Fake emails purporting to be from the UK Financial Conduct Authority have been sent to thousands of potential market participants around the world, according to an FCA statement.
The mass email scam appears to be from crypto hackers as it was entitled “guaranteed chance to earn on crypto assets.” The fake email reads: “Bitcoin is still a long way off its peak price of $20,000, which it reached in 2017, but some cryptocurrency experts believe it could hit an even higher value by 2020.”
The regulator has also alerted investors to other fake emails ‘FCA business update,’ ‘Blacklisted FX firms’ and ‘Overdue balance’ which appeared to be sent from firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Typically, the fraudsters use special software to make the message appear genuine. Recipients are often invited to click on a link that appears to take them to the watchdog’s website. Instead, they go to a false website that tries to steal sensitive information from those targeted, which can be used later without their knowledge to commit fraud.
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FCA pushes to regulate the crypto space
In a notification on its website, the City watchdog recommends that recipients delete the scam emails without opening them. The FCA has provided details on how to identify spoof emails in a dedicated section on its website.
It further explains: “Look for signs that the email, letter or phone call may not be from us, such as it listing a mobile or overseas contact phone number, an email address from a hotmail or gmail account, or a foreign PO Box number.”
In its latest report, the UK financial watchdog revealed a significant increase in the number of queries regarding cryptocurrencies, the majority of which relate to scams. This increase in the number of complaints/queries is another indication of the popularity of the industry despite the bear market conditions in the reportable period of 2018.
The FCA is already considering a ban on retail derivatives of cryptocurrencies, including CFDs, futures and options, as part of the UK authorities’ sweeping push to regulate the virtual asset class.
As the FCA explains, the proposed prohibition was suggested by the recently-established UK government’s crypto assets task force. The FCA was also concerned that firms might consider getting around ESMA’s measures through their overseas brands or by selling other similarly complex or highly-leveraged products.