The value of some digital currencies have sky-rocketed recently. In the last year, the price of one Bitcoin has risen by over 630%, and Ethereum has seen growth of over 1000%. These values have also seen more retail investors getting involved. However, because of this rise, it is expected that fraudsters will develop more cryptoasset investment scams that people will fall foul of.
The Director of Public Prosecutions at the CPS, Max Hill QC, has told the Financial Times that he expects to see an increase in the numbers of cases which involve cryptocurrency, cases the CPS will have to make a charging decision on.
Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre, recently said that reports of cryptocurrency investment related scams rose 57% to 5,581 in 2020. In January 2021, there were 720 cryptocurrency fraud reports, which is twice the number from January 2020. People were scammed out of an estimated £113m in 2020, lost to criminals and cold callers offering ‘get rich quick’ cryptocurrency investment scams and mining schemes.
Last week the CPS also said that roughly 86% of reported fraud is now believed to be cyber-related. The CPS has just launched its first economic crime strategy targeted with fighting fraud. About 800,000 people a year are becoming victims of fraud, and the problem has been made worse recently by criminals attempting to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic as more purchases are made online.
The CPS has prosecuted 10,000 economic crime cases in the past year, and has a new strategy in which it plans to use more technology to assist analysing and communicate complicated information to juries in fraud cases. The CPS also supports the new flagship court specifically designed to tackle fraud, cybercrime, and economic crime. This is due to open in the City of London in 2026, and will replace three other courts, bringing prosecutions of those crimes under one roof.
How can you protect yourself?
- Don’t assume it’s real – criminals can make incredibly professional-looking websites, adverts or social media posts, but that doesn’t always mean they are genuine.
- Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision – a legitimate bank or financial institution won’t force you to give them money on the spot.
- Stay in control – avoid uninvited investment offers such as cold calls, and thoroughly research a company or get independent advice first.