Consumer-focused UK bank NatWest is putting a limit on the amount of money customers can transfer to cryptocurrency exchanges in a move that shows deteriorating relationships between digital asset firms and financial institutions.
Users of the bank will be limited to payments of 1,000 British pounds ($1,218) per day and 5,000 British pounds ($6,090) over a 30-day period to cryptocurrency exchanges, NatWest said in a recent blog post.
The bank cited fraud and scam risks as being the reason behind the decision. "NatWest is increasing customer protection against crypto-criminals after £329m was lost by consumers last year," the bank said.
Specifically, NatWest claimed men over 35 are most at risk as they are willing to take on risky investments. The bank said promises of high returns also entice users to invest in crypto Ponzi schemes.
"We have seen an increase in the number of scams using cryptocurrency exchanges and we are acting to protect our customers," Stuart Skinner, Head of Fraud Protection NatWest, said in a comment.
In fact, the crypto industry lost approximately $4 billion worth of digital assets to hacks, fraud, scams, and rug pulls last year, according to a report by Web3 bug bounty platform Immunefi. However, the report said frauds, scams, and rug pulls comprised only 4.4% of the total losses.
Major banks worldwide have been falling out of favor with the crypto sector in recent months. In the UK, HSBC and Nationwide Building Society implemented restrictions on their customers' ability to purchase cryptocurrencies earlier this month.
Other major UK institutions that have placed restrictions on crypto-related businesses over the past few years include Banco Santander SA, Lloyds Banking Group Plc, and Natwest Group Plc.
Regulators worldwide, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), have consistently cautioned banks against facilitating crypto purchases due to the perceived risks that cryptoassets may pose to the traditional financial system.
Paysafe Halts Payments to Binance
In a separate announcement, Paysafe, an online payments provider, said it would wind down services to UK customers of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange.
This has forced Binance to halt deposits and withdrawals in British pounds for new customers, while existing customers have until May 22 to transact in the currency.
“We have concluded that the UK regulatory environment in relation to crypto is too challenging to offer this service at this time and so this is a prudent decision on our part taken in an abundance of caution,” Paysafe said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Binance has been under increasing scrutiny in the US as of late. As reported, earlier this month, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) asked Binance and its US partner Binance.US to provide detailed information regarding their business operations amid accusations of illegal practices.
Furthermore, Binance has been under investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) since 2018. The investigation is reportedly focused on money laundering conspiracy, unlicensed money transmission, and criminal sanctions violations.