The scam Cryptocurrency scam – remote access

Value and volume An increase in the value of reported cases up 25% over the last four months, with an average of 88 cases a month in 2021, equivalent to around £1million of fraud reported per month  

How the scam works
1.    Customer sees an ad on social media or Google or is introduced by another social media user to a crypto investment opportunity. Sometimes the opportunity will look like it is being endorsed by a celebrity.
2.    Customer clicks on a link and shares their contact details in order to find out more.
3.    They are then contacted by phone, email or social media, and are often offered high returns on the crypto investment with little or no risk. The fraudster will often employ high pressured sales tactics. 
4.    The customer is told to download specialist software to support them opening cryptocurrency accounts. The software is remote access software, giving them full access to the customer’s computer. 
5.    Customer opens (often multiple) crypto currency accounts and deposits money in them.
6.    Customer is then unable to access their accounts, as the fraudster takes over access and freezes the customer out of their account.

What to do  
If you think you’ve been the victim of a crypto scam, report it to your bank straight away. If you have downloaded software to supposedly help with the investment, turn off and unplug your computer and do not use it until you have removed the software and had it checked by a computer technician. 

Chris Ainsley, Head of Fraud Control, Santander UK
“When it comes to investing in cryptocurrencies, what may appear as a sure bet might be more of an emperor's new clothes situation. 

"We’re seeing more and more cases, where fraudsters use complex cryptocurrency jargon, high pressured sales tactics and fake celebrity endorsements, along with the promise of significant rewards, to lull people into a false sense of security. Now more than ever, it’s so important to take the time to research where your money is going before you make a payment. If you don’t, you risk simply never seeing it again.”

How to protect yourself
•    A celebrity endorsed investment in cryptoassets or cryptoasset-related products doesn’t mean it’s a genuine endorsement or a legitimate investment.
•    Don’t allow anyone to set up a cryptocurrency wallet, upload ID documents or manage investments on your behalf remotely. 
•    Be cautious of any investment offers whether made on social media or over the phone. If you’re thinking about making an investment, thoroughly research the company first and consider getting independent advice. 
•    Don’t fall for pressurised sales with limited timescales and promises of too good to be true returns.
•    Use the FCA website to look up the company who you’re buying crypto from and check they’re a legitimate registered firm, not unregistered, or a clone or fake. Then call them using the number on the FCA website when you both set up a payment and every time you make a payment, even if you think it’s going to the same place. 
•    The FCA also has ScamSmart, an online tool to help you identify if your investment is a scam or not. Answer four questions with drop downs for multiple choice and get a clear picture on the potential investment and the potential risks.

Case study 
Ms C was interested in cryptocurrencies and had been following a Snapchat user who dealt with crypto investments. She messaged the user on Snapchat and asked for help with investing in cryptocurrencies. She was told where to send her money and was advised that she would have access to a known trading platform in order to manage her cryptoassets. 

Over three weeks she transferred £3,200 to two different accounts, however, didn’t receive any official documentation that referenced crypto-assets or about trading. After she received another request over Snapchat to transfer money to another account under a different name, she became suspicious and queried the payment. Shortly after this, the Snapchat account was deleted, and she was unable to contact the individual further. She then attempted to contact the trading platform directly but was informed that they had no accounts under her name. 
When Santander attempted to recover the funds for Ms C, we were informed that all the transfers had been spent by the recipients within one hour of the payments being made.


The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

Notes to Editors 
Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. At 31 June 2021, the bank had around 20,900 employees and serves around 14 million active customers, via a nationwide branch network, telephone, mobile and online banking. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers’ eligible deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading retail and commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful presence in 10 core markets in the Europe, North America and South America regions, and is one of the largest banks in the world by market capitalization. Its purpose is to help people and businesses prosper in a simple, personal and fair way. Santander is building a more responsible bank and has made a number of commitments to support this objective, including raising over €120 billion in green financing between 2019 and 2025, as well as financially empowering more than 10 million people over the same period. At the end of the first half of 2021, Banco Santander had €1.1 trillion in total funds, 150 million customers, of which 24.2 million are loyal and 45.3 million are digital, 10,000 branches and 190,000 employees.