The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is proceeding with efforts to shut down all bitcoin ATMs “illegally operating” in the country. After more inspections in the past couple of months, the watchdog vowed to continue to take action against operators of unregistered crypto teller machines.
Financial Watchdog Shuts Down Dozens of Crypto ATMs in the U.K. This Year
British authorities have inspected 18 more sites believed to be illegally operating automated teller machines (ATMs) supporting cryptocurrencies in the United Kingdom, the country’s financial regulator announced on Tuesday.
The checks have been carried out in May and June by the FCA, working together with representatives of the South West Regional Organized Crime Unit, Bedfordshire Police, Hertfordshire Police, and the Metropolitan Police.
“This action follows the FCA’s previous inspections of a number of sites across the U.K. including East London, and Leeds, Exeter, Sheffield, and Nottingham that were suspected of hosting unregistered crypto ATMs,” the authority noted.
The joint inspections with other law enforcement agencies are part of the FCA’s ongoing crackdown on what the agency considers to be an illicit sector. Since the beginning of 2023, the FCA has visited 34 locations and disrupted 26 crypto ATMs “operating unlawfully.”
FCA Vows to Take More Action Against Unregistered Crypto ATM Operators
“If you use a crypto ATM in the U.K., you are using a machine that is operating illegally and you may be handing your money over to criminals,” Steve Smart, joint executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, was quoted as saying.
“You will not be protected if something goes wrong, and you could lose your money,” he also warned, explaining that users are unlikely to be able to contact the operator of an ATM and resolve any problems. Smart also insisted:
We will continue to warn the public and take appropriate enforcement action against unregistered crypto ATM operators.
The FCA reminded that it regularly warns consumers crypto assets are unregulated and high-risk and that crypto exchange providers in the U.K., including ATM operators, are required to register with it and comply with Britain’s money laundering rules.
Crypto ATMs have been playing a role as an entry point to the crypto space but the number of new machines installed in 2022, a troublesome year for the whole industry, was three times smaller than in the previous year, according to a report published in November.
Data released by the Coin ATM Radar website in April of this year showed that global bitcoin ATM numbers had dropped by almost 14% since December 2022, with over 3,600 crypto machines going offline in March 2023 alone.