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‘Operation Crypto Sweep’: US and Canada Investigate 70 Cryptocurrency, ICO Scams

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:07 PM
Samantha Chang
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:07 PM

U.S. and Canadian regulators have opened about 70 investigations into cryptocurrency scams and fraudulent initial coin offerings as part of a wide-ranging, coordinated crackdown called “Operation Crypto Sweep.”

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) said it has sent cease-and-desist letters to operators of what they believe are sham crypto companies in more than 40 jurisdictions across the United States and Canada.

‘Tip of the Iceberg’

“The actions announced today are just the tip of the iceberg,” NASAA president Joseph P. Borg remarked in a May 21 statement .

Since May 1, Operation Crypto Sweep has resulted in 35 enforcement actions and the opening of nearly 70 investigations or inquiries. The NASAA task force, which was formed in April 2018, also found 30,000 cryptocurrency-related domain name registrations, many of which warrant investigation.

Borg said one of the top goals of Operation Crypto Sweep is to raise public awareness of the con artists preying on consumers in the unregulated cryptocurrency market.

“Crypto-criminals need to know that state and provincial securities regulators are taking swift and effective action to protect investors from their schemes and scams,” he said.

Borg also underscored that many digital currency investments are legitimate, but consumers should exercise due diligence before investing their money.

“Not every ICO or cryptocurrency-related investment is fraudulent, but we urge investors to approach any initial coin offering or cryptocurrency-related investment product with extreme caution,” he said.

Report: 81% Of ICOs Are Scams

Operation Crypto Sweep comes shortly after a finding that fraud is alarmingly widespread among crypto investment promoters, according to a report by the Texas State Securities Board. Texas leads the United States in cryptocurrency crackdowns.

Similarly, research from ICO advisory company the Satis Group showed that a whopping 81 percent of ICOs launched since 2017 were scams. Regulatory scrutiny is heating up around the world at the same time that bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry are gaining mainstream traction.

As CCN.com has reported, securities attorneys have also warned celebrities who endorse initial coin offerings that they could be sued for aiding and abetting fraud if they promote sham ICOs.

Winklevoss Twins: Regulation Is Bullish for Bitcoin

While some bitcoin evangelists decry what they believe is unnecessary regulatory scrutiny, many crypto enthusiasts welcome the crackdowns on scam artists, who sully the reputation of the entire industry.

Bitcoin bulls like the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, say more regulation is actually good for the virtual currency market.

bitcoin bulls winklevoss twins
Winklevoss twins: More regulation is good for bitcoin and crypto. (YouTube)

“These technologies can’t flourish and grow without thoughtful regulation that connects them to finance,” Tyler Winklevoss, CEO of Gemini Exchange, told Bloomberg . “As long as jurisdictions strike the right balance, we think that it’s going to be a huge boon and win for cryptocurrencies.”

Winklevoss added: “It’s not a coincidence that the price of bitcoin and ether keeps going up with more regulated offerings like Gemini, more regulated offerings like the bitcoin futures contract trading on the Cboe. The more these things happen, the better it’s going to be for cryptocurrencies.”