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Crackdown on Crypto ATMs Sets UK Apart From Other Nations 

2 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • The UK's Financial Conduct Authority took part in raids in Exeter, Nottingham, and Sheffield on unauthorized crypto ATMs.
  • Authorities believe they are linked to organized crime and money laundering and discourage their use.
  • In contrast, the US has seen an explosive growth of a 652% in just over three years.
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The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is cracking down on the use of crypto ATMs, as evidenced by raids in three cities. However, other countries are taking a decidedly different approach. Even as some seek to link them to money laundering and stop their use, crypto ATMs are increasingly common in the United States and Australia.

The FCA has announced another crackdown on the country’s crypto ATMs. This week, it conducted raids in Exeter, Nottingham, and Sheffield. 

No Crypto ATMs Without FCA Approval

The UK prohibits the operation of crypto ATMs in the absence of formal FCA authorization. Officials link their use with organized crime. In this week’s enforcement action, local organized crime units in the area took part in the raids in a joint operation targeting unauthorized use.

Peter Highway, Economic Crime Unit Manager at the South West Regional Organized Crime Unit (SWROCU), said: “Criminals will use crypto ATMs to launder illegally obtained cash, so we were pleased to assist our colleagues at the FCA in targeting businesses in the region displaying these machines without authorization.”

The Head of Economic Crime at the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organized Crime Unit said they were a “key component in the facilitation of money laundering.” 

The FCA warned businesses last March that the unregistered use of crypto ATMs was illegal and would incur penalties. The regulatory body has published a list of financial companies suspected of operating illegally and unauthorized. They include those who operate crypto ATMs.

The UK’s regulators do not take a laissez-faire approach. As the FCA’s website reminds people, the authority requires almost all financial firms in the UK to be authorized or registered.

Following multiple crackdowns this year, the UK currently has only 16 ATMs, according to Coin ATM Radar.

The UK’s Different Approach

In its stance on crypto ATMs, the UK is in a very different place from other sophisticated economies and financial systems. Last month, Australia’s total number of crypto ATMs surpassed those in all of Asia, according to Coin ATM Radar.

Right now Australia has 398, or 1.2% of the global total. But North America is home to the overwhelming majority of machines, with 31,670, representing 93.2% of the total.

The United States is dominant, hosting 84.6% of the global total. By far the most machines are in US cities. Canada and Australia hold a distant second and third place.

In the United States, the number of crypto ATMs has exploded in recent years. The number of Bitcoin ATM machines was 4,212 in January 2020, representing a growth of 652% in just over three years.

But this does not mean that crypto ATM use in America is unregulated. The rules are rather strict. ATM vendors in the United States have to register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Machines in the country have a daily maximum withdrawal limit of $3,000.

Top crypto platforms in the US | February 2024

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Josh Adams
Josh is a reporter at BeInCrypto. He first worked as a journalist over a decade ago, initially covering music before moving into politics and current affairs. Josh first owned Bitcoin in 2014 and has followed the space ever since. He is particularly interested in Web3 adoption, policy and regulation, CBDCs, privacy, and the future of the metaverse.
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