Criminals launder money through Bitcoin

The decreasing value of Bitcoin has reduced the number of cyber crimes related to the digital currency, IBM has revealed.

Although such crimes are still happening, the way people use the digital currency for nefarious means has changed, according to IBM Security.

Rather than people collecting and saving the digital currency to use for other purchases, they are now converting them to other currencies in order to launder the money as fast as possible.

But the dropping value of the currency means people are less likely to take part in illegal activity to obtain them because they will not get the returns they previuously obtained.

Etay Maor, senior fraud prevention strategist at IBM Security, said: "They use Bitcoin for the money laundering part and take payment with it, but they'll move it out almost immediately.

"Most of them [the cyber criminals] won't keep bitcoins - they don't like the valuations Bitcoin has - so they just use it as a layer of obfuscation, and move it to a different form of money."

In 2013, one bitcoin was worth 728, but now each is worth 155 and the reducing exchange rate means fewer people are partaking in the activity themselves, but instead using mules to make money.

Maor said the people behind creating ransomware malware are recruiting mules to farm the money for them, paying them between 15 and 20 per cent commission on funds they process.

He explained that in Europe, mules are normally retired people looking to supplement their pensions, but in Asia and Australasia, students are recruited to launder Bitcoin funds.

However, those who get involved don't normally know they're involved in illegal activity until they are contacted by police.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.