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The new (virtual) sheriff in town: US taps top crypto cop

By Andrew Knoll

22:11, 22 February 2022

Woman's hands put crypto coin into a wallet
Eun Young Choi has been named as the first director of the US National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team - Photo: Shutterstock

The US Department of Justice named Eun Young Choi as the first director of its National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) on Thursday, as part of a broadening effort to monitor virtual currency and associated activity.

Citing misuse of technology in cyberattacks, ransomware, extortion, theft, fraud, money laundering, illicit drug trafficking and other crimes involving cryptocurrency and jurisdictional complexity, the US has sought to create divisions within its federal law enforcement agencies to tackle tangled legal issues that cross state lines and international borders by way of the blockchain.

“The NCET will play a pivotal role in ensuring that, as the technology surrounding digital assets grows and evolves, the department, in turn, accelerates and expands its efforts to combat their illicit abuse by criminals of all kinds,” Choi said in a statement attached to the announcement.

Choi worked perhaps most notably as the Cyber Crimes Coordinator for New York state’s Southern District, which includes New York City, for nearly a decade. She then served as senior counsel to the US Deputy Attorney General.

Scope of the issue

A report last month indicated that around $14bn (£10.3bn) in cryptocurrencies were pilfered in online scams, hacks and other surreptitious activity in 2021, soaring from prior years.

So too did social media use in terms of its prevalence among the deceitful, with losses from social media-initiated fraud rising to $770m (£567m) last year according to the US Federal Trade Commission.

“With the rapid innovation of digital assets and distributed ledger technologies, we have seen a rise in their illicit use by criminals who exploit them to fuel cyberattacks and ransomware and extortion schemes; traffic in narcotics, hacking tools and illicit contraband online; commit thefts and scams, and launder the proceeds of their crimes,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A Polite Jr said in the announcement.


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More agencies to come

With the announcement of Eun’s promotion came another revelation, that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation would be forming a new Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit. The FBI recently made arrests in a multi-billion-dollar hack, theft and money laundering scheme involving the theft of bitcoin.

In addition to the news release, US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco – under whom Choi served previously – touched on the coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement to combat malfeasance along the blockchain as new schemes and criminal methods emerged.

Monaco called on companies engaged in cryptocurrency trading and mining – including exchange platforms, infrastructural service providers, mixers, tumblers and more – to weed out malicious actors, and said that those who do not will be held accountable under the law.

Already in the oft-intertwined non-fungible token (NFT) space, there have been measures taken by platforms to limit illegal and otherwise improper activity earlier this month.

Monaco also said the US would also be expanding its reach with an international virtual currency monitoring and enforcement programme, and that it would introduce disruptive, interventive measures to its tool kit.

“Moving forward, prosecutors, agents, and analysts will now assess – at each stage of a cyber investigation – whether to use disruptive actions against cyber threats, even if they might otherwise tip the cybercriminals off and jeopardise the potential for charges and apprehension,” Monaco said.

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The difference between trading assets and CFDs
The main difference between CFD trading and trading assets, such as commodities and stocks, is that you don’t own the underlying asset when you trade on a CFD.
You can still benefit if the market moves in your favour, or make a loss if it moves against you. However, with traditional trading you enter a contract to exchange the legal ownership of the individual shares or the commodities for money, and you own this until you sell it again.
CFDs are leveraged products, which means that you only need to deposit a percentage of the full value of the CFD trade in order to open a position. But with traditional trading, you buy the assets for the full amount. In the UK, there is no stamp duty on CFD trading, but there is when you buy stocks, for example.
CFDs attract overnight costs to hold the trades (unless you use 1-1 leverage), which makes them more suited to short-term trading opportunities. Stocks and commodities are more normally bought and held for longer. You might also pay a broker commission or fees when buying and selling assets direct and you’d need somewhere to store them safely.
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