Extra prosecutions involving cryptocurrency scams are anticipated to succeed in the UK courts as criminals more and more flip to cyber fraud, the director of the Crown Prosecution Service has mentioned.
Experiences of scams regarding cryptocurrency investments rose 57 per cent to five,581 within the 12 months to December 2020, in line with new information from Motion Fraud, the nationwide fraud reporting service.
In January, there have been 720 cryptocurrency fraud experiences, double the variety of the identical month final yr. Victims misplaced an estimated £113m final yr to criminals and cold-callers selling cryptocurrency funding scams.
Max Hill QC, director of public prosecutions on the CPS, mentioned he anticipated an increase within the numbers of instances involving cryptocurrency on which the CPS needed to make a charging choice.
“While schemes utilizing excessive funding returns have been used for many years, I feel we’ll see rising numbers. Instances coming in are in low numbers now however my prediction is they’ll enhance.” Hill mentioned of cryptocurrency-related instances.
The CPS doesn’t examine crimes however critiques instances referred by police, decides whether or not suspects must be charged after which prosecutes these instances at court docket.
Lately, the worth of cryptocurrencies has rocketed — Bitcoin soared 300 per cent final yr — attracting a flood of retail buyers.
That has led to rising numbers of criminals looking for to use the demand from individuals who could be extra prone to get-rich-quick schemes.
In 2018, it emerged that faux web sites claiming to supply cryptocurrency investments to the general public have been fabricating suggestions from outstanding individuals equivalent to Deborah Meaden from the BBC tv present Dragons’ Den.
Whereas the CPS has prosecuted quite a few instances involving cryptocurrency, the numbers stay small.
Lincolnshire farmer Nigel Wright was convicted in August final yr of contaminating child meals jars with metallic shards as a part of a £1.5m blackmail plot through which he threatened Tesco he would contaminate meals until it paid him £750,000 in bitcoin.
About 86 per cent of reported fraud was now estimated to be cyber-related, the CPS mentioned final week because it launched its first financial crime technique aimed toward combating fraud. An estimated 800,000 individuals a yr are actually falling sufferer to fraud, with the issue made worse by criminals looking for to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic as extra transactions are carried out on-line.
UK Finance, the banking business commerce physique, mentioned final month that just about £500,000 was misplaced to financial institution switch fraud in 2020, the place clients unwittingly transferred cash to fraudsters.
As a part of its technique, the CPS, which has prosecuted 10,000 financial crime instances prior to now yr, plans to make higher use of expertise to assist evaluation and current difficult info to juries in fraud instances.
It additionally desires to help a brand new flagship financial crime court docket because of open within the Metropolis of London in 2026, which can exchange three different courts and convey prosecutions of fraud, financial crime and cyber crime below one roof.