Crypto Scammers Stole $1.8 Billion in First Ten Months of 2020

Losses from cryptocurrency thefts, hacks, and frauds netted $1.8 billion in the first ten months of 2020, swelled by a dramatic rise in DeFi platforms which became a vulnerable, lucrative target for crypto hackers.

The metrics released by blockchain forensics company CipherTrace suggest that 2020 could record the second-highest value in losses linked to cryptocurrency crimes. In 2019, crypto crimes proceeds surged to $4.52 billion, up 160 percent from 2018’s total of $1.74 billion.

While DeFi volume was virtually negligible in 2019, the decentralized finance market has exploded this year with crypto-assets locked by these platforms have increased to a peak of $14.2 billion as of October 27, 2020.

So far, DeFi hacks made up $98 million, or roughly 21 percent, of total crypto theft volumes in 2020. Funds from KuCoin hack, which totaled nearly $281 million, were laundered through one of the largest decentralized exchanges in the world—Uniswap.

“The USD value locked in DeFi has grown exponentially in 2020 thus creating potential new money laundering risks as hacked DeFi protocols make up the majority of crypto thefts in 2020 and decentralized exchanges were the ramp of choice for 2020’s KuCoin hack,” the report said.

Cryptocurrency user and investor losses also increased due to the abundance of cross-border transactions, which accounted for 74 percent of the bitcoins moved in exchange-to-exchange trades. Out of this figure, analysis further revealed that users of Bitcoin ATMs in the US sent 88 percent of their transacted funds to offshore, high-risk exchanges.

According to CipherTrace’s report, the majority of the funds were linked to investment scams and Ponzi schemes. Although both scam categories represented a majority of the funds cryptocurrency scammers obtained, they didn’t account for the full losses. Apart from them, they also used blackmailing, fake cryptocurrency mixers, phishing, and fake token sales.

Chinese scams remain the main drivers for the surge

The latest change in correlation has come amid a health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Per the security firm, scammers have been taking advantage of the explosion of scams related to the coronavirus outbreak. By presenting themselves as members of popular health and charity organizations, they trick victims into sending them bitcoins.

The Ciphertrace’s newest report follows the firm’s previous research which revealed that major US banks unknowingly process every year roughly $2 billion in crypto transactions that go undetected. The firm claims that these funds stem from money service businesses that deal with cryptocurrencies like exchanges and brokerage services.

CipherTrace, which is backed by venture firms such as Mike Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital, also works with a bank’s existing monitoring tools to enhance anti-money laundering (AML) processes like tracing the source of on-chain funds and matching user IDs to problematic wallet addresses.

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