Cryptocurrencies in general and Bitcoin, in particular, have a bad reputation since, in the past, it’s been primarily used by drug dealers and other criminals of all sorts due to its anonymous nature. But is the situation the same these days? Does the dark market still prosper with Bitcoin’s help and what can a usual law-abiding citizen purchase with Bitcoin? Let’s find out.
Why Bitcoin is an ideal tool for criminals
Apart from distributing drugs, Bitcoin can also be used for selling weapons, fake documents, money laundering, and other criminal activities. This is the perfect tool for such dark deeds because:
- Bitcoin is anonymous. Yes, all the transactions are visible on the blockchain and you can trace the wallet addresses where the funds came from and where they went to. But you won’t find any personal information about these wallets’ owners: what are their names, their phone numbers, where they are located, etc. Bitcoin’s privacy-oriented derivatives, such as Dash, Zcash and Monero hide even the transaction info.
- Bitcoin is not controlled by banks. This is a decentralized currency that is issued by thousands of miners all over the world. No government has the technical leverage to influence cryptocurrencies anyhow. As a result, no one can block your account even if you use it to accept payments for illegal activities.
So there’s no wonder that apart from geeks, criminals were the first Bitcoin adopters.
One of the first modern darknet markets that gained huge popularity among drug users was called the Silk Road. It was launched in 2011 and was only accessible via an anonymous browser Tor.
The mechanism of this dark market was similar to eBay: multiple merchants were placing the ads of their illegal goods and services and were accepting payments in Bitcoins.
The market was closed by FBI and its founder Ross Ulbricht was arrested in 2013. Ulbricht was charged for drug distribution, money laundering, computer hacking and even having 6 people killed – all this with the help of Bitcoin – and imprisoned for life.
Can’t Bitcoin be used legally then?
Despite this black spot on its reputation, more and more legal online retailers find the use for Bitcoin, especially since its drastic rise in 2017. The question of total legalization hasn’t been resolved yet and there’s no consistency in the laws regarding crypto across different countries.
But if you are keen on spending Bitcoins rather than keeping them as an investment, here’s the list of the services where you can buy some real goods for crypto.
Top 7 retailers that accept Bitcoin
This is a desktop app with the features similar to eBay and other online peer-to-peer retail platforms. Once installed, you can buy things presented there for BTC as well as placing for sale something of your own.
The variety of goods offered there is not very broad. Mostly you can purchase comics books, crypto-related accessories, used electronic devices and a few other categories. Once you make the order, you specify your shipping address and pay with Bitcoins upfront.
This is not an online shop that accepts Bitcoins, it’s much better. This is the aggregator of all offline retailers worldwide that accept cryptocurrencies. Simply open the map, find your city and check which of the shops or restaurants in your neighborhood accept BTC.
While all crypto enthusiasts know the international online retailer Amazon, not all of them are still familiar with Purse, the service that acts as a middleman between Amazon and cryptocurrency owners. To be more exact, it helps them to exchange Amazon gift cards for Bitcoins and to buy goods using cryptos.
Since Bitcoin doesn’t support smart contracts and cannot guarantee that the product will be delivered after you make the payment, the service takes this function on itself.
The service Purse.io allows exchanging your unused Amazon gift cards for Bitcoins.
This company needs no introduction. The good news is that it now has implemented payments with Bitcoin.
The process looks as follows: you send Bitcoins to your account on Microsoft and you can use this deposit for purchasing games, movies, and apps in the Windows and Xbox stores. These funds can’t be used for buying items in the Microsoft online store and of course, there is no refund. Once you send Bitcoins to Microsoft, you either spend them or leave them there for eternity.
This chain restaurant that can be found in practically every big city across the globe started accepting Bitcoins long ago in 2013. The story on Reddit tells about a person who purchased a sandwich for 0.04 BTC in November 2013 which was equal to $12.35 at that time. Ever since that day, the “Bitcoin accepted here” sign has been placed across the whole chain and Subway’s owner doesn’t seem to regret his decision.
6. Shopify online stores
Shopify is a huge eCommerce platform that facilitates shop owners setting up their online business and accepting payments for the goods they sell. Starting from November 2013, Shopify has added the Bitcoin payment option, so that the merchants could accept BTC for their goods and services. Shopify relies on the services BitPay and Coinbase to process crypto transactions.
Gyft is an online service that allows you to buy gift cards from such famous retailers as Amazon, iTunes, Starbucks, Adidas and many more. The most convenient thing about this service is that you can buy all these gift cards without leaving your apartment from your mobile device.
Now that the service officially accepts Bitcoins, it’s become even more convenient, especially for those who appreciate BTC instant transactions.
Although treated mainly as a means of payment for illegal substances in its early days, Bitcoin has now achieved a much broader coverage and is officially accepted by many online and offline retailers. And though the chances of Bitcoin totally replacing traditional fiat payments are low, especially when it comes to its technical restrictions, its adoption keeps on growing. Now that many countries are seriously considering the possibilities of issuing national digital currencies, we may yet live to see the times when cryptocurrencies will no longer be associated with the criminal world and will be widely used on every corner.