Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reporting data disclosed by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) revealed a significant spike in the use of cryptocurrency to finance human trafficking.

FinCEN’s latest financial trend analysis, which pulled BSA reporting data from January 2020 to December 2021, highlighted the evolving tactics of cybercriminals to exploit cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, to finance human trafficking and online child sexual exploitation (OCSE).

The analysis showed a notable uptick in BSA reports related to OCSE and human trafficking involving cryptocurrency. Throughout the review period, FinCEN received a total of 2,311 BSA reports referencing convertible virtual currency (CVC) in connection with these crimes, amounting to more than $412 million in reported suspicious activity.

Key findings from the analysis indicated a substantial escalation in OCSE- and human trafficking-related BSA reports involving CVC. The total number of such reports surged from 336 in 2020 to 1,975 in 2021, representing 29 percent of human trafficking-related BSA reports for the latter year.

Additionally, the reported value of suspicious activity associated with these crimes skyrocketed from $133 million in 2020 to $278 million in 2021, albeit influenced by a single high-value report in June 2021.

In a press release Tuesday, FinCEN Director Andrea Gacki called on financial institutions to stay vigilant and continue to timely report information needed to save innocent lives. She emphasized the critical need to provide law enforcement with data to investigate human trafficking and sex crimes against children.