Victims reported theft of thousands of pounds after their mobile phones were seized on streets by thieves.
One victim reported that muggers forced them to hand over their phone when they were trying to order an Uber near London’s Liverpool Street station. The gang eventually return the phone. However, the victim later realized that £5,000-worth of ethereum digital currency was missing from their Coinbase account.
On the other hand, a group of people offering to sell cocaine to the victim and he agreed to go down an alley with them to do the deal. They took the opportunity to accessed his cryptocurrency account when they lied of typing a contact number into his phone. They held him against a wall, forcing him to do facial verification in order to unlock his phone app. A total of £6,000-worth of ripple was transferred out of his account.
A third victim said when a mugger forced him to unlock his phone using a fingerprint when he was vomiting under a bridge. The thieve then changed his security settings and stole £28,700, including cryptocurrency.
In another case, a victim had his cards and phone pickpocketed after an evening at the pub. £10,000 stolen from his account with the investing platform Crypto.com. The victim believed thieves saw him typing in his account pin on his crypto account, the report said.
“It’s a sort of crypto mugging,” said David Gerard, the author of Attack on the 50 Foot Blockchain, a book on digital currencies.
Unlike a bank transfer, Cryptocurrency transfers are irreversible. This type of crime makes it more attractive to thieves.
“If I get robbed and they force me to make a bank transfer, the bank can trace where the money has gone and there are all sorts of comebacks. You can reverse the transaction.”
“With crypto, if I transfer it to my crypto wallet I’ve got your coins and you can’t get them back.”
Gurvais Grigg, a 23-year FBI, now works as public sector chief technology officer for Chainalysis, which helps government agencies and financial institutions track movements of digital currency.
He said police should, in theorically, be able to track stolen crypto due to the nature of cryptocurrency, where transactions are logged on the blockchain.
“To [transfer stolen assets], they have to provide a wallet address and, most likely, they’ll use that wallet address again in the future. You also need to bring it to an exchange if you want to turn it into fiat currency.”
He said this created a digital paper trail that investigators can regularly use to track down multimillion-dollar crypto hacks. However, he said the smaller, one-off crimes were less likely to have the resources to pursue.
He said police were also looking at methods to warn the public about the need to be cautious when accessing a crypto account.
“You wouldn’t walk down the street holding £50 notes and counting them. That should apply to people with crypto assets,” he said.