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What is KYC Verification and Why is it Crucial in Crypto?

Financial systems, including those for cryptocurrencies, rely on customer verification principles to prevent fraud and combat money laundering. That’s why most big exchanges have to implement a process called KYC (Know Your Customer) verification to confirm users’ identities. Let’s dive into how these mandatory personal data verification procedures work.

what is kyc in crypto

What does KYC Mean in Crypto?

KYC (Know Your Customer or Know Your Client) is a rule for financial institutions that requires them to verify a person’s identity before they can conduct transactions. This helps them understand their clients, monitor transactions, manage risks, and fight bribery and corruption.

KYC has been around way before crypto. Banks, brokers, payment systems, and other financial companies all use it. It’s a part of AML (anti-money laundering) processes.

KYC was officially introduced by the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2016. They set the formal requirements, but each service decides what specific data to ask for. Crypto exchanges typically ask for details like your full name, date of birth, email, phone number, country, address, and an ID (like a passport or driver’s license).

Examples of KYC procedures include setting cash withdrawal limits or verifying a customer’s identity via SMS code.

When a new customer signs up with a financial institution, they have to go through an identity verification process. This helps the company assess the user’s risk profile and the likelihood of them committing financial crimes.

On cryptocurrency exchanges, KYC serves three main purposes:

  1. Confirming the accuracy of the customer’s personal information.
  2. Verifying the legitimacy of the user’s activities.
  3. Determining the risk of the customer being involved in money laundering or other crimes.

So, KYC is all about making sure banks and exchanges know who their customers really are, ensuring they can safely provide financial services.

Differences Between KYC and AML

KYC (Know Your Customer) is all about verifying identities and assessing risk, while AML (Anti-Money Laundering) covers a range of techniques to protect against, detect, and report financial crimes. A lot of financial organizations get confused and think they’re the same thing, but they’re not.

KYC is a key part of complying with AML regulations. Skipping KYC can lead to criminal charges, even if the organization is otherwise legit.

AML is a compliance process that involves analyzing customer information to meet FATF requirements. KYC documents, which provide detailed qualitative and quantitative info, are a major source of this information.

Why KYC is So Important

In today’s regulated world, cryptocurrency exchanges need to implement KYC procedures and create internal policies to manage potential risks. While the specifics might vary a bit from site to site, the core idea is the same: verifying identity through different types of documents.

Cryptocurrency is a new kind of financial exchange, even if it’s not officially recognized everywhere. To gain widespread acceptance, it has to meet AML (anti-money laundering) requirements.

Here’s why verification matters:

  • Compliance with global anti-money laundering and anti-bribery measures.
  • Preventing the use of financial institutions for financing terrorism and other illegal activities.
  • Allowing companies to avoid risks by refusing to work with potential customers who have a questionable background.

In short, KYC helps keep the crypto world safe and compliant, paving the way for broader acceptance.

KYC Verification Steps

kyc verification

Before signing up with any exchange, it’s a good idea to check out their verification requirements if that’s something that matters to you. Some crypto exchanges don’t require mandatory verification, meaning you can still do some actions without it. The process might need different documents depending on the site.

Most crypto exchanges follow these general steps:

  1. Personal Details: First name and last name. Middle name isn’t usually needed.
  2. Address: Country, region, street, house, apartment. Initially, you just provide the address without confirmation.
  3. Identity Document: This could be your country’s internal passport, a foreign passport, driver’s license, or ID card. You’ll need to upload a scan or a high-quality photo.
  4. Contact Info: Phone number and email.
  5. Selfies or Live Facial Verification: To match the photo in your ID.

This is the first level of verification. Often, there’s a second level where you need to confirm your address, usually with something like a utility bill.

After you’ve uploaded all the necessary documents, you’ll have to wait for the admin to check them. This usually takes a couple of days. You’ll get an email with the results. If your verification gets rejected, they’ll tell you what went wrong so you can try again. Generally, there’s no limit on the number of attempts, though there might be daily limits on requests.

How KYC Affects Decentralization and Anonymity

KYC verification kind of goes against the core principles of blockchain, like decentralization and anonymity.

