Cryptocurrency Scams Are Declining While Ransomware Grows

Cryptocurrency ransomware attackers could reel in as much as $898.6 million across 2023, projections show.

The number of dollars lost to cryptocurrency-related crimes is dropping in 2023, with one big exception. Crypto ransomware attacks are continuing to grow, extorting victims for $449.1 million between the start of this year and June.

This is good news overall, since other scams have been stealing far less money than ever.

Still, it shows that ransomware is still a concern. Money lost to that particular business cyber threat hit $1.5 billion in 2021, but has dropped by 40% year-over-year as of this year. For crypto owners and businesses, however, ransomware is a big problem.

Crypto Crime Is Down 65% Overall

The data is out from blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis and its new report that finds every cryptocurrency crime category that isn’t ransomware has dropped in the first half of 2023.

Scams, hacks, fraud shops, and darknet market revenue are all down. Together, all the crime categories have cumulatively seen a 65% decrease in revenue losses compared to this time last year.

Scams in particular have plummeted, with an impressive $3.3 billion decrease since last year. The firm explains that this is due in part to the “exit scam” of two “large-scale scams” — VidiLook and Chia Tai Tianqing Pharmaceutical Financial Management. These groups have cashed out, leaving far fewer dollars being scammed overall.

Why Is Ransomware Up?

But ransomware is going strong: Pound for pound, cumulative ransomware revenue in 2023 is equal to 90% of all ransomware revenues across 2022 — and we’re only halfway through the year.

Chainalysis points out two reasons that together help to explain the upward trend in crypto ransomware:

“For one thing, big game hunting — that is, the targeting of large, deep-pocketed organizations by ransomware attackers — seems to have bounced back after a lull in 2022. At the same time, the number of successful small attacks has also grown. Both trends are evident on the chart below, which shows how the distribution of ransomware payment sizes has changed since 2020.”

In other words, crypto is being hit on two fronts: The big attacks are getting bigger, and the smaller attacks are increasing in number.

Ransomware Attacks and Crypto

If current trends keep up for the latter half of the year, crypto ransomware attackers can expect to reel in $898.6 million across 2023. That’s one of the biggest amounts that this category has ever seen, second only to the 2021 number, $939.9 million.

It’s a sign that ransomware isn’t going away any time soon, even if other crypto scammers have packed up their shops. We’ve previously covered ransomware across the business world, not just crypto: This particular type of crime has been dropping in recent years on the whole, but it remains a serious threat.

According to the FBI, criticial US infrastructure was targeted for ransomware attacks a grand total of 860 times across 2022.

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Healthcare is one of the biggest industries to suffer from this type of cybercrime, too, given the large databases of sensitive health data that many companies in this space have access to.

If you’re a crypto investor or business, take care to follow up on any message or email that could expose your personal information. Get a secure VPN, sign up for the best email security tools, and be careful when downloading Windows updates — they’re the latest way that ransomware hackers can steal your data.

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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