If you trade cryptocurrencies, keep an eye out for crypto criminals. Remember the adage: “better safe than sorry”.
When it comes to cryptocurrency, you must proceed with caution. Not only because of its volatility but also the growing number of crimes associated with it. Owing to the anonymity and lack of regulation of cryptocurrency, people have found ways to misuse it. Given that, we take a look at the most prominent cryptocurrency crimes right now:
From October 2020 to March 2021, nearly 7,000 people reported losing over US$80 million in crypto-related scams. Scammers use social media, phishing, blackmailing and impersonation to dupe people. Between October and March, over US$2 million in cryptocurrency was transferred to Elon Musk impersonators. Another instance of a crypto-related scam was the Mirror Trading International (MTI) scam, wherein the online Bitcoin trading platform conned people out of US$588 million worth of Bitcoin. It was dubbed the world’s biggest cryptocurrency scam of 2020. After promising returns of up to 10% a month, the CEO of MTI, Johann Steynberg, disappeared and stopped paying out withdrawal requests. Undoubtedly, scams abound in the cryptocurrency universe, and traders must be very careful when navigating this rocky terrain.
47-year-old Roger Nils-Jonas Karlsson went to great lengths to convince people that his cryptocurrency trading scheme was worth investing in. He created statements, updates and more, making people believe that his brand was legit. Turns out, it was anything but. While people thought they were buying shares—amounting to nearly US$16 million—the money was actually flowing into Karlsson’s personal bank account. He used that money to buy expensive homes and a resort in Thailand. Now, he is serving 15 years in prison for money laundering. Similarly, in Hong Kong, four men were arrested for laundering over US$100 million using virtual currencies. That cases of money laundering via cryptocurrencies are booming right now is an understatement.
“Your network has been infected!”, “Follow the steps to recover your account”, “Pay 5 Bitcoin to access your files”—these are just some of the numerous ransomware attack messages that have popped up on people’s computers. These signify that an attacker has gotten access to the victim’s digital information and is now in a position of power to extort them. In 2020, the amount paid by victims of ransomware attacks reached US$370 million worth of cryptocurrency. The “bright”—for the lack of a better word—side? Once you pay the ransom, nine out of ten times, you can expect the delivery of the decryption key to access your account within 24 hours or less, notes the Managing Director at cybersecurity consulting firm Arete Incident Response, Marc Bleicher.
In August 2021, a hacker stole over US$600 million from the decentralized finance platform, Poly Network, becoming the biggest crypto theft of all time. Instead of reprimanding the hacker, the platform invited them to become the company’s Chief Security Advisor (make your biggest weakness your biggest strength?). In a statement, Poly Network dubbed the attacker “Mr White Hat”—a title usually conferred on ethical hackers—and said, “To extend our thanks and encourage Mr. White Hat to continue contributing to security advancement in the blockchain world together with Poly Network, we cordially invite Mr. White Hat to be the Chief Security Advisor of Poly Network.”
From ISIS and Hamas to Al-Qaeda—a range of terrorist organizations have turned to cryptocurrencies to fund their organizations, raising nearly US$2 million collectively. They use the money to buy weapons, fund their attacks and their day-to-day operations. One research notes, “Should a single cryptocurrency emerge that provides widespread adoption, better anonymity, improved security, and that is subject to lax or inconsistent regulation, then the potential utility of this cryptocurrency, as well as the potential for its use by terrorist organizations, would increase.” The only ways to counter this are by launching cryptocurrency platforms that boast the involvement of international law enforcement, continued instability and conflicts within crypto communities.
Though cryptocurrency has helped people go from rags to riches, it has also enabled the opposite. Cryptocurrency’s lack of regulation, user anonymity and decentralized structure make it the go-to choice for those wanting to engage in criminal activities. And the best way to keep yourself safe from becoming a target is to be aware and wary.
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