The United Kingdom is host to at least 168 companies accused of running fraudulent crypto or foreign exchange (forex) scams, according to an independent analysis.
A joint investigation by media firms the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Observer published Jan. 29 found that organized crime groups are using the U.K. as their base due to its “lax regulation.”
The actual number of U.K.-based crypto or forex companies involved in scams is likely far greater than 168 as the number was calculated by reviewing lists of suspected shell companies and cross-referencing them with reports of fraudulent activity on various websites.
Around half of the companies found were linked to so-called “pig-butchering scams.”
A pig-butchering scams is an insidious scheme where the scammer builds trust with the victim — often incorporating romance — before convincing them to deposit money or crypto onto a trading platform or virtual wallet that the scammer controls.
The scammer then continues to “fatten” the victim and build further trust before persuading them to transfer a much larger sum, only to then make off with the funds.
Victims were often approached on social media or through dating websites such as Tinder, according to the report.
Additionally, many of the victims interviewed in the report said that the companies appeared more legitimate as they were based in the U.K., saying they would not have fallen for the scam had the companies been located elsewhere.
Registering a company in the U.K. costs as little as 12 British pounds ($14.85) and requires no form of identification, making it easy for fraudulent companies to register there and gain “sham credibility.”
Companies are required to provide a U.K. office address to register, however, which has led to some residential addresses being bombarded with letters intended for companies that claim to have an office there.
“What’s been happening in the U.K. is unconscionable,” financial crime investigator Graham Barrow was quoted as saying. “We have known for 20 years at least that U.K. companies are being used in these scams and that we are probably the world’s biggest provider of scam companies.”
The U.K. government has been trying to crack down on crypto companies in the region, with the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority requiring that all businesses that carry on crypto asset activity register with it as of Jan. 10, 2020.
The regulator has been very stringent with its approvals, however, with many crypto-related businesses continuing to operate as unregistered businesses as it tries to find a balance between providing a safe environment for investors and supporting innovation in the industry.
Automotive giant Toyota is delving deeper into blockchain use cases through its involvement with a Web3 hackathon for decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) developers.
On Feb. 1, multichain smart contract and decentralized application (DApp) network Astar announced its inaugural Web3 hackathon. The news of note, however, was that it’s being supported by the Toyota Motor Corporation.
Astar Network founder Sota Watanabe commented on the significance of Toyota’s involvement in the initiative:
“During the event, we aim to develop the first PoC (Proof of Concept) DAO tool for Toyota’s employees. If a good tool is produced, Toyota employees will interact daily with products on Astar Network.”
It’s Toyota’s first Web3 event as the multinational vehicle company looks to emerging technology to “support its vision of improving the company’s operations,” the announcement noted.
The Astar Foundation is pledging $100,000 in funding for the event, which will go toward rewards for winning projects selected by Toyota.
Event participants will develop all of their products on the Astar Network, a Japan-based layer-1 blockchain. The hackathon will be hosted in Astar’s Polkadot-based metaverse, COZMISE.
It is not the first time Toyota has dabbled in crypto and the blockchain. In 2020, the IT division of the automotive giant teamed up with Japanese crypto exchange DeCurret to develop a Toyota-branded digital token.
Toyota established a blockchain lab in 2020 to explore the future of distributed ledger technology and its role in the automotive industry.
Astar (ASTR) prices surged 10.5% on the news to trade at $0.06 at time of writing. The token has gained 53% over the past month but remains down 86% from its all-time high.
Damus, a so-called “Twitter killer” built on a decentralized network, has been approved on the Apple App Store.
The Damus team confirmed the approval to its 11,500 Twitter followers on Jan. 31, following what it claims were at least three rejections from the Big Tech player.
Shortly after, Twitter co-founder and Nostr contributor Jack Dorsey shared the news with his 6.5 million followers, with the entrepreneur labeling it as a “milestone” moment for open-source protocols.
The app dubs itself the “social network you control” and is a messaging service built on Nostr — a decentralized network enabling encrypted end-to-end private messaging, among other things.
It plans to become a social media platform with uncensored content. It also has built-in payments through the Bitcoin layer-2 Lightning Network, accordingto a Jan. 27 post from Protos.
No servers run the network. Instead, Nostr utilizes decentralized relays to distribute messages.
Nostr developers are also focused on using Bitcoin and the Lightning Network to prevent distributed denial-of-service spam attacks on the Damus app.
There have been 44 different software developers who have contributed to the code for the Damus web app, according to the team’s GitHub page.
Getting Damus on the Apple App Store didn’t come without issues though.
The Damus Twitter page posted that it had failed in at least three attempts before finally being approved:
We replied again clarifying where and how all these features are implemented. That's all we can do at this time... — Damus (@damusapp) January 31, 2023
One of Nostr’s core developers, William Casarin, also shared some frustration on his personal Twitter account, stating that it would be a “shame” if Apple users couldn’t use Nostr natively.
While the exact partnership between Dorsey and Nostr isn’t known, the billionaire entrepreneur sent over 14 BTC — worth about $250,000 at the time — in mid-December to help the Nostr developer team.
While the news appeared to have increased awareness of the application amongst the Bitcoin community, other high-profile figures have tested out the Damus app too.
Amongst those include Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden and pro-crypto U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis.
One of the cool things about Nostr ("Notes and other stuff transmitted by relays", a new decentralized protocol that replaces things like Twitter and Instagram)—beyond censorship resistance—is that you aren't limited to 280 characters.
Find me there. — Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 23, 2023
At the time of writing, the Damus web app has run into problems. A warning message on the site homepage reads:
“Damus Web is down because there is someone trying to exploit browser loopholes to steal private keys. I would not recommend using a web client at this time. Damus iOS is not affected.”
This Daily Dose was brought to you by Cointelegraph.