What is a Bitcoin Escrow Service?
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Escrow is not a new term. In fact, escrow services have been around for centuries and have since become commonly recognized as being a third-party service that is the middleman for transactions. This is frequently used to ensure security for the buying and selling of goods, especially when the transacting parties are unknown to each other. To mitigate against some of these risks, bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies have continued to gain popularity as a reliable method of transferring payments. Unfortunately, with more creative solutions have come more creative scams. In the cryptocurrency space, these are most frequently seen as anonymous individuals who request payments from another party for an offering that is never received.
Since fraud can't be eradicated from a financial solution, many have turned to bitcoin escrow services as a solution. Users can find crypto escrow services on various bitcoin marketplaces that contain a built-in escrow service, on a crypto exchange, through a peer-to-peer trading platform, or via the use of a multisig wallet.
Escrow services in practice
Escrow services and bitcoin escrow services are very similar in practice. The main difference being that one operates with fiat currencies, and the other operates with bitcoin. Looking at the process more closely, a bitcoin escrow service will prompt the buyer to deposit the purchase amount and the seller to provide the service or deliver the item to the buyer. After the buyer has received the goods, the escrow will deposit the purchase amount to the seller. If the buyer receives the goods and they are not adequate, they can send the item back to the escrow service and receive their money back. This ensures that the product's quality is as described since no negotiation is needed with the seller, just the escrow service that acts as the intermediary.
Put simply, an escrow is seen as the representative of the account involved and brings neutrality to transactions. While this concept is not new and is traditionally performed by banks or other financial institutions, blockchain-based escrow services function slightly differently. This is because bitcoin escrow services involve the exchange of public and private keys. Due to the underlying technology, the blockchain makes escrow services easier than traditional banking systems, which require a lawyer and other expensive legal documentation.
Why escrow services are needed
Although bitcoin is anonymous, in the event of a scam, the owner of a bitcoin can be tracked down in most cases. That said, this is often a complex process that may not ever result in the funds being returned to the rightful owner. Warrants and court orders may not seem worth it over a $50 loss. Since bitcoin is anonymous by nature, it has become a popular choice for scam artists. Bitcoin escrow services offer protection for both the buyer in that the funds will only be transferred once the good has been received and verified. However, it also provides greater security for sellers. As a result, platforms that offer escrow services will often be a deterrent for scammers who may fear an impartial third party that decides where funds will be allocated.
Different types of escrow services
In the cryptocurrency space, an escrow service can be performed in one of two ways. One way is through a third-party service, as described above. Alternatively, multi-signature technology can also be leveraged to act as an escrow service. A multisig wallet requires a certain number of signatures for funds to be released. In an escrow setup, the wallet may be shared by three people but require two signatures to release the funds. If the buyer and seller agree that the terms of the agreement have been met, they can decide together that the funds can be released. Alternatively, any disagreements can be solved with the third person who has access to the wallet. This third person will act as the arbitrator and decide where to send the funds.
The options for bitcoin escrow services are continuing to grow with the widespread use of cryptocurrencies. Therefore, it is vital to conduct the necessary research ahead of time to determine which platform offers the features that will benefit you as the user and which has the best reputation overall. An escrow agent must be trusted to hold your bitcoin and therefore should have a high reputation of trust within the cryptocurrency community or be a registered arbitrator.