The Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), the French independent stock market regulator in that country, has told French newspaper La Parisienne that 700 savers have fallen foul of a current bout of phone scams in this year alone.
The amount of money lost to the scams is estimated to be around EUR 31 million ($35 million) according to the newspaper report. The scammers have taken to targeting victims via phone, after promising huge investment returns on Bitcoin via ads posted by phony sellers online.
Unfortunately, most of the victims are not crypto-aware, know nothing of the technology, and can only see the possibility of making a fast return on their savings simply too good to pass up, according to the French site Cryptonaute.
Lawyer Hélène Féron-Poloni, who is a specialist in inheritance cases, maintains that most savers have exactly no idea what’s happening when they commit to transferring their funds to “fabulous investments,” often confused by the technical jargon fed to them by the callers.
Marketing Director of Coinhouse, Brian O’Hagan, describe this year’s epidemic as “a plague, we’ve spotted over 200 fraudulent websites,” he commented.
These events, involving scammers either offering high returns for Bitcoin investment or as has been the case in the UK, using celebrities to promote unsound and often illegal deals, are worrying, but the cases of Bitcoin used in major crimes have been proven to be highly exaggerated.
It is undeniable that just like cash, cryptocurrencies are on the radar of criminals but the use of Bitcoin in criminal activity has dropped to 35% of the market share from a peak of 80% when the flagship digital currency was in its infancy.
In the US, a senior member of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies Centre on Sanctions and Illicit Finance recently spoke out against anti-crypto rhetoric, particularly those aimed at the financing of militant jihads, a reason often used by governments as a cause celebre for not advocating the use of cryptocurrencies. He referred to a recent report which found that:
“The use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions – their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services.”
In response to this year’s figures, the Autorite des Marches Financiers has increased its blacklist of dubious exchanges suggesting that they offer “unauthorized operations and atypical investments” warning investors and savers that “no advertising materials should make you overlook the fact that high returns always involve high risk.”
France remains open to cryptocurrency and blockchain projects and the AMF is also gaining sweeping powers to grant licenses to new initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the country. The French government is hopeful that with sound legislation and a legal framework, France will be able to continue to attract investors from around the world.
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