The information, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), showed that blackmail was the most common attack using Bitcoin.
More than 500 cases of Bitcoin blackmail registered in the U.K.
While Bitcoin and crime have often gone hand in hand, the past few years have mostly been plagued with major exchange thefts and wallet hacks. However, the latest research from the Parliament Street think tank has shown that, in the United Kingdom, Bitcoin blackmail is still rampant.
The report analysed police data from 2018 and 2019, which showed that police forces in the country received 562 reports of blackmail for Bitcoin. The official figures were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), a law that gives people the right of access to information held by government agencies of the Commonwealth.
A total of 13 police forces responded to Parliament Street’s request, which showed that the North Yorkshire Police was the force with the most reports of bitcoin-related crimes. In 2018, they only had 6 accounts, but that number rose to 115 cases last year, representing a 1,817 % increase.
Victims of digital financial crime suffer greatly
The next two constabularies with the highest accounts were Hertfordshire, which provided information of 82 bitcoin-related crimes, involving blackmail and Leicestershire which had 21 incidents. Lincolnshire Police, on the other hand, had only 8 counts of bitcoin blackmail reported over 2018 and 2019.
Parliament Street’s research found that blackmail had the most harmful effect on victims both financially and emotionally. A large percentage of cases involved phishing, where criminals would extort the victim in order to keep their information private. Threats, intimidation and high-pressure tactics are classic signs of a scam, the think tank noted.
Also see: What is Cryptojacking?
Andrew Martin, the CEO of Retail Financial Consulting, told us that these incidents underline the risks associated with online currencies, which are often an easy way for anonymous third parties to extort money from victims. Martin called on the banking sector to recognise that a push towards a cashless society was forcing people into alternative investments.
He said: “Restricting consumer access to cash limits choice, leaving many people in our society behind and in an increasingly dangerous online world, this can only be a bad thing.“