After cryptocurrency-based crime hit an all-time high in 2021, with illicit addresses receiving $14 billion over the course of the year, there now appears to be a slowdown in illicit crypto-related activities this year, aligning with the broader decline of cryptocurrency markets. However, while legitimate cryptocurrency transaction volumes have dropped 36% year-over-year, criminal activity appears to be more resilient, with comparative illicit volumes down just 15%.
The total cryptocurrency-related scam revenue for 2022 currently sits at $1.6 billion, 65% lower than where it was through the end of July in 2021, and this decline appears linked to declining prices across different currencies. Moreover, it’s not just scam revenue that’s falling — the cumulative number of individual transfers to scams so far in 2022 is the lowest it’s been in the past four years. And while the biggest scam of 2022 so far has netted $273 million worth of cryptocurrency, this represents just 24% of the revenue that the largest scam of 2021 drew in at the end of July last year.
“Our data suggest that fewer people than ever are falling for cryptocurrency scams. One reason for this could be that with asset prices falling, cryptocurrency scams — which typically present themselves as passive crypto investing opportunities with enormous, promised returns — are less enticing to potential victims. We also hypothesise that new, inexperienced users who are more likely to fall for scams are less prevalent in the market now that prices are declining, as opposed to when prices are rising and they’re drawn in by hype and the promise of quick returns,” said Kim Grauer, Director of Research at Chainalysis.