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Cryptocurrencies are funding human trafficking, a new government report warns

In the report, the GAO looked at how often this currency is linked with both drug and human trafficking. The report also highlighted the ways US agencies are collecting data about these incidents and attempting to counter them. One of the key data points the GAO used to understand this were suspicious activity reports (SARs) which banks and other financial institutions are required to submit to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) any time they’re concerned a transaction might not be legal. John Pendleton, another GAO director and contributor to the report, said they discovered a significant spike in recent years.

“SARs that referenced virtual currency terms quadrupled actually from over 10,000 in 2017 to over 40,000 in 2020,” Pendleton said on the same podcast. “And SARs that mentioned both virtual currency and drug trafficking saw a fivefold increase over the same period.”

Goodwin said they did not come across reports of virtual currencies being used for labor trafficking, but they did identify its use in the online commercial sex marketplace. The report cited a study from non-profit organization Polaris, which works to combat sex trafficking, that identified virtual currency as the “second-most commonly accepted payment method on 40 platforms in the online commercial sex market,” with credit and debit cards being the first.

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