Uphold, Brave and BAT
If you're not aware, Brave is a desktop and mobile browser. It's very much like Chrome, except that it has an in-built ad-blocker. If you're super into privacy, Firefox and extensions like uBlock are your best bet, but I quite like Brave for mobile because I find Chromium based browsers a lot smoother on Android.
One of Brave's features is Brave Rewards, which grants you rewards for turning on its own notification based adverts. The reward it gives you are in the form of its Basic Attention Token (BAT), which is a cryptocurrency. In theory, once you've accumulated some BAT, you can exchange it into actual money (or another cryptocurrency).
Sounds good? Well, the devil is in the details. In reality, this doesn't work quite as well as it could. Brave forces you to use a service called Uphold, which is a cryptocurrency exchange.
Crypto exchanges have had a lot of bad press in recent years due to instances of incompetence and fraud leading to consumers losing money. With the crypto industry lagging behind traditional banking in terms of regulation and consumer protection, when using an exchange it's extremely important you trust both their ethics and their competence.
So, in evaluating how useful Brave's BAT is, the key question is: do you trust Uphold?
My answer: No, I do not.
Uphold is very quick to close and accounts, sending a stock message:
We’re very sorry to tell you that we can no longer offer you an account. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions as new information becomes available. Our automated systems aren’t perfect and, if you feel that we’ve made a mistake, please contact support.
Personally, I would not trust an organisation with my money which uses "automated systems" that "aren't perfect" to freeze the assets of its customers, without warning or explanation.
These are not isolated instances. A brief look at the Brave community forum reveals many people whose accounts have been closed:
It seems to be a real risk that you'll either be unable to access your rewards in the first place, or one day you'll be locked out with no warning. Hopefully you won't have an outstanding balance when that happens.
Fake reviews on TrustPilot
Uphold's TrustPilot rating is currently about 2.6 out of 5. That's not great, but it's also not particularly good.
However, many of the recent positive reviews are a little bit suspicious.
On the most recent page there are 20 reviews. 17 are 5 star (the other three are scathing one star reviews - including mine, the first shown in the main page screenshot).
Out of those 17, 15 have written reviews for other companies too. What's strange is the names of those other companies. Those 15 reviews have written reviews for: EduHelpersArena, EduhelpersLeague, EducatorsLodge, EduHelpersWing, or EssaysPlot.
It's an incredible coincidence that Uphold's positive reviewers share such an interest in a narrow set of education services! Or is it more likely that Uphold are dealing with a company offering fake reviews, who re-use accounts between customers? Apparently, not even a particularly good review service!
Fake reviews are illegal in the UK under the Fraud Act 2006, Section 2 - Fraud by false representation.
This is not a good look for a financial services company hoping to gain consumer trust.
I am surprised and a bit disappointed that Brave hasn't been more selective in its choice of business partnerships. Unfortunately, this reflects on them as well as Uphold.
Update: 2021-08-14. I received an email from TrustPilot saying that Uphold had flagged my review as potentially "not genuine". My review quotes the generic support message I received, so this appears to me to be Uphold acting in bad faith to suppress a critical review.
TrustPilot invited me to reply with proof that I'd had dealings with Uphold, so I did. I also questioned a new batch of dubious reviews on the Uphold page. My email is as follows, and I'll update this with TrustPilot's response should I receive one.
from: Mark to: Trustpilot Content Integrity <email@example.com> date: 14 Aug 2021, 11:20 subject: Re: About your review of uphold.com on Trustpilot - Ticket #10309860 Dear Trustpilot, Please find attached two screenshots showing my contact with Uphold, and the response they gave which I referenced in my review. Furthermore, I would like to note that many of the recent 5-star reviews on Uphold's Trustpilot page do not appear to be genuine. The following users have recently left a 5-star review for both Uphold and "smartwareco.com.au", which is an extremely unlikely coincidence if these are genuine users. https://www.trustpilot.com/users/6018f58eed25de001a0f4270 https://www.trustpilot.com/users/5fe1dd72514907001959743a https://www.trustpilot.com/users/603c8931d7c49c0019ae813f https://www.trustpilot.com/users/61160eaa82f804001217d5ac https://www.trustpilot.com/users/61164bacc82d920012514536 https://www.trustpilot.com/users/603739cae3e1a6001fefeed4 https://www.trustpilot.com/users/6116080f5ebf83001211d2e7 https://www.trustpilot.com/users/5fe1cfef80c5a900198ae502 https://www.trustpilot.com/users/6115f367935a640012d84aa2 https://www.trustpilot.com/users/6115ef655ebf83001211cc01 These comprise the majority of 5-star reviews currently shown on Uphold's page. I hope that you will treat these with the same scepticism that you have treated mine, as fraudulent reviews erode trust in your platform.