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Wash Trading In Crypto: An Overview

Last Updated June 27, 2023 8:51 AM
Alisha Bains
Last Updated June 27, 2023 8:51 AM

Key Takeaways

  • Wash trading refers to simultaneously purchasing and selling a security to manipulate trade volumes or prices.
  • Wash sale compromises price discovery, damages market integrity, and reduces investor trust.
  • Maintaining fair and open financial markets depends on identifying and avoiding wash sale.
  • To detect wash trade, market players use monitoring and surveillance systems.

Wash Trading, Explained

Wash trading is a manipulative trading technique in which a person or institution concurrently buys and sells a financial item to give the impression that trading is actually taking place. 

Wash trading entails a trader, or a group of cooperating traders, dealing with one another in order to artificially or falsely increase or decrease the volume of transactions or price movements  in a certain market or asset.

The term “wash” means that since there is no actual change in ownership or financial gain, the trades are basically “cleaning” each other. Wash trading’s main goal is to fool other market participants by giving the impression of improved liquidity, enhanced market activity, or increased price movement.

Various financial markets, including equities, commodities, cryptocurrencies, and derivatives, can be manipulated through wash trading. While it can have a variety of goals, these frequently involve market manipulation, swaying market sentiment, luring other traders to participate, or artificially exaggerating trading volumes to draw in investors.

Regulators and exchanges strictly forbid wash trading because it compromises market integrity, skews price discovery, and misleads investors. It is regarded as a type of market manipulation and is forbidden in many places. 

Regulators and exchanges use sophisticated algorithms and market surveillance systems to identify and stop wash trading. Depending on the jurisdiction and seriousness of the offense, wash sale may result in penalties, trading restrictions, or even criminal charges.

To make wise decisions and protect the integrity of the financial markets, traders and investors must be aware of wash trading and other types of market manipulation.

Wash Trading In Crypto

In the context of cryptocurrencies, wash trading is the act of completing trades between oneself or working with other parties to artificially inflate trading volumes to give the appearance of liquidity and market activity. With no actual change in ownership or economic value, it entails continually purchasing and selling the same cryptocurrency pair or token.

A wash sale occurs when a trader sells an asset or cryptocurrency at a loss and then promptly buys back the same security or one that is nearly identical, usually within 30 days. 

In the cryptocurrency industry, wash trading is frequently carried out to sway investor or trader behavior and perhaps affect a cryptocurrency’s price. In order to trick others into believing that there is a real demand for a cryptocurrency by giving the impression of heavy trading activity, certain people or groups may manipulate the trading volume.

On numerous cryptocurrency exchanges, including centralized and decentralized, wash trading is possible. Some exchanges have put mechanisms in place to identify and stop wash trading, including trading volume thresholds, audits, and the use of surveillance techniques. It can be difficult to eradicate this practice from the cryptocurrency market totally.

How Wash Trading Works?

By executing buy and sell orders for the same asset without actually changing ownership or economic value, wash trading simulates authentic trading activity. A detailed explanation of wash trading’s operation is provided below:

  • In an effort to artificially boost trading volume or manipulate the price, trader A places a purchase order for a specific cryptocurrency.
  • When Trader B and Trader A both execute sell orders for the same cryptocurrency pair or token at the same time, it may be a sign that they are partners or under the same management.
  • Due to the matching buy and sell orders, the transaction appears to be authentic. The exchanges are actually between traders A and B, despite the appearance of other parties being involved.
  • This procedure can be done numerous times, with traders A and B trading the crypto back and forth to create a string of transactions.
  • The recurrent buy and sell orders skew perceptions of market activity, driving up trading volumes and perhaps affecting cryptocurrency prices.
  • The purpose of wash trading is to trick other market participants into thinking there is large liquidity or interest in the cryptocurrency, not to make real money.
  • Other traders or investors may be drawn to the cryptocurrency because they believe it to be more popular or promising than it actually is due to the fictitious trading volume and market activity.
  • Furthermore, by affecting market analysis and decision-making, wash trading can be used to influence particular technical indicators or trading signals that depend on trading volume data.

In order to generate the appearance of real trading activity, wash trading can be sophisticated and may involve several participants, automated algorithms, or even the use of multiple trading accounts. However, to spot unusual trading patterns and locate probable instances of wash trading, exchanges and regulators use highly advanced surveillance systems and algorithms.

