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Bitcoin: The way to the future or path to financial ruin?

The Associated Press Published 2:42 p.m. ET Sept. 15, 2017 | Updated 3:03 p.m. ET Sept. 15, 2017

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There has been a surge in Bitcoin mining in Venezuela as inflation hits the economy. Bitcoin miners can earn about $500 a month according to The Atlantic. Video provided by TheStreet Newslook

Tim McCormack, of Boston, inserts cash into a Liberty Teller ATM while purchasing bitcoins at South Station train station, in Boston in 2014. On Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, Bitcoin tumbled 15 percent to about $3,300 against the dollar.(Photo: Steven Senne, AP)

Bitcoin, hailed in some quarters as the future of currency, is having a rough week, with a flurry of rumors that China will shut down exchanges and the head of a major U.S bank calling bitcoin a "fraud."

Plummeting prices have again raised questions about the wisdom of owning it, if not its legitimacy.

The digital, or cryptocurrency, tumbled 15% Thursday to about $3,300 against the dollar. Bitcoin, which has had bouts of volatility in the past, has shed about a third of its value since Sept. 1. But it's still up about $600 compared with last year at this time.

Still getting up to speed on bitcoin? Here's a quick rundown.

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency created and exchanged without the involvement of banks or governments. Transactions allow anonymity, which has made it popular with people who want to keep their financial activity, and their identities, private. The digital coins are created by so-called "miners", who operate computer farms that verify other users' transactions by solving complex mathematical puzzles. These miners receive bitcoin in exchange. Bitcoin can be converted to cash when deposited into accounts at prices set in online trading.

More: Bitcoin loses third of its value this mont...

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