In cryptocurrency trading, nested exchanges serve as intermediaries between users and other service providers, offering crypto trading services through accounts on external exchanges. They act as bridges, filling the gap for services that a single exchange cannot provide. These services function similarly to traditional banking in facilitating international transfers.
However, nested exchanges in the crypto space often exhibit lenient or non-existent Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) processes. Cybercriminals exploit this lack of compliance and use nested exchanges to facilitate money laundering, support scammers, and process ransomware payments.
Trading through a nested exchange means entrusting them with the custody of your assets. Unfortunately, they offer less security and fewer guarantees than compliant centralized or decentralized exchanges. Moreover, engaging with sanctioned nested exchanges can lead to legal complications.
To protect yourself, you need to ensure that any exchange you use implements proper KYC and AML checks. These checks may take several days to complete. If an exchange allows you to trade almost instantly and without limits, it is essential to conduct thorough investigations. A fair exchange will be transparent about its trading processes, and you should be able to track the source of your funds easily using a blockchain explorer.
In cryptocurrency trading, it is crucial to conduct transactions through reputable and trustworthy platforms. However, it is equally important to exercise patience and caution when undergoing Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks, as they contribute to your safety. Consequently, some users are enticed by exchanges that offer instant trading with minimal or no sign-up checks.
While certain decentralized exchanges may be legitimate, there exists a category known as nested exchanges that handle illicitly obtained and laundered funds. The safety of your funds is never guaranteed with a nested exchange. To ensure the security of your crypto assets, it is vital to comprehend the nature and functions of nested exchanges, as well as develop the ability to identify them accurately.
What Is Nesting?
In financial services, nesting refers to establishing an account with another financial institution to leverage its offerings. Acting as intermediaries, account holders utilize nested accounts to provide services to their customers. This practice arises due to various factors, such as correspondent banking, where a bank from one country extends its services and ecosystem to a bank operating in another country.
Consider a scenario where a customer intends to transfer funds to an Australian bank account. While their bank may be unable to facilitate this transfer, they can rely on a correspondent bank to execute it. The customer's bank initiates the transfer through its nested account with the correspondent bank. In this arrangement, the correspondent bank is responsible for conducting due diligence on the bank they collaborate with. As they serve customers they have no prior knowledge of, the correspondent bank places trust in the nested account holder.
What Are Nested Cryptocurrency Exchanges?
Nested cryptocurrency exchanges function through a straightforward process. An individual or entity establishes an account with a regulated exchange, which they utilize to provide trading services to external parties via their nested account. Commonly referred to as instant exchanges, these nested platforms often maintain multiple accounts across various exchanges.
While certain nested exchanges may request identification documents, others have minimal to no identification requirements. This makes them an appealing option for scammers, fraudsters, and ransomers. In certain instances, these exchanges even facilitate in-person cryptocurrency transactions involving cash.
Risks of Nesting
In traditional finance, one of the most significant challenges revolves around the potential for money laundering. Correspondent banks, limited to interactions solely with underlying respondent banks, face uncertainties regarding the true identity of their counterparts. This necessitates comprehensive due diligence checks on the underlying banks. Individuals or even entire nations may face blacklisting and sanctions. Failure to adhere to these requirements may result in respondent banks inadvertently supporting illicit activities, including evading sanctions and engaging in money laundering.
In the cryptocurrency industry, where regulatory frameworks are still evolving, nested exchanges find it relatively easier to operate discreetly. These exchanges can establish accounts with prominent crypto exchanges without arousing immediate suspicion.
Risks of Nested Cryptocurrency Exchanges
Engaging with nested cryptocurrency exchanges poses significant hazards, not only for centralized exchanges but also for you and your funds. Here are the key dangers to consider:
- Reduced Safety: Deposits made through nested exchanges offer fewer guarantees for safeguarding your assets than regulated exchanges.
- Support for Illegal Activities: By utilizing a nested exchange, you may inadvertently contribute to illegal activities, including the funding of criminal and terrorist endeavors.
- Regulatory Shutdowns: Regulatory authorities may intervene and shut down the exchange, potentially resulting in the loss of your cryptocurrency and other funds.
- Legal Consequences: Knowingly collaborating with an exchange involved in illicit activities could subject you to legal repercussions from law enforcement.
To mitigate these risks, it is advisable to refrain from using nested crypto exchanges. Identifying them can be challenging, as they are not always easily recognizable. By following the upcoming tips, you can increase your chances of effectively protecting yourself.
Nested Exchanges vs. Decentralized Exchanges
When comparing nested exchanges to decentralized exchanges, initial similarities can be observed. Decentralized exchanges operate without requiring to Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures, while nested exchanges may have lenient or no KYC processes. However, their transaction handling methods differ significantly.
Decentralized exchanges directly connect buyers with sellers, sometimes utilizing liquidity pools. These exchanges never assume custody of the traded cryptocurrency. Instead, the transaction process is managed through smart contracts. Conversely, nested exchanges directly control your crypto assets and rely on the services of another platform.
Discovering the Suex Incident
On September 21, 2021, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on Suex, a nested cryptocurrency exchange based in the Czech Republic but operating from Russia. Suex OTC utilized Binance and other major exchanges to provide its customers with nested exchange services. Remarkably, Suex offered minimal to no KYC requirements and even facilitated in-person cash exchanges for cryptocurrencies.
Chainalysis research revealed that Suex played a role in laundering substantial funds from ransomware attacks and hacks. In response, Binance took proactive measures to deactivate multiple accounts linked to Suex. Furthermore, the OFAC blacklisted nearly 30 Bitcoin, Tether, and Ethereum wallets. Binance's actions extended to Chatex, a cryptobank reportedly associated with Suex, resulting in subsequent OFAC sanctions against Chatex. Individuals who engaged with Suex now face legal risks, and the exchange has subsequently taken down its website following the OFAC decision.
Detecting a Nested Exchange: Safeguarding Your Assets
Identifying nested exchanges can be challenging, as they often obscure their nature. Here are key indicators to help you spot a nested exchange and ensure the security of your funds:
- Limited or Absent KYC/AML Checks: Nested exchanges typically have minimal or no KYC/AML requirements. Beware of instant sign-ups without limits as a potential red flag.
- Unclear Trading Interface: The user interface may not indicate where the actual trading occurs.
- Lack of Explicit Trading Facilitation: Legitimate exchanges explicitly state that trading happens directly through their platform, not via nested accounts.
- Aggregated Rates: The exchange presents multiple rates for selection, suggesting the use of nested accounts across different exchanges.
- Follow the Trail: If you suspect using a nested exchange, track your cryptocurrency's path on the blockchain using a blockchain explorer. It might lead you to a wallet associated with another exchange.
To safeguard your bitcoin, ETH, and other digital currencies, it is advisable to opt for a regulated crypto exchange. While the initial sign-up process may require time, adhering to thorough KYC and AML protocols is crucial for your protection. Treat an exchange with the same diligence as any other financial institution, conducting proper due diligence before engaging with it.