Up-market British escort agency accepts Bitcoin payments in bid to boost worker safety and client anonymity.
Birmingham-based Passion VIP is introducing Bitcoin as a way of payment to give clients a safer and more anonymous means of payment than cash or credit card, and its website also includes a scannable QR code to make payments by tablet or smartphone.
Passion VIP charges more for payment by Bitcoin than by cash or credit card, and an hour with a "standard" male or female worker will cost 2.5 Bitcoins (£211), with a 10-hour overnight visit priced at 14 Bitcoins.
Paying by regular means, users are charged £150 per hour with the same "standard" worker.
Read More: What is Bitcoin and how does it work?
Speaking to ZDNet, a Passion VIP spokesperson said there are several advantages to using Bitcoin for its services. "For clients the advantage is that it is totally anonymous. You could argue that cash is anonymous too, but not in the same way.
"For the escorts it's an easy an[d] anonymous way to accept payment and unlike credit cards there are no chargebacks...it also means that escorts are not handling large amounts of cash, reducing the risk of theft or robbery."
Passion VIP's workers are available for in-house services, home visits or meetings elsewhere, but the company points out that it "is not an offer for prostitution. Money exchanged is for time and companionship only."
With no central bank governing its value, Bitcoin is 'mined' by vast computer networks calculating complex equations. Once solved, these return coins to the miners which can then be spent online or traded through one of many exchanges into real-world currencies like pounds, dollars and euro.
Created in 2009, the currency shot to fame in April when its valuation surged from $100 (£62) per coin to more than $266 in ten days, before crashing back to $105 in a single afternoon.
The following media coverage sparked widespread interest in the mysterious currency and soon exchanges fell victim to hacks whereby floods of traffic would cause instability and traders would sell, artificially pushing the price down. Hackers would then buy, stop the attack, wait for the exchanges and price to recover, then sell for a profit.
The exchange of money for sexual services is legal in the UK, but public soliciting and owning or managing a brothel are crimes.
Bitcoin has long been associated with illegal activities however, such as the purchasing of drugs and weapons on the Silk Road website, which is only accessible through the anonymous Tor network.
Despite its claimed anonymity, Bitcoin transactions can still be traced if you look hard enough. A recent Forbes investigation found that by monitoring the blockchain - a record of all Bitcoin transactions, all made between users represented by anonymous addresses - it is possible to work out the owners of these addresses.
Forbes reports, on work carried out by the University of California, San Diego and George Mason University: "With the data from just 344 of their own transactions, they were able to label the owners of more than a million Bitcoin addresses. And by making just four deposits and seven withdrawals into accounts held on Silk Road...the researchers identified 295,435 addresses as belonging to that drug market."