NatWest caps transfers to crypto exchanges as consumers and businesses lose hundreds of millions to elaborate scams
NatWest said on Tuesday it was instituting tighter restrictions on transfers to cryptocurrency exchanges in order to protect consumers against “crypto-criminals” following an increase in crypto-related scams.
The bank said it is bringing in a daily limit of £1,000 and a 30-day payment limit of £5,000 to crypto exchanges to help protect customers from “losing life-changing sums of money”.
The move comes as regulators say consumers are increasingly being targeted by scammers, with largely unregulated cryptocurrencies increasingly playing a part.
A number of start-up founders have also said they were scammed out of millions by crypto-thieves in recent months.
NatWest said consumers lost £329 million to crypto-scams in 2022.
The bank said consumers are often targeted by adverts featuring fake testimonials from well-known celebrities and supposedly successful investors.
They promise high rates of return in exchange for a minimal investment, but many users report having lost their life savings.
Last month internet entrepreneur Ahad Shams detailed his own case on Twitter, in which an apparent gang of crypto-scammers posing as venture-capital investors stole $4 million (£3.3m) from a newly created crypto-wallet during the course of a face-to-face meeting.
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— 0xngmi (llamazip arc) (@0xngmi) February 6, 2023
The method was similar to that used to steal more than $200,000 from entrepreneur Chris Hunter, whose case was reported by The Register, and $90,000 from NFT artist Jacob Riglin, who detailed his story on Twitter.
In each of those three cases the con artists were able to steal large sums from a crypto wallet after viewing it during the course of a face-to-face meeting.
All three said it was unclear how the funds had been swiped from the wallet.
“I’m still unsure how they did it,” Riglin wrote.
Calls to the UK financial regulator related to investment scams have nearly tripled over the past five years, according to figures released by the Financial Conduct Authority last month, with fraudsters using inflationary pressures to help target people.
“Scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated, coming up with different tactics, such as impersonation texts or calls, and using the cost of living pressure as a way to tempt investors into false opportunities,” said FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Steward at the time.
Losses through scams involving crypto from October 2021 to September 2022 amounted to £226m, a 32 percent increase year-on-year, according to figures from UK police unit Action Fraud obtained through a Financial Times freedom of information request last year.