Email phishing is a scam that has existed almost as long as the Internet and while many have become sensitized to the methods employed by these criminals, some still fall victim and the emergence of cryptocurrency created a new market for the criminals to exploit and in some cases, they have been successful. A prominent case was that of a man in the UK who lost 80 bitcoins through an email phishing scam and then took legal action against Coinbase.

It has been announced on September 10, 2019, that Coinbase has reached a settlement of an undisclosed amount with Liam Robertson, a British man who lost 80 bitcoins in an email phishing scam.

The History of the Case

The scam took place after the email account of the company being invested in by Robertson was compromised which led to the loss of the 80 tokens. 60 of those tokens were moved to a digital wallet that was owned by Coinbase with another 20 been sent to local exchanges. Robertson then got a bankers’ trust note which would help uncover the identity of the wallet holder and determine whether or not they were the ones who made the transfer.


An argument put forward by the lawyers for Robertson stated that this would help the victims of fraud and scam recover their earnings by classifying the crypto as a specific asset or sum of money. In July 2019, a UK court then ordered Coinbase to not distribute or disburse stolen funds which acted as a gateway to the UK recognizing bitcoin as property. 

In May 2019, a UK-lead jurisdiction task force began conducting research as to the status of cryptocurrency under UK law as it was determined that the uncertain definition of cryptocurrency and more specifically, whether it was considered an asset was a deterrent to potential investors. Thus far, the findings of the task force are not known. Also, while Coinbase has been able to settle this particular incident of misappropriation of cryptocurrency, hacks, scams, and stealing of the crypto is still a growing issue within the industry as it was estimated at $4.3 billion worth of cryptocurrency was stolen in 2018.

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