Amid a sharp spike in cryptocurrency related cyber cimes and money laundering scams, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), has formed a dedicated crypto unit to target cyber criminals who use digital assets for illegal operations.
Australia has witnessed a dramatic upsurge in cryptocurrency related crimes and various crypto related investment scams. Business seems to be booming for scammers as Australians lost over $113 million, in the first half of this year. As more and more people seem to be interested in investing in cryptocurrencies, scams are skyrocketing too. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that the majority of losses to investment scams involved crypto investments.
A Dedicated Crypto Unit to Confront Crypto Criminals
According to a Financial Review report, Australia’s national law enforcement agency, the Australian Federal Police, has formed a special crypto division to tackle cyber criminals bypassing the financial system for money laundering and illegal investment offers, involving cryptocurrency, such as cold-calls, emails, SMS or social media advertising.
Stefan Jerga, who heads the new crypto unit, suggested that the use of crypto in criminal activities have increased significantly in recent years and required a dedicated team to investigate such crimes and protect the country’s national security. He explained,
“The environment was such that we felt a standalone team was required, rather than a lot of officers picking up some of this skill set as part of their overall role. So we’ve now got a dedicated team that continues to grow. The ability to trace cryptocurrency transactions across the relevant blockchains is really, really important.”
In addition, the agency also stated that its target is to restrain over $400 million in proceeds of crime by the end of the financial year 2024. In February 2020, it confiscated $260 million in residential and commercial property, $135 million in cash and bank accounts, and $24 million in cars, artworks, luxury items, and cryptocurrencies.
Australia’s Increasing Troubles with Crypto Scammers
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), a government financial intelligence agency, warned in April that cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly lucrative for criminals. John Moss, deputy chief executive of AUSTRAC, also supported the launch of the new unit, claiming that cryptocurrencies had become a part of the everyday financial ecosystem and “criminals continue to adapt and find new ways to exploit emerging technologies.”
Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Gary Newcombe, expressed that heightened public interest in cryptocurrency investments is resulting in people becoming vulnerable to scams. He added,
“Get rich quick proposals are very tempting at a time when the household budget is under pressure and people are desperately looking for opportunities to get better returns on their investments.”