Crypto-crime boosts the number of “professional and financial scams” hitting UK

As more Brits fall for scams, Citizen’s Advice Consumer Services has noted the rise of cryptocurrency related fraud.

June is Scams Awareness Month in the UK and, to mark the event, Citizen’s Advice has sought to highlight the increase in “professional and financial scams” – including those involving cryptocurrency – reports of which have risen by 6% in the last year.

A fifth of all reported scams fell into that category, with the number of reported investment scams – including crypto, binary option investments and holiday timeshares among them – doubling in a year. The median loss members of the public have suffered to these so-called ‘scammers in a suit’ clocked-up to £330 over the same period.  However, some cases are much more serious.

The Citizen’s Advice press release relates the story of a woman who, after initially being prompted to put $500 into what she thought was a Bitcoin investment, received daily calls about her growing profits and encouraging her to put more money into the scheme. After being prompted over time to part with around £40,000, she was then forced to turn to Citizens Advice to help her take appropriate action to recover her money.

“Fraudsters are using new technology to peddle old tricks,” says Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, “posing as trustworthy professionals with persuasive offers. Anyone can fall victim to these sophisticated scams, but all too often it’s the victim rather than the scammer who are left feeling sheepish. This isn’t right. So, this year we want to break down the stigma around these serious crimes, which are targeted across all levels of society, yet remain under-reported.”

Included with the news, was some handy advice on avoiding becoming a victim:

  • Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
  • Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • Be wary if you’re asked to pay in an unusual way (such as vouchers)
  • Never send money to someone you have never met
  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer
  • Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
  • Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No Thank You”
  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams

It also warned of trusting ads seen on social media, used particularly by Binary Options fraudsters. Those looking to invest in cryptocurrencies should also be wary of them, however – even with the recent bans imposed by the major social media and search players – some dodgy ads seem to be slipping through the net.

Finance expert Martin Lewis, as we reported, is currently suing Facebook to stop scam ads, after it published over 1,000 in the last year with his face on.

“Scam ads have exploded across social media platforms over the last year,” he says. “They look extremely professional, and often use well-known faces to try and add legitimacy – the scum behind these ads are happy to target the vulnerable, unsuspecting, or trusting. But they are sophisticated, anyone can be caught out. Click through the ad, and the fakery doesn’t end there. You will often land on a page that looks like a newspaper article, or BBC report.

“Frankly we are getting close to the stage where you shouldn’t trust any advert on social media, or any automatically served advert,” he concluded.

Citizens Advice is urging anyone in the UK who thinks they may have been targeted by a scam to report it to authorities, through Action Fraud and the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.