Despite multiple crashes and scandals, the popularity of cryptocurrencies continues to grow at an astonishing rate. As more and more people seek to enter the world of digital currencies, the demand for secure and reliable exchanges has also increased. However, with the lack of regulation and central authority, the risk of fraudulent activity remains a constant concern for investors.
As the crypto market expands, it’s important to ensure that your funds are safe and secure. Unfortunately, the lack of oversight in the crypto world has created an environment where fraudulent exchanges can thrive, putting investors’ money at risk. With this in mind, it’s crucial to be vigilant and informed about the exchanges you choose to work with.
By taking the time to research and verify the exchanges you use, you can minimize the risk of losing your funds to fraudulent activity and protect your investments in the rapidly growing world of cryptocurrencies.
The world of cryptocurrency is filled with both opportunities and risks. While the decentralized nature of digital currencies offers a level of security and anonymity, the lack of regulation and central authority also opens the door for fraudulent exchanges to scam investors out of their hard-earned money. Looking back to the recent past, apart from the well-knows FTX case, we can recall other situations when exchanges seemed to be legitimate but, in fact, turned out to be a scam:
Bitconnect: Bitconnect was once considered one of the largest and most profitable exchanges, but it turned out to be a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of investors out of their savings. The platform promised high returns on investment but eventually shut down, leaving investors with worthless tokens.
PlusToken: This Chinese-based exchange was another Ponzi scheme that promised high returns but eventually crashed, leading to the loss of billions of dollars in investor funds.
WEX: Formerly known as BTC-e, WEX promised to be a secure and trustworthy exchange, but it was eventually revealed that the platform was involved in money laundering and other illegal activities. Investors who kept their funds on the exchange lost everything when it was shut down.
QuadrigaCX: This Canadian exchange promised to be safe and secure, but it turned out that the platform was plagued by mismanagement, fraud, and other issues. The death of the platform’s CEO, Gerald Cotten, who was the only one with access to the exchange’s cold wallets, led to the loss of millions of dollars in investor funds.
A recent report by cryptocurrency-tracing firm, Chainalysis, suggests that the crypto black market is facing a significant decline in money-laundering outlets. In its annual crime report, which focused on money laundering, the firm stated that it counted only 915 crypto criminal cash-out services in 2022, which is the fewest it has seen since 2012. This is a clear indication of a steady decrease in the number of such services since 2018. Furthermore, Chainalysis also discovered that just five cryptocurrency exchanges now handle nearly 68 percent of all black market cash-outs, leaving the crypto black market with fewer options to convert its profits into traditional currency.
Chainalysis also found that just 542 cryptocurrency deposit addresses received more than half of the $6.3 billion in total illicit funds that it tracked to those cash-out services in 2022, and just four addresses received $1.1 billion of those funds. This intense reduction in off-ramps for crypto crime is a result of the ongoing government crackdown on crypto money laundering and is a sign of further enforcement to come. According to Kim Grauer, Chainalysis’ director of research, the narrowness of off-ramps for crypto crime presents an opportunity for law enforcement agencies to shut down these illegal activities.
It’s still unclear whether the overall amount of crypto crime rose or fell in 2022. Some data from Chainalysis suggests that criminal use of cryptocurrency increased last year, despite the decline in cryptocurrency exchange rates. This can be attributed to the rise in illegal transactions at sanctioned cryptocurrency exchanges, which may have less to do with a rise in crime and more to do with the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) imposing sanctions on major players in the crypto underground. The OFAC has taken several steps in the past year to enforce these sanctions, such as the sanctions against Garantex, an exchange based in Russia that was accused of laundering over $100 million in criminal proceeds, including ransomware payments.
Chainalysis declined to name the five exchanges that it says enable the majority of cryptocurrency money laundering, as they may be the targets of ongoing investigations. The company often works with law enforcement agencies in such investigations and does not want to jeopardize the outcome. Moreover, these exchanges may not be aware that they are enabling money laundering, as money launderers often take great care to hide the source of their funds before they reach the exchange.
The illicit cash-outs often go through intermediaries that obscure criminal funds. Many are traded through “nested services,” which are exchanges that appear independent but actually use a larger exchange to carry out their trades. In these cases, the nested service, rather than the underlying exchange, is responsible for complying with “know-your-customer” requirements, even as the larger exchange provides the cash reserves for transactions.
Another subset of cases that Chainalysis found is that criminals are turning to individual dark-web-based money-laundering services, which offer to hide the origin of funds by combining them with other users’ transactions in a “mixer.” Law enforcement agencies have cracked down on major mixing services in recent years, such as Bitcoin Fog, Helix, and Tornado Cash. However, as these services are shut down, more criminals are turning to smaller entities that have a tendency to stay below the radar.
While crypto world remains a “dangerous place”, it is essential to remember easy steps to follow to make sure your cryptos are more or less safe:
Protect Your Accounts with Strong Passwords and 2-Factor Authentication
Cybersecurity is an increasingly important aspect of our lives, and it’s crucial to take steps to protect our online accounts. In order to ensure the safety of your personal information and assets, it’s essential to use strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever possible.
Use a Password Manager
Creating and remembering strong, unique passwords can be challenging, but a password manager such as 1Password or Dashlane can help. These tools can generate complex passwords and store them securely, so you don’t have to remember them yourself.
It’s also important to check if your current passwords have been exposed in a third-party data breach. You can do this by visiting haveibeenpwned.com/Passwords.
Use 2-Factor Authentication
In addition to strong passwords, using 2FA whenever possible provides an extra layer of security for your accounts. When available, opt for the strongest type of 2FA, such as a Yubikey or a hardware security key. If a service provider doesn’t support Yubikey, consider using an authentication app like Google Authenticator or Duo Security instead of SMS-based 2FA.
If SMS-based 2FA is your only option, it’s still better than not using 2FA at all. To increase security, consider requiring a one-time 2FA code to be sent to your device every time you log in.
In addition to using the right security tools, it’s also essential to stay vigilant and aware of potential threats. Here are some guidelines to help keep you safe:
Don’t draw attention to yourself: Avoid bragging about your cryptocurrency holdings or other assets online.
Be aware of tricks: Scammers may impersonate tech support or customer service representatives, so be cautious of anyone who asks for your account credentials or personal information.
Check the URL: Scammers often create fake websites that look like legitimate exchanges, so double-check the web address before entering any of your credentials.
By following these tips, you can help keep your accounts secure and protected from cyber threats.
Always remember that it’s crucial to thoroughly research and verify any cryptocurrency exchange before investing your money. Look for established exchanges with a proven track record of security and transparency, and never leave your funds on an exchange for an extended period of time. Keep your private keys secure, and never share them with anyone. With the right precautions, you can protect your investments and enjoy the benefits of the cryptocurrency world.
In the unfortunate event of falling victim to a financial crime, it is important to know that there is help available. At Cyberclaims, we specialize in providing tracing solutions for individuals and organizations that have been impacted by cybercrime. Our cryptocurrency tracing service aims to assist in tracking down the stolen funds and help recover any lost amounts. Our team of experts utilizes advanced technology and investigative techniques to ensure the best possible outcome for our clients. If you or someone you know has been the victim of financial fraud, please visit our Cryptocurrency Tracing webpage for more information on how we can help.