Not science or tech, but strangely compelling

I came across a site today, BetOnIraq.com, which at face value, is very intriguing. The site offers to exchange dollars for Iraqi dinar, ostensibly to bolster the fledgling democracy of Iraq. There is the possibility that dinar will actually be worth something someday, so picking up 100,000 dinar for just $155 could be a lucrative investment (well, more like a wager). Or the 100,000 dinar could end up being just worthless pieces of pretty paper.

A closer look set off some caveat emptor warnings in my brain. Before you rush to buy a fat wad of dinar online, you need to be aware of some red flags on this site, and on similar sites listed below.

The order page is not secured or encrypted. While the site does not accept credit cards, the order page does ask for your name, address, e-mail and phone. Without encryption, that information could be intercepted by a third party, or the site’s database could be hacked.

Also, the site offers no advice about the privacy of your contact information, although the operators do say

By making a purchase you acknowledge that you are not on a watch list, a terrorist, associated with a terrorist organization, conducting terrorist related activity, or involved in illegal money laundering. You agree to allow us to, if necessary, give your name and information to the appropriate government authorities to meet the regulatory requirements of things such as the Patriot Act, OFAC, and the Bank Secrecy Act.

BetonIraq.com is registered to a Jeffrey Pasquarella in Danbury, Conn., who also apparently was associated with another domain, zephyr.plugusin4cash.com. This second site is no longer online, but Google’s cache indicates it was some kind of “online mall.” The BetOnIraq site has been around since mid 2004, but spend your money cautiously.

UPDATE (2/3): There are dozens of similar sites, all offering dinars for sale online. All seem to be running on shoestrings, since none that I have checked have invested in secure socket layer (SSL) encryption certificates. They also seem to share similar underlying Java or PHP web page scripts, suggesting a common source. My advice, then, would be to steer clear of all of them. If you desperately want some dinar as a collector’s item,get them off eBay.

As for me, I think e-gold is a better bet. This writer at CNN says avoid the foreign exchange markets entirely. In a more recent article, he especially warns against investing heavily in dinar at all. Finally, this site offers some clearheaded information about buying dinars. The consensus: just buy a few, if at all.

Related reading at Amazon.com:
Day Trading the Currency Market : Technical and Fundamental Strategies To Profit from Market Swings (Wiley Trading)Day Trading the Currency Market

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