Australian reports of Bitcoin-related scams rise 126% in one week

Maria Nikolova

The latest data from Scamwatch show a 126% jump in the number of reports about Bitcoin-related fraud in the week to October 29, 2017.

Scamwatch, the body operated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has earlier today released its latest snapshot of existing and emerging scams targeting Australians. The data indicates a steep rise in the activities of fraudsters using cryptocurrencies to scam the public.

Scamwatch received a total of 77 reports about Bitcoin-related scams in the week to October 29, 2017, with the number up 126% from the previous week.

Source: Scamwatch.

A recent example of such a scam is an SMS saying that a person has a certain number of Bitcoins in his/her account and then asks the potential victim to check (log into) the account.

The numbers from Scamwatch are released shortly after the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) also voiced its concerns about the increased number of fraudulent schemes involving cryptocurrencies. ACMA warned the public of scams targeting people who use crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In particular, the authority noted a number of fake Blockchain URLs and a Bitcoin survey that are indeed scams that aim to collect personal information.

Meanwhile, the Australian authorities are on track to make legislative changes that will regulate cryptocurrency exchanges. In October, the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Amendment Bill 2017, also known as Australia’s “bitcoin bill”, got the green light from the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.

The “bitcoin bill” introduces changes to the current AML/CTF law by modernizing it to take into account digital currencies like Bitcoin. Under the bill, businesses that trade digital currencies for money, and vice versa, will be required to:

  • enroll and register with AUSTRAC;
  • establish, implement and maintain an AML/CTF program, which sets the framework for businesses to comply with their obligations, including customer due diligence requirements;
  • report threshold transactions and suspicious matters to AUSTRAC, and
  • keep appropriate records.

The bill proposes a maximum penalty of 7 years of imprisonment and a fine of 2,000 penalty units if the AUSTRAC CEO gave the person a direction in relation to violations of registration rules and accepted undertakings given by the person in relation to registration violations on numerous occasions.

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