The UK’s financial watchdog and four other law enforcement agencies recently inspected another 18 crypto ATM sites, “disrupting” 26 machines across the nation.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) stated on Tuesday that the sites “suspected” of operating crypto ATMs were inspected in May and June in a coordinated operation with the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, Bedfordshire Police, Hertfordshire Police, and the Metropolitan Police.
The visits were a part of the ongoing crackdown on “this illicit sector,” said the FCA, adding that 26 machines operating unlawfully across the country have been “disrupted.”
This one follows previous inspections of a number of suspected sites in the country, including East London, Leeds, Exeter, Sheffield, and Nottingham.
That said, per the authority,
“Since the start of 2023, the [FCA] has visited and inspected 34 locations across the UK suspected of hosting crypto ATMs.”
Shut Down Machines or Face Consequences
Per the case study included in the statement by the regulator, the Citizens Advice Bureau was contacted by an individual who said they had paid £1,000 into a crypto ATM in Sheffield but were unable to buy crypto, with the machine stating that the transaction was not successful.
The funds were not returned. The shop staff was not able to provide assistance or guidance, and the customer was unable to contact the ATM operator through the single point of contact: a phone number only reachable via WhatsApp.
This ATM was shut down following an inspection.
Crypto exchange providers in the UK – ATM included – must be registered with the FCA and comply with the UK Money Laundering Regulations, the watchdog warned and added:
“Failure to comply may be a criminal offence, punishable by up to 2 years in prison, a fine or both.”
In March 2022, the FCA warned crypto ATM operators to shut their machines down or face enforcement action, saying at the time that “none of the cryptoasset firms registered with us have been approved to offer crypto ATM services, meaning that any of them operating in the UK are doing so illegally and consumers should not be using them.”
Following this latest action, Steve Smart, Joint Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said that,
“If you use a crypto ATM in the UK, you are using a machine that is operating illegally and you may be handing your money over to criminals.”
Smart warned the public that there is no protection if something goes wrong, that they will likely be unable to contact the machine operator, and that they may lose their money.