The UK financial watchdog is pursuing 50 investigations into cryptocurrency business operators, which also included criminal probes.
The Financial Conduct Authority said it launched the inquiries in order to stem a surge in scams and unregulated ventures. The authority said that it had performed 300 inquiries involving unauthorized crypto businesses over a six-month period last year.
During that six-month period ending in September last year, consumers reported 4,300 potential crypto scams on the FCA’s ScamSmart website. The authority noted that this far exceeded the 1,600 reports for the next most common category of pension transfer fraud.
“The data we’ve published today shows how prevalent scams can be,” said FCA markets executive director Sarah Pritchard. The authority maintains a registry of roughly 250 firms that “appear to be carrying on crypto-asset activity that is not registered with the FCA for anti-money laundering purposes.”
While it also noted the considerable overlap between unauthorized firms and those perpetrating scams, the FCA said that its registry likely offers only a partial picture of the unauthorized activity. Last year, the FCA started putting pressure on social platforms to curb their crypto advertising.
Curbing crypto ads
Earlier this year, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned a pair of advertisements from Crypto.com. The first ad dealt with crypto interest rates while the second involved the instant purchase of Bitcoin with a credit card. The ASA alleged that both Crypto.com “ads were misleading because they failed to illustrate the risk of the investment” and “were irresponsible and took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity.”
In its response, Crypto.com said that the ads had been removed, clarifying that they were meant to advertise the “speed with which users could buy cryptocurrency on their platform” and not for cryptocurrency as such. The ASA upheld its decision and would not allow the ads to appear again in the same format.
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