Britons have lost almost £150MILLION to Cryptocurrency fraud so far this year as reports of digital crimes jump by more than 30 per cent – with 18-25 year olds hardest hit

By Darren Boyle for MailOnline

Published: | Updated:

Cyber criminals have stolen cryptocurrency worth more than £146m in the first nine months this year – a jump of more than 30 per cent compared with the whole of 2020. 

Action Fraud released figures today outlining the scale of the problem. 

Their specialist team of detectives have received 7,118 reports of cryptocurrency fraud since January resulting in a total loss of £146,222,332. 

Cybercriminals have stolen almost £150m from Britons in high tech cryptocurrency frauds since the start of the year – a 30 per cent increase over the whole of 2020

Criminals often use fake celebrity endorsements and flashy websites to convince victims that the opportunity is genuine. Teacher Julie Busnell from Farnborough in Hampshire lost £9,000 after responding to a bogus online advert. The criminals used an image of Elon Musk – who had no involvement in the scam – to convince victims the illegal enterprise was legitimate

Criminals target people who have invested money in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin with the average victim losing in the region of £20,500. 

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Craig Mullish of City of London Police said: ‘Reports of cryptocurrency fraud have increased significantly over the past few years, which is unsurprising given everyone is spending more time online. Being online more means criminals have a greater opportunity to approach unsuspecting victims with fraudulent investment opportunities.

‘We would encourage anyone thinking about making an investment to do their research first and to stop and think before making an investment as it could protect you and your money.’

DCI Mullish said one in ten victims were aged between 18 and 25 while more than half of those to lose cash were 18 to 45.  

Officers warn that criminals often entice victims using bogus celebrity endorsements, creating ‘professional and credible looking online adverts’ or web pages. 

Criminals embellish their fraudulent advertisements with photographs of unsuspecting celebrities and use made up quotes to offer fake testimonials to make their offer look legitimate. 

In a new report released today, Action Fraud said between April 2020 and March 2021, the agency received 558 investment fraud reports including a bogus celebrity endorsement. More than three quarters of these involved cryptocurrencies.  

Action Fraud warn that the market volatility associated with cryptocurrencies allows criminals to offer high returns and easy money using adverts on social media. 

In some cases the criminals are seeking a victim’s personal details while often the main aim is to steal cash.   

Teacher Julie Busnell from Farnborough in Hampshire lost £9,000 after being duped by a fake BBC News website that reported that Elon Musk had bought $1.5bn of Bitcoin and would double anybody’s cryptocurrency investment. 

There is no suggestion the Tesla billionaire was involved in the scam. 

Ms Bushnell, who is a teacher, committed £9,000 to the scheme and quickly realised it was a scam. 

After reporting the crime, Ms Bushnell spoke to the BBC. She said: ‘

‘I wish I could have that time back – go in a time machine and not make those couple of clicks.

‘They have robbed me of my dignity, self-respect, self-worth and strength. They have sucked all the goodness of life out of me.

‘I want to raise awareness of this scam so it doesn’t happen to other vulnerable people.’

How to protect yourself from cryptocurrency fraud 

Cyber criminals often use professional looking websites featuring fake celebrity endorsements to entice their victims into handing over their bank details

  • Be wary of social media adverts, emails or cold calls promising high returns crypto currencies
  • Do not rush into making an investment. Legitimate companies will not seek to pressurise you
  • Check to see if the firm is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority – many companies offering cryptocurrencies are not registered. The FCA has a Warning List of forms to avoid
  • Seek advice from trusted family and friends and seek independent investment advice before committing your cash. 
  • Using an FCA accredited financial advisor will cost money but reduces the risk of being ripped off by scam artists 
  • Only use phone numbers and email addresses on the FCA register. Do not trust contact details supplied in an unsolicited email or a cold call
  • Do not trust glossy websites with glowing reviews offering high returns… if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • If you think you have been a victim of fraud contact or call 0300 123 2040