Close to 95 per cent of all scam alerts sent by the Advertising Standards Authority to social media platforms have been related to bitcoin scams, the watchdog said today.
Last year, the ASA created an ad alert system to pick up false adverts. Since then, the scheme has alerted 145 platforms to date.
Crypto scams mostly take the form of giveaways or false promises to double a consumer’s returns. They often feature the faces of celebrities such as Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and Elon Musk.
The data comes alongside a wider breakdown by the watchdog on legitimate cryptocurrency ads which are misleading about the risks of investing.
The ASA is set to launch a project on reforming its approach to financial advertising soon, with cryptocurrency being one its top priority areas.
It plans to gather intelligence over the coming months to propose what powers it might need in the near future.
Online Harms Bill
The move comes after the UK government recently rejected calls from MPs to include measures designed to clamp down on fake crypto ads in its recent Online Harms Bill.
As a result, the Financial Conduct Authority said in a letter to the government that online advertising is “the major source of problems leading to very significant consumer harms.”
Mark Steward, the watchdog’s executive director of enforcement, added that online platforms should be made responsible “for the material which they disseminate” that could cause financial harm.”
More than 2.3m Brits had invested in cryptocurrencies in January, though 1 in 10 had not noticed the FCA’s repeated consumer warnings regarding the risks posed by the sector.
Stephen Timms, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs, said: “The FCA sees the damage being done to consumers by online scams day in day out. It doesn’t think it has enough powers to protect people.”
“A vague promise to consult later this year is too little too late. Without backing words with action, the law will remain toothless and continue to allow scammers to advertise with impunity while tech giants line their pockets from the proceeds of crime.”