Crime involving cryptocurrencies hit an all-time excessive of $14 billion final 12 months, blockchain researcher Chainalysis stated on Thursday, a document that comes as regulators name for extra powers over the fast-growing sector.
Crypto obtained by digital pockets addresses linked to illicit exercise together with scams, darknet markets and ransomware jumped 80% from a 12 months earlier, Chainalysis stated in a report. The exercise represented simply 0.15% of complete crypto transaction volumes, its lowest ever.
Total volumes soared to $15.8 trillion in 2021, up over five-fold from a 12 months earlier, U.S.-based Chainalysis stated. Digital property, from bitcoin to non-fungible tokens, exploded in recognition in 2021 amid an embrace from institutional traders and main firms.
Newcomers have been drawn to the promise of fast features touted by crypto backers, in addition to hopes that bitcoin provides a hedge in opposition to hovering inflation. But cryptocurrencies are nonetheless topic to patchy regulation, leaving traders with little recourse in opposition to crime.
Monetary watchdogs and policymakers from Washington to Frankfurt have fretted over using crypto for cash laundering, with some urging lawmakers to grant them better powers over the trade.
“Legal abuse of cryptocurrency creates large impediments for continued adoption, heightens the chance of restrictions being imposed by governments, and worst of all victimizes harmless folks all over the world,” Chainalysis stated.
Driving the rise in crime was an explosion of scams and theft at decentralized finance – DeFi – platforms, it stated.
DeFi websites – which supply lending, insurance coverage and different monetary providers whereas bypassing conventional gatekeepers reminiscent of banks – have been suffering from issues that embody flaws in underlying code and opaque governance.
Total cryptocurrency theft grew over five-fold from 2020, with round $3.2 billion value of cash stolen final 12 months. Round $2.2 billion of these funds, some 72% of the whole, had been stolen from DeFi websites.
Scams at DeFi platforms – reminiscent of “rug pulls,” the place builders arrange phony funding alternatives earlier than disappearing with traders’ money – hit $7.8 billion, an 82% soar from 2021, Chainalysis stated.
(Reporting by Tom Wilson; enhancing by Frank Jack Daniel)
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