Stablecoins: The New Favourite of Cybercriminals?

Stablecoins: The New Favourite of Cybercriminals?

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An expert on crypto has recently postulated that criminals are leaving Bitcoin in order to use stablecoins, which are considered to be an easier go-to for illegal financial activities.

From Bitcoin to Stablecoins

It has often been suggested, especially in the mainstream media, that  Bitcoin was one of the main currencies in which to transact illicit activities. However, recent insights suggest a shift in this trend. Originally reported by CoinTelegraph, Tara Annison, the former head of technical crypto advisory at Elliptic, stated that the criminal underbelly of the crypto world is now leaning more towards stablecoins, particularly USD Coin (USDC), over Bitcoin.

Annison, during her presentation at EthCC in Paris, delved into the changing dynamics of crypto-related crimes. She pointed out that Bitcoin's decreasing popularity among criminals can be attributed to the rise of decentralised finance protocols, mixing services, and most notably, stablecoins. These digital assets, especially those pegged to the dollar, offer new, more discreet avenues for illicit transactions.

Why the shift to stablecoins?

Annison explains that assets like USDC offer easy access and can be effortlessly laundered through decentralised exchanges (DEXs). She remarked that in her view the deep liquidity and substantial volume on these platforms make them ideal for such activities.

However, it's not all gloomy. Annison highlighted a potential advantage for law enforcement agencies. Centralised issuers, such as Circle, have the capability to freeze specific USDC tokens. This means that before these criminals can convert their assets into fiat currencies through DEXs or centralised platforms, their funds can be halted. Annison commented that in her opinion we are witnessing a rise in blacklisted USDC and USDT accounts, effectively freezing assets that criminals can't access.

$7.8 billion in scams

Annison went on to say that stablecoins aren't the only concern. Ponzi and pyramid schemes continue to plague the crypto sector. A staggering $7.8 billion has been syphoned off from unsuspecting victims through these scams. Moreover, criminals are constantly innovating, employing techniques like chain swapping and asset swapping to obscure their tracks, using a myriad of tools, from DEXs to mixers, in order to muddy the trail for blockchain analytics firms.

In the light of crypto scams decreasing by 46% compared to previous years, Annison believes the current bear market in crypto is a significant factor, suggesting that with reduced hype and lower prices, the sector becomes less lucrative for criminals.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice. 

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