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FinCEN Sees Rise in Bitcoin Being Used in Human Trafficking Cases

Tanzeel Akhtar
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: Dall-E
Source: Dall-E

The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said it has seen a rise in the number of Bitcoin transactions used in connection with human trafficking and online child exploitation cases.

According to FinCEN recent findings show 95% of cases involving online child exploitation and human trafficking-related cases there was a connection with digital assets or “convertible virtual currencies.”

In the February report, FinCEN highlights Bitcoin has been used increasingly as a means of payment when it came to exploitation cases. The total number of online child exploitation cases and human trafficking-related reports involving virtual currency increased from 336 in 2020 to 1,975 in 2021.

FinCEN’s main goal is to safeguard the financial system from illicit uses and combat money laundering, promoting national security by collecting, and analyzing information. The report released by the network is for the public and law enforcement agencies involved in combating online child exploitation and human trafficking-related activities.

Of the 2,311 Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reports received, 2,157 reports referenced Bitcoin as the primary convertible virtual currency used for human trafficking and online child exploitation cases. From this FinCEN said it then identified over 1,800 unique wallet addresses related to suspected online child exploitation cases and human trafficking offences.

FinCEN Partners with Project Protect  

FinCEN’s said to closely monitor the rise in such cases it has joined the Canadian financial intelligence unit’s “Project Protect” which is a flagship public-private partnership on human trafficking. Back in June 2021, FinCEN identified human trafficking and cybercrime as among the “Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism National Priorities” issued pursuant to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020.

In October, FinCEN proposed requiring domestic financial institutions and agencies to “implement certain record keeping and reporting requirements” for transactions involving crypto mixers. The commission said it had assessed that “the percentage of CVC [convertible virtual currencies] transactions processed by CVC mixers that originated from likely illicit sources is increasing.”

Treasury Highlights Crypto Used by Criminals

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released its 2024 National Risk Assessments on Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Proliferation Financing, outlining the most significant threats facing the United States in illicit finance.

The Treasury Department issued a stark warning regarding the escalating utilization of cryptocurrencies by criminals, fraudsters, and other illicit entities. The report detailed updates to the anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism framework, addressing issues such as the fentanyl crisis, terrorist attacks, ransomware potency, professional money laundering, and digital payments’ growth.

Appeal to Report Cases 

FinCEN is appealing to the public to report any cases of child exploitation and human trafficking to law enforcement. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) tip-off line is: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) and outside the US authorities can be contacted by calling 802-872-6199.