Body: Most of the Bitcoin in circulation today is being used for speculation rather than for crimes, this is according to a DEA agent. That being said, the number of Bitcoin used in several criminal acts is still on the rise.
There was once a time where Bitcoin was used for illegal transactions. Lilita Infante of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) first began to notice that Bitcoin was appearing in her cases, data gotten from the ledger of transactions showed that around 90% of all Bitcoin transferred between wallets was linked with crimes. This number has reduced significantly to just 10%. Most transactions today are used for speculative purposes.
Notwithstanding, criminals are still making use of Bitcoin. In fact, according to Infante, the total volume of transactions used to commit crimes has significantly increased since the cryptocurrency began to receive media coverage for its use in the dark web, an example is in a marketplace like Silk Road.
Infante told Bloomberg about the developments she has observed:
“The volume has grown tremendously, the amount of transactions and the dollar value has grown tremendously over the years in criminal activity, but the ratio has decreased… The majority of transactions are used for price speculation.”
Infante is one of the special agents that work at the DEA. She works on a 10-person task force responsible for investigating cyber crimes. This majorly involves cases where criminals use the dark web and various cryptocurrencies. Her Cyber Investigative Task Force also work in close conjunction with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI.
Such discoveries run contrary to the narrative painted by the media of the cryptocurrency. Most people still believe that Bitcoin is only useful because it allows drug dealers make transactions for drug deals and other criminal acts under the cloak of anonymity.
However, it has now dawned on most criminals that Bitcoin actually provides little regarding anonymity to its users. Investigators like Infante can use the immutable ledger of transactions that is the main feature of the Blockchain to track where funds are going and where they come from. This can then be used to pinpoint the persons engaging in such criminal activity using Bitcoin and any other cryptocurrency.
Lately, users of dark web are gradually turning to other cryptocurrencies like Monero or Zcash to perform transactions more anonymously. Infante claims that her department has ways of tracing those too, although the hidden transactions are now made possible by privacy-focused cryptocurrencies which have become more challenging to track.
The figures Infante state show that most criminals still make use of Bitcoin as a means of payment for not just for drug deals alone. These criminal networks have gradually found cryptocurrency handy for other purposes. These include money laundering and cross-border payments.
Infante doesn’t see the use of digital currencies for illegal means on the decline in the nearest future. In fact, since most cryptos are based on Blockchain technology, she actually says that she would prefer them:
“The Blockchain actually gives us a lot of tools to be able to identify people… I actually want them to keep using them.”
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