Innovation update

Fraud risk in a cryptocurrency world

Businesses and consumers across the globe are quickly adopting cryptocurrencies in daily transactions. And many organizations are scrambling to catch up with this evolving technological innovation. Here’s an update on this new means of exchange, key fraud risks and how CFEs can help with the responsible adoption of crypto.

Innovations in technology often change the world for the better. And yet, criminals, terrorists, and rogue states can use those same innovations for their own illegitimate ends, imposing great costs on the public. Today, few technologies are more potentially transformative and disruptive — and more potentially susceptible to abuse — than cryptocurrency.” – U.S. Deptartment of Justice’s “Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework.”

With over $2 trillion in circulation, digital assets (aka cryptocurrencies, or “crypto”) are increasingly becoming a mainstream form of payment worth more than all physical U.S. dollars and coins currently in circulation. (See “What Happens to the Stock and Cryptocurrencies When the Fed Stops Raining Money?” by Greg Ip, The Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2021, and “Cryptocurrency is now worth more than all U.S. currency in circulation,” by Tony Tran, The Byte, May 9, 2021.)

What was first viewed nearly a decade ago as a rogue payment model for criminal activity and ransomware payments is quickly being adopted by many organizations in a variety of industries. Emerging market countries from Pakistan to Vietnam to Nigeria are also seeing an increased use of this form of exchange, while El Salvador last year became the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. (See “Paying with Bitcoin: These are the major companies that accept crypto as payment,” by David Walsh,, Aug. 30, 2021; “This map shows where cryptocurrency is taking off around the world,” by MacKenzie Sigalos, CNBC, Aug. 18, 2021; and “El Salvador Has Adopted Bitcoin As Legal Tender — The First Country To Do So,” by Tim Padgett, NPR, Sept. 7, 2021.)

This has spurred both regulators and traditional banks to scramble to catch up and adapt to the evolving technology. [See “Banks Tried to Kill Crypto and Failed. Now They’re Embracing It (Slowly),” by Emily Flitter, The New York Times, Nov. 1, 2021, and “Wall Street Is Offering Big Pay Increases to Amass a Crypto Army,” by Zijia Song and Katherine Doherty, Bloomberg, Nov. 1, 2021.]

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