Wednesday, 17 February 2021 22:37

Cryptocurrency criminals stole US$1.9b in 2020, down from US$4.5b in 2019

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With Bitcoin reaching US$50,000 this week, the entire cryptocurrency market has seen impressive growth last year and especially in the last six weeks of 2021 with many investors turning to digital coins as a store of value amid the COVID-19 crisis, but 2020 saw less criminal cryptocurrency theft than in 2019. has published a new report on cryptocurrency theft, noting that "more money flowing through digital exchanges created an opportunity for malicious hackers and thieves looking to carry out frauds, scams and theft".

However, according to data presented by Finaria, "cryptocurrency criminals stole US$1.9bn in 2020, down from US$4.5bn in 2019."

Fraud was the Leading Cryptocurrency  Crime in 2020, Followed by Theft and Ransomware

We're told that "the surge in cryptocurrency trading fuelled the dynamic growth of the cybercrime world. In 2018, cryptocurrency crimes hit $1.7bn value, revealed CipherTrace's annual Crypto Anti-Money Laundering and Crime Report. This figure soared by almost 165% year-over-year to $4.5bn in 2019."

"Although 2020 witnessed an impressive growth of the entire cryptocurrency market, related crime was down 57% from 2019, dropping to US$1.9 billion. Also, the average value taken by criminal actors was 160% higher in 2019 than in 2020, despite the similar number of cryptocurrency frauds, showing the maturity in the crypto space and strong precaution measures against threats.

"Statistics show fraud was the leading cryptocurrency crime last year, followed by theft and ransomware. Although the total value of cryptocurrency crime dropped in 2020, cryptocurrency theft jumped by 40% YoY and hit US$513 million, still far below the record of US$950 million from 2018.

"The survey revealed that decentralised finance (DeFi)- related hacks and scams added US$129 million to the combined value of cryptocurrency thefts in 2020, turning it into the next major threat vector for fraud and money laundering. Other thefts caused US$387 million worth of damage."

Chinese Ponzi Scheme Wotoken Stole Over $1B Worth of Crypto, the Biggest Fraud in 2020

"The last year's running total largely come from a single fraud, Wotoken, which functioned from July 2018 to October 2019, but was revealed in 2020. It worked as a classic multi-level-marketing project, but with a suspiciously high number of total hierarchical levels.

"The scam promised investors unrealistic returns using non-existent algorithmic trading software. Ultimately, one Wotoken operator, connected to the infamous PlusToken Ponzi scheme, stole nearly US$1.1 billion in cryptocurrency from more than 715,000 victims. China sentenced operators of the cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme to years in prison."

More infromation is available at the Finaria website here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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