WHEN IT COMES to Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency phenomenon what are we to believe? Are digital currencies the wave of the future or the product of nefarious hucksters and con artists?

Yes, we’re living at a time of unprecedented innovation and disruption. Technology and social media are changing the world and no industry, no economic system, is safe and nothing is sacred.

There was a pre-2010 world, now we must adapt to a new post-2010 world. Can we survive such monumental disruptions to our basic foundations?

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton recently warned that the SEC does not regulate cryptocurrencies and that this market euphoria could crash and burn almost overnight. As the number of currencies grows, each becomes the digital equivalent of a limited-edition commemorative plate or Elvis Presley figurine.

Bank of Canada Gov. Stephen Poloz warned that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could be a significant disturbance to the financial systems and anyone buying them during this frenzy is taking a risk better de­scribed as gambling than investing.

Poloz added central banks will only tolerate a challenge to their monopoly currency issuance rights for so long before taking action. You will not want to be holding the bag when action is taken to quell this hysteria.

Up to now, the digital currency has been a vehicle for criminal transactions and for avoiding government restrictions on moving capital, especially in Venezuela and China. Is that the kind of currency investment that you want to own? Sovereign states will step in at some point, warn market veterans.

Lawrence Baxter, a law professor at Duke University, recently wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal that simply advised novice investors to “don’t buy into this mania.”

While the underlying platform, called blockchain, is a technology that could someday revolutionize future transactions of many kinds, the current speculation is that it’s just too risky for the average person.

Bitcoin was launched in 2009 and advocates hoped that digital currencies could compete with dollars, euros and the yen by being more efficient, cheap and offering anonymous exposure. That’s very ambitious.

Traditionally, most business transactions between strangers need to be facilitated by trusted third parties. Banks transfer money, governments keep track of property records and credit-card companies enable day-to-day payments made by hundreds of millions of people every day.

These trusted middlemen charge fees for their services, thus profiting handsomely. These digital currency vendors believe they can offer those services at a greatly reduced rate, eliminating many of those middlemen. But can they be trusted?

For now, the burgeoning industry is unregulated. While there might be a few reputable companies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin, there also could be hundreds of hucksters and snake oil salesmen representing bogus domestic and foreign criminal cartels that promise overnight fortunes to unsophisticated investors and they could see their money disappear with no recourse.

Seasoned investors and economists are baffled by these cryptocurrencies and warn “buyer beware” as exchanges and brokerages pop up to facilitate trading in these stocks. Legendary investors like Warren Buffet, Jamie Dimon and Jack Bogle see Bitcoin in bubble territory and say the price is irrational.

The more digital currencies resemble speculative securities, the less suitable they become as a medium of exchange. Consumers hold dollars because their purchasing power doesn’t change much. Bitcoin’s value is very volatile as it is not backed by a government monetary system.

The markets are ripe for abuse. Experts with decades of experience aren’t sure if this digital currency can actually be used to settle common, everyday transactions or if they are just a speculative gamble.

Many people dream of hitting a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity. They are tempted to invest just like people are lured to buy lottery tickets hoping to win $500 million mega jackpots even when the odds are 96 billion to one.

If you get a call from a trader working from a boiler room and your new best friend asks you to trust them with just a portion of your life savings, that should be a red flag. Hang up the phone.

Baxter said Bitcoin is too volatile to be a reliable store of value. Yes, early investors may have made incredible fortunes on paper by buying cryptocurrencies, but you can only sell Bitcoins if someone can find the next investor willing to buy them at the inflated price.

Mining Bitcoins takes breathtaking amounts of electricity and requires solving complex mathematical problems. Do you have any idea what that means? Can you actually take possession of them? What makes them valuable?

Dov Greenbaum, a lawyer and professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University, said blockchain is a concept that might change the way financial transactions are processed.

Institutions such as governments, banks and insurance companies are intrigued by the blockchain platform and are looking at it to see if it can be used to reduce costs and create efficiencies. The technology is very complex and will re­quire considerable research.