Blockchain forensics firm CipherTrace has published comprehensive guidance to assist law enforcement officials in identifying signs of cryptocurrency use when carrying out criminal investigations.
The report notes that the U.S. Department of Treasury has identified a “consistent decrease in reported bulk cash seizures by agencies throughout the United States” since 2013, suggesting the trend may indicate increased cryptocurrency adoption among criminals.
“The signs of cryptocurrency usage, however, can easily be overlooked by investigators unfamiliar with what to look for.”
The report encourages law enforcement to scour confiscated phones and computers for cryptocurrency-related applications, bookmarks and authenticator apps, supplying a list of popular cryptocurrency exchanges, wallet providers and crypto ATM maps.
“Old, disconnected, and seemingly non-functioning computers could hold the private keys to cryptocurrency wallets,” CipherTrace emphasized.
Investigating officers are also encouraged to examine so-called “pocket litter” and “other random papers” for Bitcoin ATM receipts and wallet recovery seed-phrases, providing examples of how recovery seeds are typically stored on paper.
The post adds that “recovery seeds can also be hidden within books, planners, and unrelated notes, or in plain sight as clear lists or metal backups.”
The report also provides an extensive list of hardware wallet manufacturers and models, and examples of what the most popular devices look like.
“The signs of cryptocurrency use can be easily overlooked by investigators; hardware wallets can look like inconspicuous USB sticks and recovery seeds are just random words on a page.”
CipherTrace urges law enforcement to be especially vigilant in searching for evidence of crypto caches “when there is a lack of cash seizure for known cash intensive activities.”