How To Avoid Wash Sale Day Trading?

You must be aware of the norms and regulations established by the tax authorities in order to avoid wash sale offenses when day trading. Here are some tips for avoiding wash sales:

  • Understand the concept: A wash sale is when you sell a security at a loss and then buy it back quickly, usually within 30 days after the sale or after. If a wash sale takes place, you cannot deduct the loss from your taxes.
  • Keep an investment journal: Keep a thorough record of every trade you make, including the dates, volumes, prices, and any other pertinent details. You can keep track of your transactions and spot possible wash sales using this.
  • Use separate accounts: Consider using different brokerage accounts for your long-term investing and short-term trading. This division may aid in preventing unintended wash sales.
  • Give yourself a 30-day window: Repurchasing a security within 30 days of a loss-making sale is not advised. You can avoid committing a wash sale violation by doing this.
  • Diversify your trades: To preserve your targeted market exposure and prevent wash sales, think about investing in a different but comparable security rather than immediately repurchasing the same security.
  • Be mindful of options and derivatives: Option and derivative holders should be aware that wash sale regulations also apply to them. Be mindful that buying or selling options with securities that are almost identical can result in a violation of the wash sale prohibition.
  • Consult a tax expert: Tax laws and regulations can be intricate and dynamic. It’s always a good idea to speak with a certified tax expert who can offer advice tailored to your needs.

Keep in mind that the main goal of these rules is to stop taxpayers from creating fictitious losses in order to obtain tax benefits. To prevent any problems with wash sales when day trading, it’s crucial to follow the rules and keep correct records.

How To Detect Wash Trading?

Because wash trading uses deceptive techniques to make trade appear to be legitimate, it can be difficult to identify. However, there are a few tools and methods you can employ to spot potential wash trading:

Volume And Trading Patterns

Look for exceptionally significant trade volumes, especially when there is little to no price movement. trade patterns. Wash trading may be occurring if there are numerous trades taking place at similar prices without any discernible change in the value of the security.

Trades That Happen Over And Over Between The Same Accounts

Keep an eye on trading activity between accounts that deal with one another often. If you see a trend of repeated trades across accounts that don’t change ownership, wash trading may be the cause.

Timing And Coordination

Pay attention to trades that take place between various accounts at the same time or close together. In order to inflate trading volumes and manipulate prices, wash traders frequently coordinate their activity.

Lack Of Fundamental Or Market-Based Reasons

Examine the trading behavior in light of the market’s recent news or fundamental considerations. A high trading volume or significant price changes without any discernible fundamental or market-based causes may be a hallmark of wash trading.

Monitoring Trade Execution Patterns

If you observe trades being executed almost instantly or without a pause, wash trading may be taking place. Order placement and order execution are frequently separated by a small amount of time in legitimate trading.

Data Analysis Tools

Consider employing specialized tools and algorithms that are created to identify suspicious trade patterns and abnormalities in market data when performing data analysis. By examining vast amounts of trading data, these systems can assist in identifying potential wash trading activity.

It’s crucial to remember that while these indications may give rise to suspicions, they do not offer concrete evidence of wash trading. It is recommended that you disclose your concerns to the appropriate regulatory authorities so they can undertake a full investigation if you suspect wash trading.


Wash trading’s main objectives are to manipulate trading volumes, give the appearance of activity, or affect prices. The integrity of the market is compromised, price discovery is distorted, and investor trust is reduced by this dishonest behavior. 

Maintaining fair and open financial markets depends on identifying and preventing wash trading. To identify and prevent wash trading, regulators, exchanges, and market players continue to develop advanced surveillance tools and monitoring procedures, ensuring that markets function effectively and protecting investors from fraudulent practices.


What makes wash trading illegal?

Wash trading is prohibited because it distorts market fairness and transparency by manipulating trading activity and pricing.

How can wash deals affect the integrity of the market?

In order for investors to make wise judgements based on real supply and demand fundamentals, wash deals skews price discovery and gives a false appearance of market activity.

How are wash trades identified by regulators?

Regulators analyze trading data, spot suspicious patterns, and look into possible cases of wash sale using highly developed surveillance technologies and algorithms.

What sanctions apply if one engages in wash sale?

As authorities work to discourage such deceptive practices, wash trade penalties vary by jurisdiction but may include fines, punishments, market bans, and legal repercussions.