Multinational law firm Pinsent Masons report that crypto investment fraud has doubled as a result of investors falling victim to get-rich-quick scams.
The number of reports of cryptocurrency investment fraud in the UK have doubled in a year from 3,608 in 2019/20 to 7,014 in 2020/21 says Pinsent Masons, the international professional services firm with law at its core.
Fraudsters have been attracted to the sector by the increasing number of smaller retail investors that are looking to ‘get rich quick’ by investing in cryptocurrencies.
Hinesh Shah, Senior Associate Forensic Accountant and Financial Crime Investigator at Pinsent Masons, explains that the overwhelming publicity surrounding cryptocurrencies has attracted many investors into the class who lack some of the skills or experience to tell a legitimate crypto currency scheme from a fraudulent one.
The dramatic profits made by early investors in cryptocurrencies have also made the more outlandish claims of fraudsters seem credible.
Hinesh Shah comments:
“Fraudsters get attracted to almost all new investment trends, especially those that can hold out the prospect of outsized returns. What is different is the size of the retail investor feeding frenzy around cryptocurrencies, which has attracted many more sharks.
“Most of the crypto market is unregulated meaning that the regulators have fewer tools to stop the fraudsters.”
The rising number of cryptocurrency frauds mean enforcement agencies, such as the police, have struggled to keep up with the evolution of these scams. In the past year, fraudsters have used a number of techniques to defraud crypto investors, including:
• Impersonation giveaway scams, in which fraudsters pretend to be high-profile individuals such as Elon Musk, and promise to send back double the value if someone send them money in crypto
• ‘Rug pulls’, in which the developer of a ‘legitimate’ token steals the funds raised from investors
• ‘Pump-and-dump’ scams, the traditional technique used by equities fraudsters in which they create investor excitement around an asset and sell their own holdings when the price rises. This has been given new life in the unregulated crypto market
• Fraudulent Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), in which the new token being ‘launched’ does not exist