A teenager from Lincolnshire who carried out a 'sophisticated cyber fraud' has had more than £2m of bitcoin and other crypto currency seized by police.
The 17-year-old - who cannot be named for legal reasons - was arrested in August following investigations into intelligence reports received from Action Fraud and Crimestoppers. It was revealed he was stealing personal information to defraud a digital gift voucher company out of £6000.
He was charged with fraud and money laundering in connection with the investigation and sentenced to a youth rehabilitation order.
Cryptocurrency is a form of digital or virtual currency, similar to PayPal or bank credit, that can be bought or traded online.
Cryptocurrencies remain controversial because of their lack of regulation and volatile value fluctuations, and some critics have raised concerns about the anonymity offered to users as part of transactions, arguing the currencies are being used by cybercriminals to hide their activities.
Detective Constable Luke Casey, Cyber Crime Investigator at Lincolnshire Police, said:
"This was a sophisticated cyber fraud and a complex investigation which involved our Cyber Crime Unit working collaboratively with a number of external agencies and other internal departments. I would like to give thanks to all involved for their hard work, commitment and dedication in helping to bring about a positive outcome for this case.
"Cryptocurrency is often thought, by criminals, to be an anonymous way to move funds around undetected but I’m glad that in this case, we were able to highlight that the police are now able to effectively investigate offences of this nature.
"It’s no secret that the tactics used by cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated, but through our commitment to training and development in digital investigation, this case has also shown that we are prepared and able to adapt to the ever-changing and complex nature of cybercrime.”
At sentencing, Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight paid tribute to the speed the detectives progressed the complex investigation, which involved a large number of devices and digital evidence.
How to protect yourself against cryptocurrency fraud
Be wary of adverts online and on social media promising high returns on investments in cryptoassets or cryptoasset-related products and be suspicious if you are contacted out the blue about an investment opportunity. This could be via a cold-call, an e-mail or an approach on social media.
Don’t be rushed into making an investment. No legitimate person or firm will pressure you into making an investment, or committing to something on the spot. Take time to do your research.
Most firms advertising and selling investments in cryptoassets are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authorotiy (FCA). This means that if you invest in certain cryptoassets you will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if things go wrong – so always check the FCA Register to make sure you’re dealing with an authorised firm and check the FCA Warning List of firms to avoid.
Seek advice from trusted friends, family members or independent professional advice services before making a significant financial decision. Even genuine investment opportunities can be high risk.
Use a financial advisor accredited by the Financial Conduct Authority. Paying for professional advice may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it will help prevent you from being scammed.
Only use the telephone number and email address on the FCA Register, not the contact details the firm gives you and look out for subtle differences.
Just because a company has a glossy website and glowing reviews from ‘high net worth’ investors does not mean it is genuine - fraudsters will go to great lengths to convince you they are not a scam.
Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you think you’ve been a victim of an investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. For more information about investment fraud, visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart.
Action Fraud also advises that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe from fraud.
Stop: taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
Challenge: could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to email@example.com. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).