Chainabuse highly encourages every victim of malicious crypto activity to report their case to Law Enforcement, regardless of the amount lost, and we explain how below.
Have you ever wondered how to contact law enforcement if you have experienced a scam, what to expect, and what to include in your report? We provide advice below.
Time is a crucial parameter here: there is a race against the clock to locate stolen funds before the scammer converts them. Please report your case as soon as possible.
A warm thank you to Chainabuse’s Law Enforcement Partners, who helped us write and review this article.
Why file a report to Law Enforcement?
Law enforcement is by far the best and most frequent way for victims to recover funds, based on access to tools, seizure authorities, access to volumes of additional fraud reports, and connections with common cash-out points such as exchanges.
We do encourage every victim of malicious crypto activity to report their case to law enforcement, regardless of the amount lost:
• Only law enforcement has the power to emit a freezing order, i.e., to request that stolen funds be frozen if they manage to identify where the funds are currently located. Any private investigative firm that promised to freeze your funds is likely a scammer. Please be aware.
• Reporting a scam to law enforcement, whether the loss may or may not be substantial, can help surface multiple victims of the same scam. If law enforcement finds out multiple victims are part of the same significant scam, they may decide to investigate and contact you.
• Platforms often require a report from law enforcement to support victims. For example, OpenSea requires users to file a report before supporting them if they got their NFT stolen.
As you may know, law enforcement agencies, both local and national, may, in some specific jurisdictions, receive more cases than they can investigate. As a result, the likelihood that they may be able to support you may remain small.However,
Where should you file your report?
The agency you will need to contact will depend on where you reside. We recommend contacting your local law enforcement agency, provided they can help, and your country of residence's national law enforcement agency. You can find the contact of the relevant agency on the map here.
What should you include in your report?
The law enforcement agency where you will be reporting will typically provide a reporting form you will need to fill out. We recommend including the following as a priority to support your case and increase the likelihood that law enforcement will be able to help:
1. Wallet address from which you lost funds. This is your wallet address.
2. Wallet address to which stolen funds were sent. This is the wallet address of the scammer. You can identify the address to which funds from your wallet were sent using a blockchain explorer.
- For BTC: https://www.blockchain.com/explorer
- For Cardano: https://explorer.cardano.org/en
- For ETH: https://etherscan.io
- For Hedera: https://hederaexplorer.io
- For Litecoin: https://blockchair.com/litecoin
- For Polygon: http://polygonscan.com
- For Solana: https://solana.fm/?cluster=mainnet-qn1
- For Tron: https://tronscan.org/#/
You can learn more about how to trace funds in our dedicated article. This will help law enforcement identify linked cases and potentially locate stolen funds.
3. Amount loss converted into local currency.
4. Platform URL where you came in contact with the scammer, if any• Contact information of the scammer, if any
5. If you have been able to locate the stolen funds, with or without the help of an investigative firm, include all evidence of this and specify the stolen funds' location (platform, jurisdiction, and wallet address).
6. Any screenshot, files, or documents you believe will support your case - for example, any communication from the scammer.
How can Law Enforcement help you recover your funds?
If you have fallen victim to malicious crypto activity, it is likely that your stolen funds are now either held in a scammer’s wallet on the blockchain or the scammers have tried to convert your funds into fiat currency. Scammers often transfer funds across various wallets to complicate tracing them. To recover your funds, your funds need to be traced, located and ultimately seized.
- Phase 1: You report your case to your local, regional, or national Law Enforcement agency. You can find information on where to report based on location and what to include in your report to Law Enforcement by visiting our dedicated page. Please report your case as soon as possible, ideally on the same day.
- Phase 2: Law Enforcement takes on the case. Please note that Law Enforcement may be unable to take on the case because of a lack of evidence, the time since the scam occurred (Law Enforcement is more likely to investigate very recent scams, as the seizure is more likely), and the inability to identify several victims. In some specific jurisdictions, Law Enforcement receives way more cases than they can investigate and only takes on cases above a certain threshold or when multiple victims can be identified.
- Phase 3: IF Phase 2 is true, then Law Enforcement investigates your case, tries to trace the funds on the blockchain, and tries to identify their current location and is able to do so.
- Phase 4: IF Phase 3 is successful, Law Enforcement issues a freezing order to the platform holding the stolen crypto funds. It's important to note that only Law Enforcement can issue such an order. Phase 4 can also include a legal phase, where the case is taken into court based on the jurisdiction.
- Phase 5: IF Phase 4 is successful the funds are frozen and returned to you.
Time is a crucial parameter here: there is a race against the clock to locate stolen funds before the scammer converts them. It is thus key to report your case as soon as possible. If there has been significant time (e.g., several months) between the loss event and the time you are considering reporting your case, the money can certainly not be recalled.
What to expect if I report my case to Law Enforcement?
However, it's essential to understand that even if Law Enforcement takes on a case, there is no guarantee that they can recover the funds. Several factors influence the success of recovery, including the techniques used by the scammers to obfuscate the funds, jurisdictional differences in how digital assets are classified, and the nature of the platform where the funds are currently held.
In addition, in some specific jurisdictions, Law Enforcement may receive way more cases than they can investigate and may only take on cases above a certain threshold (e.g., several millions of dollars) or when multiple victims can be identified.
The following criteria may determine whether law enforcement would be able to investigate your case:
• Obfuscation techniques used by the scammer(s).
• Time you took to report the case (how old the scam is).
• The jurisdiction where the stolen funds are currently located and differences in how various foreign law enforcement agencies classify digital assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers.
• Amount loss.
• The nature of the platform where the stolen funds are currently located - for example, if the funds have moved to a regulated exchange, it may be more straightforward for law enforcement to reveal the holder of the receiving address.
• Ability to identify whether the case is linked to other cases reported by other victims.
• Availability of expert skills at the given Law Enforcement agency at a given timeDo I need to hire private investigative support before filing my report to Law Enforcement or after?
No, it is never a prerequisite to hiring private investigative support. In fact, in the vast majority of cases - based on where you are located and the amount lost, it will not make sense for you to do so. You can learn more about this in our dedicated article.
Do you have specific questions? Please contact email@example.com.