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Upcoming paper: Data mining for detecting Bitcoin Ponzi schemes

posted Jun 6, 2018, 2:02 AM by Massimo Bartoletti
Upcoming paper (to be presented at the Crypto Valley Conference 2018)

Massimo Bartoletti, Barbara Pes, Sergio Serusi

Abstract. Soon after its introduction in 2009, Bitcoin has been adopted by cyber-criminals, which rely on its pseudonymity to implement virtually untraceable scams. One of the typical scams that operate on Bitcoin are the so-called Ponzi schemes. These are fraudulent investments which repay users with the funds invested by new users that join the scheme, and implode when it is no longer possible to find new investments. Despite being illegal in many countries, Ponzi schemes are now proliferating on Bitcoin, and they keep alluring new victims, who are plundered of millions of dollars.

We apply data mining techniques to detect Bitcoin addresses related to Ponzi schemes. Our starting point is a dataset of features of real-world Ponzi schemes, that we construct by analysing, on the Bitcoin blockchain, the transactions used to perform the scams. We use this dataset to experiment with various machine learning algorithms, and we assess their effectiveness through standard validation protocols and performance metrics. The best of the classifiers we have experimented can identify most of the Ponzi schemes in the dataset, with a low number of false positives.