Collecting personal info clashes with the crypto market’s ideology, but de-anonymization is becoming more common. This, in turn, decreases the decentralization of the crypto market.

In the crypto world, there are centralized companies like exchanges and wallet operators that have to follow the laws of their jurisdiction. Other users have to go through KYC procedures to keep using the services they like.

Procedures like KYC and AML are mainly there to protect exchange customers and the market from fraud. If someone opts for complete anonymity, they take on extra risks.

Can You Trade Cryptocurrency Without KYC?

Yes, you can still trade crypto without KYC on some exchanges. These are typically decentralized exchanges (DEX).

Most centralized exchanges (CEX) do require KYC. On big platforms, unverified users might face issues when trying to withdraw funds. However, some centralized exchanges don’t mandate KYC for basic transactions.

Examples of Exchanges Without Mandatory Verification

Here’s a list of platforms where you can do all the basic stuff without account verification. Keep in mind, though, that dealing with fiat funds or withdrawing large amounts of crypto daily will still require KYC.

  1. Huobi: Unverified users can withdraw up to 1 BTC per day and trade on p2p for up to $999. No fiat usage allowed.
  2. Bybit: Without verification, you can withdraw up to 2 BTC per day and trade on p2p for up to $1000. No participation in IEO or fiat usage.
  3. OKX: Has multiple verification levels. Without verification, you can’t buy crypto with a card or use some other features.
  4. MEXC: Non-fiat crypto transactions can be done without identity verification.
  5. KuCoin: You can trade crypto and futures with up to 5x leverage anonymously and withdraw up to 1 BTC per day.
  6. Another exchange where you can trade crypto anonymously as long as fiat isn’t involved.

Benefits of KYC

  1. Stop the Scammers. KYC helps keep scammers at bay. By verifying identities, crypto platforms make sure users are legit, reducing fraud and making the space safer for everyone.
  2. Fight Dirty Money. KYC helps spot and stop money laundering. It ensures that crypto platforms aren’t being used for shady transactions, keeping things clean and legal.
  3. Stay on the Right Side of the Law. Many places have rules for cryptocurrencies to prevent misuse. Following KYC helps platforms comply with these rules, avoiding legal trouble and staying operational.
  4. Protect Investors. KYC safeguards investors by verifying the legitimacy of users. This lowers the risk of fraud and shady deals, keeping investors’ money safer.
  5. Build Trust. When a crypto platform uses KYC, it shows they’re serious about security and transparency. This builds trust with current users, attracts new ones, and boosts the platform’s credibility.
  6. Get Banking Access. Banks are wary of crypto companies, but KYC-compliant ones have a better shot at securing banking services. Compliance shows banks that the platform is trustworthy and reliable.

KYC in Crypto: Challenges and Controversies

KYC (Know Your Customer) policies bring their own set of issues in the crypto world, often clashing with the core principles of cryptocurrency.

  1. Privacy Concerns. Crypto was created for anonymous transactions. KYC demands sharing personal info, which goes against the privacy that many users value.
  2. Hard to Implement. Setting up KYC for a global user base is tough. Different IDs and tech know-how make the process complicated and time-consuming.
  3. Costly and Resource-Heavy. KYC isn’t cheap. Small crypto startups might struggle with the costs, potentially stalling their growth.
  4. Less Access for Some. In places with poor banking and ID systems, KYC is a major hurdle. This limits access to crypto for many, contradicting its goal of financial inclusion.
  5. Security Risks. While KYC boosts security, storing personal data can attract hackers. A breach could expose sensitive info, compromising user privacy.
  6. Slower Transactions. Crypto is known for fast transactions. KYC checks can slow things down, sometimes making crypto less appealing than traditional banking.
  7. Risk of Data Misuse. Collected KYC data could be misused by platforms or third parties, leading to trust issues and legal troubles.


KYC is super important in the crypto world. It helps protect users and platforms from fraud and money laundering, boosts trust and reliability, and ensures everyone stays within legal regulations. Even with the challenges and controversies, the future of KYC in crypto looks bright, thanks to tech advancements making the process more efficient and secure. Remember, the crypto world is exciting, but security should always come first.

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