In the UK, thieves are targeting crypto traders in “a wave of crypto muggings,” with police warning that “thousands of pounds have been stolen” by criminals looking out for opportunities to access other people’s wallets and transfer funds into their own accounts, per a new report.
The initial report was published by The Guardian, which obtained a number of “anonymized crime reports” from the City of London Police as part of a freedom of information request.
Another report, published by the BBC, claimed that “in some cases, victims have been threatened with violence” and that “police believe there has been a recent surge in such crimes.”
The BBC report quoted a “senior officer” with the City of London Police as saying that the “sophisticated” thieves are using “a variety of methods to obtain people’s cryptocurrency wallets, including phishing emails and social media scams.”
The reports came amid a surge in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin reached a record high of over $40,000 on January 8, 2021, and is currently trading at around $32,000.
The “crypto muggings” reportedly took place in the second half of 2021 in the capital’s financial district. The crimes were described as “apparently opportunistic street incidents akin to a mugging for cash or valuables.”
The police officer also warned that people should be “vigilant” when carrying cryptocurrency and to not display their devices in public.
The head of the “cryptocurrency team” on the National Police Chiefs’ Council cybercrime program, Phil Ariss, was quoted as stating that “more training was being given to police officers on a variety of crypto-related crimes” – but noted that police officers “were also looking at ways to inform the public” about the need to be vigilant about using crypto-related apps in public spaces.
Phil Ariss, Phil Ariss,
Indeed, one of the victims appears to have been trading on Crypto.com during “an evening at the pub” – his phone was stolen and some USD 12,300 worth of crypto and/or fiat was taken from his wallet.
The police report detailed that the “victim was using his phone in the pub and believed thieves saw him type in his account pin.”
In another of the anonymized reports, officers explained that a victim trying to order an Uber on the street was mugged by a group of individuals who took the phone and then returned it – only for the victim to later realize they had been robbed of USD 6,136 worth of ethereum (ETH) from a Coinbase account.
Another man reportedly decided to go down an alleyway with an unknown “group of people offering to sell him cocaine.” The report explained that the man agreed to hand over his phone to these strangers so they could “type a number into his phone.”
“Instead,” the media outlet continued, the gang “accessed his cryptocurrency account, holding him against a wall and forcing him to unlock a smartphone app with facial verification” – making away with XRP worth USD 7,366.