Rise in crypto scams expected, say Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the principal public agency for conducting criminal prosecutions in England and Wales, is preparing for a rise in the number of prosecutions related to cryptocurrency scams.

Sources told the Financial Times that the government's response to the uptick is expected to include the opening of a specialised City of London court dedicated to financial crime by 2026.

The proposed court will bring together prosecutions of fraud, economic crime, and cybercrime, combining three other courts.

The news comes as a report by Action Fraud said that the number of reported cryptocurrency-related scams totalled 5,581 in 2020 — a 57 percent year-on-year increase, while the total losses to cryptocurrency-related scams was estimated at $156 million for 2020.

Cryptocurrency valuations reached historic highs on Monday, with the total capitalisation of all bitcoin reaching an all-time peak of $1.1 trillion according to market trackers CoinGecko and Blockfolio, and Action Fraud said the high prices of digital assets is incentivising would-be cybercriminals.

The recent rally in Bitcoin’s price has been buoyed by institutional displays of confidence from companies like Tesla, who purchased $1.5 billion of bitcoin in February, and Twitter chief executive backed payments company Square, who purchased $150 million the same month.

UK Finance recently called for new legislation to make online platforms responsible for taking down fraudulent content and protecting consumers from scams, calling for fraud to be included in the scope of the government’s upcoming Online Safety Bill.

The industry body said this would ensure that online platforms including social media firms, search engines and dating websites “take action to address vulnerabilities in their systems” which are being exploited by criminals to commit fraud.

Queens Council Max Hill , director of public prosecutions at the CPS, said: “Whilst schemes using high investment returns have been used for decades, I think we will see increasing numbers.

He added: “Cases coming in are in low numbers now but my prediction is they will increase.”

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