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UK’s crime agency launches new virtual currency unit to combat fraud

The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) is creating a new department to combat the illegal use of virtual currencies in the country.

The NCA’s job listing revealed that the criminal agency is looking to fill up the new openings with applicants knowledgeable in cybercrimes and the workings of virtual currencies. According to the listing, successful applicants will “form a specialized cryptocurrency and virtual assets team” that will spearhead existing and new investigations.

Individuals applying for the role should possess blockchain technology training and sufficient experience recovering seed phrases. Other skills necessary for the new “crypto cell” include above-average analytical skills, tracing skills using blockchain, and strong communication skills.

“Cryptocurrency and virtual assets are widely viewed as specialist areas of knowledge, and this role is key to supporting NCA investigations in which these are used to enable serious criminality,” said NCA director Chris Lewis-Evans.

The NCA pegs the salary at between £40,209 – £43,705 ($48,188 – $52,354), with employees posted to London receiving an additional £3,424 ($4,102). Other perks associated with the role include 26-day annual leave, civil service pensions, and further training and skill acquisition opportunities.

Creating a new virtual currency unit is coming on the heels of a massive spike in incidences of digital asset fraud. In 2022, bad actors netted profits exceeding $3 billion, with Ponzi schemesmalware attacks, and romance scams topping the charts.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed that in the last 12 months, virtual currencies were responsible for the highest number of scam complaints, with the regulator actively investigating nearly 500 cases.

Another layer of protection for the UK

Law enforcement agencies in the U.K. have identified the growing threat of digital assets and are taking necessary measures to stifle their growth. In October, the Deputy Chief of the U.K.’s National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), Andrew Gould, disclosed that all the police forces in the country have received training on seizures and investigations relating to virtual currencies.

“We have nationally procured the investigative tools to enable them to progress the investigations, and we have a national storage platform to store that once we have seized it,” said Gould.

U.K.’s government is mulling over a bill in both houses of parliament that would allow law enforcement to “seize, freeze, and recover cryptoassets” to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.

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