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Americans Mainly See Bitcoin as a Tool for Criminals

Despite a groundswell in the use of Bitcoin and the like around the world, cryptocurrencies have a bad rep in the States: More than 25% of Americans think they’re mainly used for illegal transactions.

According to Turnerlittle.com’s analysis of findings from YouGov, which surveyed 1,000 American adults, about a third (29%) of Americans believe cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are mostly used for making illegal transactions on the Dark Web.

Bitcoin, which has seen its value rocket from a mere $0.08 in 2010 to above $6,000 over the course of this year, has arguably been associated with numerous controversies. Most recently, statistics by anti-virus provider Kaspersky Lab showed that they had so far detected 1.65 million computers in 2017 infected by malware which has installed mining software (the process by which a given cryptocurrency is generated to create new funds and accumulate favorable a profit) without the permission or knowledge of the users/owners.

Further, the report points out that cryptocurrencies have also closely been aligned to unscrupulous individuals and groups looking to avoid detection from engaging in criminal/illegal activities. This can be highlighted by the large-scale WannaCry outbreak, where ransom payments were demanded in Bitcoin after thousands of computer systems across the world were locked down by malicious ransomware.

As a result, cryptocurrency’s positive aspects are getting lost in the shuffle. For instance, cryptocurrencies have the pioneering potential to act as a global payment system which everyone can access any time and place without being restricted by traditional barriers such as having a credit history or bank account. However, with respect to what Americans thought people used cryptocurrencies for, the majority seemed unsure or unaware, as 40% stated they “don’t know”.

“The emergence of cryptocurrencies has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Nathan Kirkwood, a financial analyst with Turnerlittle.com. “With the current value of established cryptocurrencies surging and with many more emerging, they are certainly here to stay. What’s truly going to be interesting is how cryptocurrencies evolve as they become more and more prominent. Looking ahead, if they have greater transparency and do not become subject to aggressive regulations, they have the characteristics and desirability to be adopted by a wider array of stakeholders including well-known merchants and mass consumers.”

Yet, when asked if they would be interested in using a cryptocurrency instead of US dollars, an overwhelming 64% of Americans said they would not be interested in making the switch. In fact, only 35% of Americans think there will be a wider acceptance of cryptocurrencies in the next ten years, while half (51%) firmly believe cryptocurrencies in the next 10 years won’t replace traditional currency. About a fifth (18%) contrastingly felt the opposite, with the view that cryptocurrencies will put traditional currency into extinction. Meanwhile, 37% simply have no idea.

It’s worth pointing out that awareness is quite low, so with greater education these attitudes will likely change. The research intriguingly revealed that 66% of Americans have heard of Bitcoin but just 13% of them have used it. Ethereum, the next biggest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, was far less known, with only 24% of Americans having heard of it. Out of those aware of Ethereum, 21% said they had used it before.

“The findings from this research are fascinating,” said James Turner, managing director of Turnerlittle.com. “I think what can be taken from this research is that Americans have not yet fully grasped the full functionally of cryptocurrencies as a digital entity. It’s through no fault of their own, cryptocurrencies are only at their infancy and as they advance in their development, people will certainly have a far greater understanding of not only the multiple ways in which they work and can be used but their likely role as an alternative monetary system.”

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