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Isn’t Bitcoin just a currency for criminals?

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Over the years, a number of anonymous websites have sprung up to allow users to use bitcoins to purchase drugs and other illicit products. The most famous of these was Silk Road, which was shut down in 2013. In the years since then, other marketplaces have sprung up to replace it. One of these sites, called Evolution, became popular in 2014, but then seemed to disappear — taking a lot of customers bitcoins with it — in March 2015.

Bitcoin is attractive to some criminals because it is easier to use anonymously than conventional financial networks. Yet it’s important to remember that old-fashioned cash remains the most popular way to buy drugs.

Meanwhile, the number of legitimate companies accepting Bitcoin has grown rapidly in the last couple of years. By the end of 2014, the Bitcoin payment processor BitPay was helping more than 100,000 merchants accept bitcoins — up from 10,000 in September 2013.

Companies that accept bitcoins include Microsoft, Dell, Expedia, Overstock.com and Richard Branson’s space travel company, Virgin Galactic. Bitcoin is also used to provide tips on Reddit.

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