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Daily fraud update: 13th March

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FCA warns over crypto-related coronavirus scams

The coronavirus even managed to infiltrate the crypto scam news headlines this week after a British regulator warned that fraudsters may use the opportunity to tap into vulnerabilities.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which is Britain’s major financial markets regulator, made the stark warning in response to the virus – which has claimed thousands of lives around the world and which has pushed several countries into lockdown.

The FCA said that it had become aware of a whole host of scam emails which had reached the inboxes of British people in the context of the virus.

It is understood that cryptocurrencies are on this list, while a range of other financial services areas – such as pension transfer and insurance buying – were also present.

In a statement, it said that those who are “vulnerable” were at risk – and that fraudsters were “opportunistic”.

“Scammers are sophisticated, opportunistic and will try many things. They are also very likely to target the vulnerable”, the statement read.

“Beware of investments that appear to be too good be true. If you decide to invest in something offering a high return or in a cryptoasset, you should be prepared to lose all your money”, it added.

It went on to list the full range of products potentially affected.

“Watch out for scams related to coronavirus (Covid-19). These scams take many forms and could be about insurance policies, pensions transfers, or high-return investment opportunities, including investments in cryptoassets”, it said.

The FCA also said it was acting to reduce the risk to consumers.

“We are closely monitoring the coronavirus (Covid-19) situation and taking sensible precautions to make sure consumers are protected”, it said.

“We are working closely with the Government, the Bank of England, the Payment Systems Regulator and firms to ensure markets continue to work well for consumers.

“As you would expect, we are in regular contact with firms to assess their preparedness and we expect them to be looking at their business continuity plans”, it added.

In a separate development, a regulator in the small European island nation of Malta – which has a thriving financial sector – also warned that fraud was a risk as a result of the virus, which is technically known as Covid-19.

In its warning, it focused specifically on the forms that a virus-related scam might take.

“The MFSA would like to draw the attention of its licence holders and the general public to possible fraudulent schemes or financial scams which may try to take advantage of COVID-19 outbreak to target entities and individuals with the aim of misappropriating funds and/or obtaining sensitive personal information”, it said.

It warned that “advice in relation to investments in developing cures, requests for donations, medical and health insurance policies in relation to COVID-19” and more were all possible forms that scams could take.