no more and that’s a good thing for the law-abiding majority. Unfortunately, the way of the dark web world is that another carding site will soon rise to take over as the crypto kingpin of this illicit trade. Although this particular cybercrime genre has dipped in terms of profitability over the last couple of years, there is still, sadly, plenty of money to be made. Maybe not as much as the Joker’s Stash, but more than enough to make a mockery of the old saying that crime doesn’t pay. Especially as it would seem, based on current intelligence at least, that the site wasn’t busted by law enforcement but closed of its own volition. The last laugh would seem to be with the Joker.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website

Davey Winder

Davey Winder

I’m a three-decade veteran technology journalist and have been a contributing editor at PC Pro magazine since the first issue in 1994. A three-time winner of the BT Security Journalist of the Year award (2006, 2008, 2010) I was also fortunate enough to be named BT Technology Journalist of the Year in 1996 for a forward-looking feature in PC Pro called ‘Threats to the Internet.’ In 2011 I was honored with the Enigma Award for a lifetime contribution to IT security journalism. Contact me in confidence at davey@happygeek.com if you have a story to reveal or research to share.

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How to Make Smart Bets in Business

Business is full of bets, especially where investing is concerned. If you’re interested in rolling the dice by purchasing a business, making an angel investment in a startup or even allocating your hard-earned money for your first employee, it’s important to know what makes a smart bet and how to protect yourself from a worst-case scenario. It’s worth stating that even deciding to go into a business of your own is a form of a bet, and merits the same type of background due-diligence.

This may require testing or gaining new knowledge, but a thorough understanding is critical, especially with glaring statistics regarding the failure rate for startups at a whopping 50 percent, according to Small Biz Genius. With statistics like these, there’s no way to ensure success. However,  there are definitely ways to think through potential pitfalls in business models and feel more secure regarding where you invest your money and your time.

Related: Make Your Money Grow: How to get wealthy by Smart Investment

Verify demand through popularity

When it comes down to it, a sure bet in business is dependent upon how much customers want what it is that you’re selling. If you can do some market research and verify demand, you’re in good shape. Demand can come from the product’s value — such as its ability to solve a problem — or even from the person who’s selling the product, like a major celebrity who has established trust with millions of followers online. 

This is one of the reasons why big influencers and celebrities can land lucrative book deals. Publishers know that whatever they release will fly off the shelves. The demand from their fanbase is verifiable. Take comedian Amy Schumer, who landed a rumored $8-10 million book deal for 2016’s The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.

Verify demand through testing

If a celebrity or big-time influencer isn’t included in the equation and you’re just trying to figure out how a product will sell, try a “market as if it were real” test approach. According to Ron Rule from the Entrepreneur’s Handbook, this is because “the only way to truly know if someone is going to fork over their hard-earned cash to buy your product is to get it in front of them.” Otherwise, market research is all mere guesswork. It gets you more clarity than you would otherwise have, but it doesn’t mean much until a target customer’s wallet is involved. 

Rather than going through the hassle and added investment of actually building out the product and then seeing if there’s a demand, Rule recommends creating a prototype of the product in Photoshop, setting up an ecommerce website and then leaving your payment processing in test mode so that it doesn’t actually charge a potential customer’s credit card for a fictional item. 

Then, begin to direct ads to the page to see if customers actually buy. “Personally I would spend around $10,000 on a proper marketing test, but you can start with a lot less if you aren’t comfortable going that high right away,” Rule elaborates in his book. “I do recommend spending at least $1,000 because you want to get enough clicks and conversions for the data to mean something — trust me, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to lose $1,000 on a marketing test than it is to lose tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars producing a product nobody wants.” 

Sometimes, the best bets require a smaller upfront investment first for a big payout on the back end.

Engulf yourself into the industry

The more you know about what you’re investing in, the more educated your bets can be, which usually pays off on the back end. This piece of advice comes from sports gambler Zach Hirsch. At 18 years old, Hirsch is regarded as one of the top-performing sports analysts in sports gambling, with a 90 percent accuracy rate in his predictions (which is over 20 percent higher than the industry average). 

Hirsch’s best advice on making sound bets is to “engulf yourself in the industry.” For Hirsch, he takes this piece of advice within the type of sport he’s betting on, but the advice carries for business investments, as well. “Learn everything there is to know, engage with the experts, and do whatever it takes to further your understanding of the craft,” Hirsch recommends. This advice can be extended to getting to know the founder of the startup you’re investing in or just ensuring you know as much as you can about your new industry, so you can see clearly how a product or service will perform. Do your backup research, then research some more. Keep having important conversations.

Related: How to Invest Your Hard-Earned Money in the Right Project

Even with verified demand and a thorough understanding of your industry, there’s no guarantee that your investment is 100 percent safe, but you’ll at least have the perspective to see potential bumps in the road or glaring stop signs in your betting decisions. These insights may make all the difference.

By: Aimee Tariq / Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

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