What many would find interesting about the relationship between cryptocurrency and illegal behavior is that most cyber criminals aren’t out there looking to steal your coins. Thanks to blockchain, the tech that powers cryptocurrency, hacking a wallet and cleaning out the Bitcoins is nearly impossible and the payout could be somewhat lackluster, making cyber criminals turn away from this activity. Instead, cyber crime approaches crypto the same way law abiding users do.
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As a form of real, yet intangible currency, the limits of our imagination has soared. Nearly anything can be purchased with cryptocurrency from computer parts, to gambling, to mattresses, crypto opens a new perspective on how we buy, sell, and trade resources; and not all of those resources are legal. Darknet marketplace transactions thrive on crypto usage. Taking advantage of the very same features that appeal to all crypto users, the anonymity is a huge selling point, so to speak, to communities online focused on illegal activity. Drugs tops the list, as it usually does, in terms of crime popularity. As the most popular category of darkness purchases, Silk Road of 2011 became the eBay of drugs boasting 13,000 drug listings among 1,400 vendors. Sales raked in over one billion dollars, mostly via anonymous Bitcoin transactions. Though the days of Silk Road are long gone, buying drugs online under the guise of a confidential crypto wallet is just as popular and accessible as ever.
Online access to drugs, though a billion dollar industry, is only scratching the surface of shady crypto deals. Organized crime rears its ugly head to participate in one of its most essential activities: money laundering. A large-scale crime staple, money laundering “cleans” dirty money or illegally sourced funds. Traditional forms of currency are subject to all kinds of scrutiny and these days following the trail is simple. Criminal activity, organized or otherwise, have found an ally in crypto as it revolutionizes and streamlines the process of money laundering. The simple act of turning your cash into a virtual and untraceable crypto wallet is a classic two birds with one stone.
Tax evasion, extortion, ransoming, human trafficking, and plain old Ponzi schemes are also on the list of crypto illegal activity, each one of them finding their own benefits of crypto to take advantage of. Though used as a tool to commit both large and small crimes alike, there is nothing to fear from crypto. For every illegitimate purchase or trade made with crypto, countless more are made on completely legal terms. Understanding the criminal landscape of crypto is good information for any investor or user to have, but don’t let it prevent you from trying something new and starting out with crypto. Take a look at this infographic for more on the cryptocurrency criminal marketplace.