It looks as though another crossroad is being passed in contemporary society, one in which cash is becoming more and more a truly antiquated means to purchase.
Cash, today, makes up a nearly insignificant chunk of the total volume of money in circulation—the bulk existing on servers mounted in inside data centers.
The dark web has thrived in the past decade as cryptocurrencies have brought cash-like qualities to the digital realm: allowing for high liquidity and no middle man. A true means to transfer value around the sphere of the dark web.
Yet cash can still be found across the dark web for purchase. Counterfeit cash can be bought on nearly all darknet markets, and several cash-printing stores within this niche exist.
About a month ago, Europol issued a press statement advising that a counterfeit money-printing criminal enterprise had been shut down. All materials required to run an entire print shop were seized subsequent to the counterfeit notes being detected in eight European counties.
The effect of this takedown is not fully known, and results are not likely to be felt for months as the shop’s stock reach sellers.
Law enforcement’s attack on fiat currency continues as the European Union made the decision to remove the €500 note from circulation in its entirety, citing concerns of criminal activity. There is core governmental concern when it comes to large stock holds of cash, easily evading monitoring by law enforcement and taxation agencies.
The Australian government is one which has toyed with the idea of removing even the $100 note from circulation, in a clear bid to move to a cashless society for ease of tracking. In denomination as low as $50 AUD, the cash may even eventually contain a nano-chip tracker embedded into the note itself.
Without cash, there exists a problem in gaining access to the free dark web marketplaces without fear of tracking or censoring. It’s a problem that is only likely to get more difficult as time passes.
How to Purchase Cryptocurrency in a Cashless Society
This all quickly leads to a clear problem if sailing on the waters of the dark web: how can one obtain cryptocurrency for dark web marketplaces without cash?
A cryptocurrency ATM used to be an easy and sufficient way to obtain crypto quickly with a decent amount of operational security.
Pop a hat on, keep your head down and it may be nearly impossible for law enforcement to track a user to the purchasing of cryptocurrency for use on the dark web marketplaces, since no real-world identity would be attached to the purchase.
Another option may have been using cash in a peer-to-peer nature to obtain your cryptocurrency of choice, one such service is localbitcoins.com, for example. In meeting an actual person, exchanging cash and your wallet address for the transfer, there is a physical and real gap between a user and the dark web marketplace account the crypto eventually ends up in.
Tumbler Services Offer Ability to Obtain ‘Clean’ Coins
A tumbler service such as Helix by Grams provided a much-needed laundering service for coins on their way to a dark web marketplace. In December last year, both Grams and Helix shut down operations, leaving a bit a hole in the market as Helix was a somewhat trusted tumbler service for a few years.
Tumblers will play a more significant role as the ability to purchase “clean” coins (coins without any path to a person’s true identity) with cash may become more unavailable.
But—rather ironically—in a cashless society, there is always a paper trail left behind. Cryptocurrency ATMs could become a thing of the past; so too could services with local cryptocurrency purchasing.
It’s this continual onslaught on cash under the guise of “counterfeiters” and criminals that becomes a real issue in getting “clean” coins to dark web markets.
Traditional exchanges and tumbler services might be the solution for the near future, but it’s becoming increasingly likely that coins that do not provide privacy features embedded may not simply be around in the dark web marketplaces of the future.
Methods to purchase Bitcoin anonymously will greatly be reduced with an inability to purchase clean coins, or coins not tied to a person’s exchange account.
Regardless, the adoption of digital cash is unlikely to completely negate the circulation of physical cash—it just might become harder to spend it.