By the end of September, fraud linked to cryptocurrency had swindled £146 million from victims in the UK, according to authorities.

The UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime received 7,118 reports of fraud related to cryptocurrency. According to City of London Police, the roughly $200 million lost to fraud so far this year is already 30% more than in 2020. A majority of the victims were between the ages of 18 and 45.

“Reports of cryptocurrency fraud have increased significantly over the past few years,” said Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Craig Mullish. “Being online more means criminals have a greater opportunity to approach unsuspecting victims with fraudulent investment opportunities.”

Fake celebrity endorsements

According to police, crypto investors seem particularly susceptible to fraudsters posing as celebrities. The likeness of a favored public figure often gives the prospective victims a false sense of security, which criminals have readily exploited. Roughly 79% of all complaints related to fake endorsements were tied to cryptocurrency, UK police said.

Similar instances of crypto investors being tricked by fake celebrity endorsements have rankled the industry for years. Last year, the Twitter accounts of several prominent public figures, including President Joe Biden, were hacked by a Florida youth. Under the guise of these celebrities, he managed to solicit $117,000 in Bitcoin from their followers. He was apprehended shortly thereafter, and was sentenced to three years in prison in March.

Earlier this year, fraudsters used Elon Musk’s image and likeness to promote fake Dogecoin giveaways during his performance on Saturday Night Live. In order to receive their “claims,” the giveaways instructed users to send coins to an affiliated account. The prompt claimed that they would receive their initial deposit plus an amount equal to what they sent. These scams targeted fans of Musk, who believed he might use his appearance to make further promotions for Dogecoin. Victims later appealed to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help them recover their money, but the regulators.

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