Extra prosecutions involving cryptocurrency scams are anticipated to achieve the UK courts as criminals more and more flip to cyber fraud, the director of the Crown Prosecution Service has stated.
Reviews of scams regarding cryptocurrency investments rose 57 per cent to five,581 within the 12 months to December 2020, in keeping with new information from Motion Fraud, the nationwide fraud reporting service.
In January, there have been 720 cryptocurrency fraud studies, 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, stated he anticipated an increase within the numbers of instances involving cryptocurrency on which the CPS needed to make a charging determination.
“While schemes utilizing excessive funding returns have been used for many years, I believe we are going to see rising numbers. Instances coming in are in low numbers now however my prediction is they are going to improve.” Hill stated of cryptocurrency-related instances.
The CPS doesn’t examine crimes however evaluations 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 in search of to use the demand from individuals who could be extra inclined 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 folks resembling Deborah Meaden from the BBC tv present Dragons’ Den.
Whereas the CPS has prosecuted numerous instances involving cryptocurrency, the numbers stay small.
Lincolnshire farmer Nigel Wright was convicted in August final yr of contaminating child meals jars with steel shards as a part of a £1.5m blackmail plot wherein 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 stated final week because it launched its first financial crime technique aimed toward combating fraud. An estimated 800,000 folks a yr are actually falling sufferer to fraud, with the issue made worse by criminals in search of to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic as extra transactions are performed on-line.
UK Finance, the banking trade commerce physique, stated final month that just about £500,000 was misplaced to financial institution switch fraud in 2020, the place prospects unwittingly transferred cash to fraudsters.
As a part of its technique, the CPS, which has prosecuted 10,000 financial crime instances previously yr, plans to make better use of expertise to assist overview and current sophisticated data to juries in fraud instances.
It additionally needs to help a brand new flagship financial crime court docket as a result of open within the Metropolis of London in 2026, which is able to change three different courts and produce prosecutions of fraud, financial crime and cyber crime beneath one roof.