Cryptocurrencies can make it easier for fraudsters to obscure the source of criminal proceeds and are increasingly becoming the preferred currency of cybercriminals, from purchasing illicit goods using Bitcoin as a payment method to ransomware attacks where payments by Bitcoin are demanded. This trend is more prevalent because cryptocurrency offers a combination of anonymity, ease of use and the ability to circumvent international borders and regulations, in essence, to launder the ill-gotten proceeds.
The advanced fraudster or money launderer using Bitcoin may use both Bitcoin mixing services and Bitcoin exchanges. Bitcoin mixers typically provide customers with a newly generated bitcoin address to make a deposit. The Bitcoin mixing service pays out other Bitcoins from its reserve to Bitcoin addresses supplied by the customer after deducting a mixing fee. Some randomness is applied to the frequency and amount of payments/fees to create a guise of legitimacy. Bitcoin mixing services allow fraudsters to conceal the origin of their ill-gotten proceeds, disassociating them from the criminal activities to cash out safely using a Bitcoin exchange, which is designed to convert Bitcoins to spendable money anonymously.
Many crypto assets are volatile and, more likely than not, present a risk for financial institutions as exposures increase. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash and other coins can be some of the riskiest assets a bank could hold. So, it is not surprising that regulators are trying to unpack and get a handle on this “virtual currency.” One regulatory body describes crypto assets — which it calls virtual currency — as “a digital representation of value that functions as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and/or a store of value,” other than a representation of the U.S. dollar or a foreign currency. Cryptocurrency is a digital asset that uses cryptography to secure transactions digitally recorded on a distributed ledger, such as a blockchain, in units typically referred to as coins or tokens.