2019 is shaping up as the year of the “exit scam” according to a new study from CipherTrace, a cryptocurrency intelligence firm based in Silicon Valley.
According to the company’s latest Q2 2019 Cryptocurrency Anti-Money Laundering (AML) report, which provides an overview of the major cryptocurrency thefts, scams, and fraud worldwide, criminals and fraudsters netted approximately $4.26 billion for the first six months of the year.
To put this in perspective, cryptocurrency thefts reached $1.2 billion in the first three months of 2019 and $1.7 billion for the entire 2018.
Although exchanges, wallets, and other cryptocurrency custody services are strengthening their defenses, hackers continue to innovate and outpace even the current state of the art in cybersecurity, the CipherTrace report notes.
While thefts due to cyberattacks have netted criminals $287 million during the first half of 2019, several alleged exit scams under investigation have resulted in fraudsters stealing more than $3.1 billion dollars.
To put it simply, an exit scam is when scammers launch a new cryptocurrency based on a promising concept. typically detailed on a “white paper”, then raise money from investors through an initial coin offering (ICO) before disappearing with the investors’ funds.
In aggregate, hacks, exit scams and misappropriation of funds fraud, cost cryptocurrency exchanges, investors and users $4.26 billion in the first half.
Bitcoin is still the king of the Dark Web and Cybercrimes
CipherTrace research shows that Bitcoin (BTC) is primarily used to buy and sell illegal drugs, weapons, and cyber and banking credentials and that the cryptocurrency is used in 76% of dark market transactions versus 7% for Ethereum Classic (ETC).
In the case of malware and ransomware, the dominance of Bitcoin is even more striking with Ethereum (ETH) used in only 1% of instances and BTC used in 98% of all the cases.