Blockchain Fraud: New Policies and Technologies to Stop Crypto Criminals

Blockchain Fraud: New Policies and Technologies to Stop Crypto Criminals

Blockchain fraud continues to be a massive problem that has hindered the possibilities of new user adoption. Crypto criminals primarily participate in three types of fraud: tax evasion, money laundering, and terrorist funding schemes. Let’s take a look at each of those categories and how legislation and blockchain technology can reduce, or even eliminate, these and other crimes in the near future.

Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is one of the most widespread types of blockchain fraud. Prior to 2017, there wasn’t much crypto-related legislation in existence in most countries. Plus there was little enforcement of what regulations did exist. As we have previously reported, this began to change drastically in 2017.
Despite the fact that regulations are tightening, crypto-related tax evasion is still prevalent. In November 2017, LendEDU conducted a survey that included 564 US-based bitcoin investors. According to the results, approximately 36% of participants planned to knowingly avoid paying capital gains taxes in their 2018 tax filings.

There aren’t any stats to determine if this was the actual result. Still, it’s obvious that many people didn’t view crypto tax evasion as a major crime. And it’s possible that those surveyed weren’t exactly sure how to follow the tax regulations. In 2018, however, there are several guides online on how to follow crypto taxation laws in specific countries. Information is even available on specific categories like taxation on cryptocurrency mining.

New Tax Regulations

Investors need to understand and comply with cryptocurrency tax regulations. In some cases, compliance can be beneficial beyond avoiding the obvious consequences of jail time or fines. For example, it’s possible to report capital losses on crypto investments when filing taxes.

Even in the bear market of 2018, regulatory agencies are focusing more on crypto taxation policies. These efforts aren’t just limited to individual, domestic government policies. International collaboration appears to be on the rise as well. For example, a coalition of five governments (Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States) joined together to form the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement (J5). According to the IRS, this organization aims to “reduce the growing threat posed to tax administrations by cryptocurrencies and cybercrime.”

Blockchain Fraud: An image of a phone showing bitcoin on top of 4 $20 bills, displaying fiat and cryptocurrency
Tax evasion is one of the most common types of blockchain fraud.

Money Laundering

There are several major cases involving the use of cryptocurrencies to launder money. Jerome Powell, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, said in a House Financial Services Committee testimony in July 2018 that “they are very challenging because cryptocurrencies are great if you’re trying to hide or launder money, we have to be very conscious of that.”

Evidence shows that crypto-based money laundering is indeed a major issue. For example, according to a Q2 2018 report released by CipherTrace, crypto criminals laundered $1.2 billion through bitcoin tumblers and privacy coins in a one-year time period during 2017-2018.

Similar to policies dealing with crypto tax evasion, governments are increasing international collaboration to tackle this type of blockchain fraud. G20 member countries are reviewing a possible global anti-money laundering (AML) standard on cryptocurrency before an October 2018 deadline. In addition, member nations have called upon the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – an intergovernmental organization formed to combat money laundering and terrorist financing – to review how AML standards that are already in place can potentially be applied to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain fraud: An image showing a dark hallway of jail cells
Governments are collaborating on an international level to stop crypto criminals involved in money laundering.

Terrorist Funding

Some financial institutions (including the Bank of England) and regulatory agencies have warned against the potential use of cryptocurrencies in terrorist funding. For the most part, various studies don’t show any alarming correlation between crypto and terrorist funding. For example, the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs conducted tests on the risks of cryptocurrencies. According to the results, cryptocurrencies don’t pose a greater risk than fiat when it comes to enabling terrorist funding.

Since 2017, there has been a push to enact legislation that would try to prevent this kind of blockchain fraud. For example, U.S. lawmakers introduced the “Homeland Security Assessment of Terrorists Use of Virtual Currencies Act” in May 2017. They also proposed the “Financial Technology Innovation and Defense Act” in January 2018. Additionally, another bill called “The FinCen Improvement Act of 2018″ was introduced in the US House of Representatives in July 2018. This bill mentions, “anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering initiatives, including matters involving emerging technologies or value that substitutes for currency, and similar efforts’’.

As of August 2018, none of these bills have gained much traction. Only the “Homeland Security Assessment of Terrorists Use of Virtual Currencies Act” has been able to pass the U.S. House of Representatives.

