You have a wallet address and want to find out who the Bitcoin wallet owner is. In addition, you want to link a seemingly anonymous profile to an actual real person.
Two (2) things we need to understand first.
a) We can copy the wallet address and paste it on any blockchain explorers such as Blockchain.com and quickly see all the transactions and other wallet addresses involved in this address.
b) We need to understand what the bitcoin blockchain captures and stores.
The blockchain does not contain any personal information regarding the sender or receiver of the transaction. In short, it does not reveal who they are.
Does the blockchain contain personal information?
The bitcoin blockchain is a type of database designed to behave and store data like a public ledger. The data stored is transparent to all who want to query the blockchain and keeps a complete record of all transactions. The blockchain stores the following information;
- Date & timestamp of every Bitcoin transaction in UTC-0 timezone
- Transaction hash of each transaction
- The wallet address of the sender
- The wallet address of the receiver
- The amount of BTC transacted
- The amount of miner fees involved
Since we have the wallet address of the sender & receiver, it is possible to look up their particular wallet address directly and find out all the transactions and BTC amounts ever transacted. Furthermore, the wallet’s current balance can also be derived from the query quickly.
Since the blockchain does not contain any personal information about the sender/receiver, we have to use other ways to find out who owns the wallet address.
Using the Bitcoin Wallet
Suppose the target wallet address is created from a cryptocurrency exchange. In that case, you use commercial blockchain forensics and analytic tools like Chainalysis and Elliptic and link the wallet owner to the exchange where it was created. This is possible to trace using commercial tools because they tied up with major exchanges to identify accounts. Furthermore, each exchange has its unique way of generating bitcoin wallet addresses that allow commercial tools to tell which is generated quickly, e.g. Exchange A and which is from Exchange B.
Using the Bitcoin Transactions
A reverse way of discovery is via the analysis of the transactions made.
If the wallet address cannot be made out using commercial blockchain tools, we can analyse all the other wallet addresses that had previously sent or received funds from our target wallet address. Use the frequent addresses on the commercial tool to discover if transactions had been made on specific established merchants or crypto exchanges. The aim here is to reveal the parties who can reveal to us the actual owner.
Using OSINT methods
Sometimes the answer could be a Google search away. For example, the owner could post your target wallet address on the internet on forums or social media.
OSINT stands for Open Source Intelligence Techniques and can be simply explained as searching for information (in this case, your target wallet address) on the Internet. The findings made this way are considered open source information since it exists in the public domain, i.e. the world wide web.
To start your OSINT search, copy the entire wallet address and search them on;
- Search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc
- Social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc
- Closed communities like certain popular forums
- Dark web (darknet) communities, if you deem this is possible
You will be surprised that many people post their bitcoin addresses publicly on the web for various reasons. One of them is for accepting crypto donations. The other reason was to receive crypto for services rendered. So it is natural for someone to post their wallet address on the Internet.
With only a bitcoin wallet address in hand, there are a few ways we can try to find out the identity of the wallet owner.
Bitcoin transactions are pseudonymous. This means that it is not anonymous. The blockchain stores all the bitcoin transactions in a publicly viewable manner, and it is a permanent record. While personal information about the sender and receiver is not captured in the blockchain, we can utilize other ways to find out the real identity of our target wallet address.
If the wallet is created from a cryptocurrency exchange. With that, we can approach the exchange to find out their customer’s identity.
We can trace all the other wallet addresses associated with our target wallet address to reveal the owner’s identity.
Using OSINT techniques, we can search the target wallet address on search engines, social media platforms and even the darknet communities for the presence of anyone posting the address publicly for various reasons.