What is a Wash Trade?

A wash trade in the context of crypto refers to a form of market manipulation where an individual or group of individuals trade a cryptocurrency back and forth with themselves in order to artificially inflate the trading volume and price of the cryptocurrency. This can be done in order to make it appear as though there is more demand for the cryptocurrency than there actually is, leading to greater interest and investment in the asset.

Wash trading is considered a unethical and illegal practice, as it misleads investors and distorts the true market conditions. It can also have wider implications on the entire cryptocurrency market, as it can affect market sentiment and contribute to price volatility.

To prevent wash trading, crypto exchanges and regulatory bodies have implemented strict rules and regulations, such as mandatory KYC and AML processes, and sophisticated monitoring systems that detect and prevent suspicious trading activity. Despite these efforts, wash trading continues to be a challenge in the cryptocurrency market, as it can be difficult to detect and prosecute those who engage in this behavior. This highlights the importance of conducting due diligence and thoroughly researching a cryptocurrency before making an investment decision.

Simplified Example

Wash trading in cryptocurrency can be compared to cheating in a game of cards. Imagine you and your friend are playing a card game and you both agree to swap cards back and forth in order to make it look like you both have great hands. But in reality, you both know that the cards you have aren't really that valuable. Just like in wash trading, where people trade a cryptocurrency back and forth with each other to make it look like there's more demand for it than there really is. Both cheating in a card game and wash trading are against the rules and not fair to other players or investors.

History of the Term "Wash Trade"

The term "wash trade" is thought to have originated in the early 20th century, aligning with the evolution of modern stock markets and the necessity for regulating trading practices. While commonly associated with stock trading, the term extends its application to other financial instruments, including cryptocurrency.


Front-running: Front-running is a type of market manipulation where a trader executes trades based on privileged information, such as advanced knowledge of an upcoming large order, in order to profit at the expense of other market participants.

Spoofing: Spoofing is a type of market manipulation where a trader places large orders with the intent of cancelling them before execution in order to manipulate the market and trick other traders into taking positions.

Pump and dump: A pump and dump is a type of market manipulation where a group of individuals artificially inflate the price of a security, usually a small and thinly traded stock, by aggressively buying and promoting it. The individuals then sell their positions, "dumping" the security and leaving other investors holding worthless shares.

  • Anti-Money-Laundering: A set of laws, regulations, and procedures aimed at preventing the illicit use of the financial system for the purpose of concealing or disguising the proceeds of criminal activity.

  • Know-Your-Customer: A process that verifies a customer's identity and checks for any potential risks associated with the customer.