Blockchain Fraud: A photo of the United States Capitol.
The US Congress has introduced a few bills to stop terrorist funding through cryptocurrencies.

Using Blockchain to Combat Blockchain Fraud and Other Crimes

Yes, in some instances, blockchain fraud makes certain crimes easier for criminals to commit. However, it’s also crucial to understand that many of the above-mentioned crimes have been going on for many decades in the fiat economy.

Even though blockchain fraud is a major issue, blockchain technology has also made it possible to stop many types of crime. For example, some blockchain technologies like Ricardian smart contracts aim to vastly improve the future enforcement of legal agreements. In addition, KYC and AML-focused projects can make transactions in the crypto-based economy much more transparent than what’s possible in the current fiat-based economy.

Conclusion

Crypto criminals do exist and present a challenge to the mainstream adoption of digital currencies. Nonetheless, technical innovation should not be viewed as the foundations for a future dystopia. Likewise, the legislation doesn’t have to stunt the progress of technology.

When it comes to stopping crime and fostering innovation, there isn’t a simple solution. How the future will play out depends a lot on how technologies and legislation develop in the coming years. The reality is that both regulations and technologies are needed in order to empower a future where blockchain can benefit society and mitigate the possibilities of blockchain fraud.

This article was originally published on Coincentral.

Author:

Delton Rhodes

I enjoy researching new, innovative, and interesting blockchain/crypto projects that have the potential to impact the world. Whenever I’m not writing, I’m usually playing sports or producing music.

 

“Top Misconceptions of Cryptocurrency as a Payment System”

 

Which can be read on Amazon Kindle Unlimited for Free  You can find more interesting articles by visiting us on one of the following platforms: AML Knowledge Centre (LinkedIn) or Anti-Bribery and Compliance at the Front-Lines (LinkedIn)

Follow the Money – Has Cryptocurrency Rendered this Adage Useless?

Follow the Money – Has Cryptocurrency Rendered this Adage Useless?

Cybercriminals predate the use of cryptocurrency

Indeed, editorial stories like this one “Bitcoin Gains Value Due to Criminal Use [Only], writes a Forbes Columnist” has influenced many into believing that cryptocurrency is only used by cybercriminals, organized crime and terrorist on the darknet. Before cryptocurrency, victims were informed to transfer ransom money by mailing cash through a money transfer operator (MTO). The pick-up person using fake documentation would take possession of the victim’s cash, leaving no trace of their real identity.   Victims of the WannaCry ransomware attack, in May 2017, received a simple message informing them to send $300 worth of bitcoin to this address if they want to see their data again.     Criminals continue to evolve by exposing any method or means available to them including technology. However, using cryptocurrency doesn’t put criminals out of law enforcement’s reach. On the contrary, as soon as a cryptocurrency is spent, the forensic trail begins. This is an excerpt from the book Cryptocurrency Modern Day Payment System or Uncalculated Risks? Which can be read on Amazon Kindle Unlimited for Free 

The Forensic Trail Begins

Maybe, law enforcement panicked in the beginning, but they have adapted to cryptocurrency and their blockchain technology. Granted, cryptocurrency transactions themselves are not tied directly to anyone’s identity, but every transaction uses a unique string of letters and numbers 1Ez69nzzmePmZX3WpEzMKTrcBF2gpNQ55, that recognize the destination of both sender and receiver. These unique strings of letters and numbers give law enforcement enough information to follow transactions on a blockchain and eventually to a recipient’s e-wallet. More importantly, than the information itself is that all of a blockchain’s data is traceable, permanent, immutable, reliable and available to everyone who wants to see it.   Therefore, that line “follow the money” made famous in the 1976 motion picture “All the President’s Men” is as true today as it was then. Not only a digital time stamp but a digital witness!

