HONOLULU (KHON2) — Cryptocurrency is growing in popularity across the U.S. Over the last month, “Crypto Currency” and “Dogecoin” have been among the top searches in Hawaii.

Iris Ikeda, Commissioner of Financial Institutions with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, describes cryptocurrency as a “computerized token,” or digital money, which can be used in different ways.

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“Because the evaluation is so high, you know, people are using it for investment purposes,” Ikeda said. “On the mainland, people are buying houses or cars… boats…”

While Ikeda said local businesses aren’t taking cryptocurrencies as payment yet, people are able to buy cryptocurrencies through the State of Hawaii’s Digital Currency Innovation Lab.

Currently, the state is allowing cryptocurrency trading with 11 companies under a pilot program.

“You’ll have to sign up with the company. Each company has a different sign-up process,” said Ikeda. “Once you sign up, then you fund it with some U.S. dollars, and then with that, each platform has a different way of allowing you to buy cryptocurrency.”

She said the approved companies had to be reviewed to ensure they have cybersecurity protocols, information protection and security in place.

For those planning to buy in to cryptocurrency, Ikeda warns to research the different types of cryptocurrency and the different trade companies.

“People should also remember that they could lose their entire value of whatever they put in, right? Because the pricing is very volatile as we’ve seen in the last week. You know, the price has dropped significantly,” said Ikeda.

She said four more cryptocurrency trading companies will be joining the pilot program this year. That will be announced in the next few weeks.

The pilot program is set to end next June. After that, if no extension is made, the companies that are part of the pilot are supposed to let customers know to wind down and pull back their investments.

Ikeda said the goal of the program is to shape regulations for cryptocurrency trading in Hawaii in the future.

“We do see this as an innovative way to think about money and investments,” said Ikeda. “But with that innovation, we want to make sure that consumers are protected from all of the bad things that could happen.”