(Bloomberg) -- Crypto fraud has jumped by nearly a third in the UK as scammers increasingly target more inexperienced investors.

The value of UK cryptocurrency fraud leaped 32% to £226 million ($273 million) from £171 million in the year ending Sept. 20 2022, according to data from Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cyber crime. The number of reported frauds also increased by 16%. 

“Whenever times are tough, fraudsters always seek to prey on less experienced investors by promising huge returns,” Hinesh Shah, a financial crime investigator at law firm Pinsent Masons, said in a statement. “Scams involving cryptocurrencies can be especially potent for smaller investors who may be desperate to make a ‘quick buck’.”

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The surge in crypto crimes highlight a wider problem with fraud, which ramped up after the Covid-19 pandemic. UK Finance, a trade body, called the problem an “epidemic” and estimated £1.3 billion was stolen through general fraud and scams in 2021. Last week, Metropolitan Police Service arrested 100 people in the UK over a global phone number “spoofing shop” scam. 

Shah said that it’s likely that civil courts across the UK will see a rise in claims against crypto fraudsters, with the possibility of victims joining class action style lawsuits against crypto exchanges.

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