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Cryptocurrency Used for Criminal Purposes? Not Really, Data Show

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin quickly developed a reputation shortly after their introduction as being used by cybercriminals to engage in behavior such as drug dealing, human trafficking, and terrorist financing. Many who may have wanted to become early adopters of cryptocurrencies shied away from them as a result. And many others who did try to use or accept cryptocurrencies found themselves having their bank accounts shut down as soon as they tried to purchase cryptocurrencies. While we always knew that fears of cryptocurrency use for black market purposes were overblown, now we have some proof of just how overblown they were.

Anyone who has worked in or has knowledge of the financial services industry is familiar with suspicious activity reports (SARs), which financial firms are required to file with Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) when they suspect any sort of suspicious financial transactions that may be attempting to evade or circumvent the law. Since 2013, over 70,000 cryptocurrency-related SARs have been filed with FINCEN, or about 26 per day. That may seem like a lot, unless you know that in that same time period there were over 12 million total SARs filed with FinCEN. So cryptocurrency-related SARs made up only 0.59% of all SAR filings.

That’s obviously a tiny fraction of total SAR filings, but you wouldn’t have thought that, given the hand-wringing from government officials in Bitcoin’s early years that it was merely a tool for criminals to run amok. As usual, that was part of a push to keep threats to the government’s currency monopoly from gaining too much of a foothold. As most people realize, the use of cash and bank deposits to engage in criminal activity is far more widespread than the use of cryptocurrency, so it’s the government’s own product that is actually assisting criminal behavior. Now that we know cryptocurrencies aren’t in widespread use by criminals, there’s really no reason for government agencies to oppose them.

That would be a great relief for cryptocurrency investors, particularly those investing in long-term investment vehicles such as cryptocurrency IRAs. The more secure cryptocurrencies remain against government intervention, the better off cryptocurrency investors will be.