Techniques and Tools

Like criminals, law enforcement has adapted to these new technologies developing new techniques and tools to follow and identify cyber attackers, even on unused addresses. Agents monitor blockchains and the darknet looking for correlations across transactions and their attributes such as:
  • Timelines
  • Amounts
  • Domain names
  • IP and email addresses
  • Pseudonyms
  • Payments
  • Connections
  • etc.
Upon detecting any conspicuous activity or transactions on a blockchain or on the darknet, law enforcement will start investigating. In the hope of finding similarities that will give them vital clues in both new and unsolved cases. Therefore, agents comb through thousands of registered cases at the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center). For example, in cases that involved ransomware, if a ransom was paid by registered victims, law enforcement can search for connections between the recipient’s wallets to generate a list of wallets associated with the same entity that issued the ransom demand. At the same time, new addresses are constantly checked against cases in the FBI’s case management system that are currently being worked on. For example, another agent might have already come across these addresses in association with another crime. For instance, someone who sold remote desktop protocol (RDP) credentials on the darknet for accessing third-party computers from anywhere in the world.   This analysis can lead agents to exchanges, e-wallets, and even gambling sites, on which law enforcement could serve a subpoena to learn more details on the transactions and the account owners. Once the payment recipient is identified, the investigator will have a confirmed IP address, location as well as a criminal profile, potentially linking a suspect to other criminals and crimes.    

Consider this before Going the Extra Mile

For those, individuals willing to go the extra mile to cover their tracks. The market is saturated with unlawful businesses offering alternative entry points and mixing services to help users improve the anonymity of their cryptocurrency transactions. Likewise, there are cryptocurrencies like Monero (XMR), DASH (DASH), and ZCash (ZEC) that offer users an extra layer of privacy by applying zero-knowledge proof or a built-in mixing process as is the case with DASH. Granted, the options for concealing one’s identity are endless and as a result, it makes life harder for law enforcement to follow or tie a transaction to an individual, but not impossible! Before deciding to use an alternative entry point or a coin with zero-knowledge proof to hide one’s identity here are some things to consider:
  • Cyberattacks and insider fraud are not uncommon events at legitimate cryptocurrency businesses. I can’t imagine that an unlawful business would be a better custodian for someone trying to hide the source of their money.
  • A majority of businesses operating unlawfully are already on law enforcements’ radar and a subpoena can be issued at any time.
  • A business offering unlawful services can also be a setup by law enforcement.
  • Mixing is more vulnerable to Sybil attacks.
  • Mixing is not immune to forensic technology so there is always a real chance that investigators can link the coins back to the original address.
  • Mixing needs at least two people, therefore you are helping someone to launder their money
  • What if, after mixing, you receive coins that were involved in a crime and law enforcement traced them to you. Likely outcome these coins will be confiscated and you might require expensive legal counseling to avoid criminal charges.
  • Let’s not take our eyes off the main players in the industry. Miners confirm valid transactions. Also, 50 percent of the hashpower is controlled by a handful of miners. Government agencies can always apply pressure to these miners as witnessed in China.  
  • Coins that claim to offer total privacy all have their own nuances and if not used accordingly can jeopardize any chance of anonymity. For example, take Monero it offers users full anonymity as long as it is used on its blockchain. Also, many are relatively new ICOs, therefore, the bugs haven’t yet been identified.   
  • It’s only a matter of time before the crypto-industry is regulated and it’s probably safe to say that holders of  coins offering total anonymity will be penalized.
  • Unfortunately, for bad actors, the flow of sending and receiving data through these cryptocurrency networks are not well-coordinated events. Therefore, anyone monitoring a network will be able to immediately recognize when a transaction is sent out and map it to that IP address as the owner of that cryptocurrency. Also, when a massive number of transactions are sent from a single source, it’s only a matter of time before the addresses are unwound and mapped to their proper IP addresses.
Furthermore, any serious exchange or wallet service will conduct a thorough Know Your Customer (KYC) on every new account as part of their onboarding process. That means linking personal identity to your wallet and to your bank account. Recently, Circle-owned Poloniex exchange froze a slew of user accounts in the midst of implementing a new know your customer (KYC) verification process. Legacy account users, those whose accounts were verified under Poloniex’s old guidelines, reportedly received emails from Poloniex support requesting that they comply with the new verification method. The email asks that each legacy account provides “a verification photo…as well as a photo of a valid government-issued ID card or passport.” More on the Poloniex exchange story can be found at coincentral or click here Even the smartest criminals get careless and blockchain technology continues to be a bonafide weapon for combating and prosecuting crimes. Written by Paul Hamilton  

“Top Misconceptions of Cryptocurrency as a Payment System”

  Which can be read on Amazon Kindle Unlimited for Free  You can find more interesting articles by visiting us on one of the following platforms: AML Knowledge Centre (LinkedIn) or Anti-Bribery and Compliance at the Front-Lines (LinkedIn)

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close