By Jack Morse
Bust out the champagne, folks! It’s time to celebrate.
2019 was one hell of a year for cryptocurrency. Or, more specifically, cryptocurrency scams. That’s according to Chainalysis, a respected blockchain analysis company that works with law enforcement and the Department of Justice to monitor and track cryptocurrency transactions tied to criminal activity.
Its 2020 State of Crypto Crime report, released today, goes into great detail on the types and scale of scams infecting the broader digital currency space. And, shocker, it’s a lot. Specifically, 2019 was a banner year for those looking to commit some crime with the help of their old pseudonymous friend Bitcoin.
“2019 was the biggest year for cryptocurrency scams yet,” reads the report. “After [a] drop in scam revenue in 2018, scammers more than tripled their revenue in 2019, bringing in $4.30 billion worth of cryptocurrency from millions of victims.”
And there was one type of scam that stood way out.
“The vast majority of this came from Ponzi schemes,” continues the report, “which accounted for 92% of the bottomline total.”
Which, yeah, that’s a lot.
Importantly, for criminals less partial to the pyramid-style shakedown scheme, there were plenty of other techniques scammers used to deprive people of their potentially hard-earned crypto: Fake token sales, phishing, investment scams, and blackmail were all in the mix.
But back to the Ponzi schemes. A lot of people reportedly fell for them.
“Over 2.4 million individual transfers were made to Ponzi schemes, a number that becomes even more incredible when you realize that the data above reflects just six individual Ponzi schemes in 2019,” notes the report.
The average USD value of individual transfers to the operators of the six Ponzi schemes referenced was around $1,676 — which is no small amount. Remember, those victims may very well have made more than one transfer. People, it would seem, can’t resist the false promises of outlandish returns if they simply manage to invest early enough.
And sure, why not? An unsophisticated investor might very well see huge returns for the few who bought bitcoin and ethereum early and think, “Why not me?” That, unfortunately, is exactly the thinking scammers count on.
In 2019 alone, that counting added up to $4.3 billion. Which is, well… that’s a lot of champagne.