Skip to main content

Congress presses big crypto exchanges for details on how they’re fighting scams

Congress presses big crypto exchanges for details on how they’re fighting scams


Pointed questions for Coinbase, Binance.US, FTX, Kraken, and KuCoin

Share this story

Illustration of the Coinbase wordmark on a teal, blue, and black background with circular patterns.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Congress wants to know what Coinbase, Binance.US, FTX, Kraken, and KuCoin are doing to address scams related to cryptocurrency. In separate letters sent to each crypto exchange, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform expresses concern over “the rapid growth of fraud and consumer abuse,” as well as the “lack of action by cryptocurrency exchanges to protect consumers conducting transactions.”

The committee’s letters cite data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) indicating that over 46,000 people in the US lost a combined $1 billion due to crypto scams since the start of 2021, with individuals losing $2,600 on average. Investment and romance scams have been particularly lucrative for bad actors, who collected about $575 million and $185 million from either scheme, respectively.

Concerns about fraudulent listings aren’t unfounded

Additionally, the letters also call attention to issues related to fraudulent listings that scammers use to conduct “rug pulls,” or the act of hyping up a coin to increase its value, only to shut down the project and make off with the assets themselves. Lawmakers say some exchanges “allow digital assets to be listed with little or no vetting,” which prevents exchanges from finding potential vulnerabilities and puts users at risk of theft.

Legislators have reasons to be concerned about fraudulent listings. Coinbase is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over whether it allowed users to trade unregistered securities. This particular investigation is separate from the case that charges a former Coinbase employee with wire fraud. The former employee involved in the case allegedly tipped off his brother and friend about upcoming listing announcements on the exchange, which is typically when a token increases in value.

The government’s scrutiny against crypto has only increased amidst a crypto crash that has sent the value of stablecoins plummeting, bankrupted crypto companies, and triggered mass layoffs. In July, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that they’re cracking down on crypto scammers in some form. Each agency opened cases against different fraudsters, all of whom managed to get away with millions or billions of dollars.

The committee is asking FTX, Binance, Coinbase, KuCoin, and Kraken to provide documentation related to their efforts to prevent scams, perform audits, investigate fraudulent listings, and more. The companies must submit the documents by September 12th, 2022. In addition to the exchanges, the committee also asked the Department of the Treasury, the FTC, the CFTC, and the SEC how they plan to address scams.