A new report by darknet intelligence experts at Cybersixgill concluded that darknet market listings for fake cash increased approx. 91% in 2022 on a year-over-year basis. While Cybersixgill data recorded the number of such listings across darknet markets to be less than 500 in 2020, it ballooned to just shy of 4,000 in 2021, and surpassed 7,000 in 2022, suggesting a massive increase in demand for this product.
The researchers also found that the number of unique vendors advertising counterfeit cash products expanded by about 82% in 2022, with the top 10% of sellers responsible for about 80% of all such listings.
The new demand is believed to be the result of an increasing quality of fake notes, stemming from advancements made in “printing technology and techniques.” Report authors coupled the rise in demand with a decrease in the amount of feedback left under such listings, suggesting that buyers were generally more satisfied with the quality of their purchased product and did not feel the need to express complaints.
Counterfeit money listing on the Ares darknet market.
Advancements in the design of counterfeit cash, of which bills for USD, EUR, GBP, AUD and CAD are the most popular to fake, include more sophisticated watermarks, the ability to pass pen tests (indicating a lack of starch in USD notes), and serial numbering that makes them untraceable. Vendors are now more likely to include information in their listings about what occasions the bills should be used for, in example commercial retail payments, money changers and ATMs, or slot machines and vending machines.
An analysis of prices in the report found that bills generally ranged from $0.05 to $0.11 on the dollar, with most listings having a minimum purchase order of around $200.
“Despite the rise of digital currencies, the large volume of posts advertising counterfeit currency on the underground indicates the enduring relevance of cash,” the report concludes.
“Counterfeiters continuously leverage new technologies to incorporate new currency designs and security features, according to the leading global money laundering and terror financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).” – Adi Bleih, Cybersixgill News