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As cryptocurrency and Bitcoin grow in popularity, the Secret Service has stepped up efforts to crack down on fraudulent transactions. According to agency statistics, it has seized more than $102 million worth of cryptocurrencies since 2015 in 254 cases.
One of the attractions of cryptocurrency is how quickly funds are transferred compared to traditional transactions. However, the format also lends itself as an attractive vehicle to criminals and leaves consumers vulnerable.
Still, blockchain allows for a certain degree of transparency, so through careful surveillance, illicit activities can be tracked. “When you follow a digital currency wallet, it’s no different than an email address that has some identifiers correlated,” says David Smith, assistant director of investigations for the US Secret Service. “And once a person and another person make a transaction, and that enters the blockchain, we have the ability to follow that email address or wallet address, if you want, and track it through the blockchain.”
Related: Blockchain is Everywhere: Here’s How to Understand It
While the US Secret Service is best known for keeping political leaders safe, it also actively monitors cybercrime.
Agents and analysts track global cryptocurrencies from a secure room at the agency’s headquarters, carefully monitoring possible fraudulent activity. Once suspicious behavior is detected, they investigate further and deconstruct the transaction details. “What we want to do is track this as quickly as possible, as aggressively as possible, in a linear fashion,” says Smith.
Among the 254 cases was a fraudulent auction of luxury goods that were actually non-existent. Victims received falsified invoices from the alleged companies, assuring them that the transaction was real, and then their funds were converted into digital assets by the criminals behind the operation.
Another investigation found that a North Korean cybercrime group implemented a scheme to get victims to download fraudulent encryption apps onto their devices and then used the illegitimate apps as an entry point to collect data and gain access to information. private.
As new forms of cybercrime continue to emerge, the Secret Service will continue to monitor suspicious activity.
Related: A Secret Service Agent’s Guide to Protecting C-Suite from Hackers