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The ATO has warned SMSF trustees about potential scams and losses in crypto asset investments.

It stated crypto scams are one of the ways losses have occurred, where trustees were conned into investing their superannuation benefits in a fake crypto exchange.

Losses have also occurred via theft, where fraudsters hack into trustees’ crypto accounts and steal all their crypto, or collapsed crypto trading platforms, many of which were based overseas.

Lost passwords have also contributed to the losses, and can result in a trustee being locked out of their crypto account.

The regulator advised that trustees thinking of investing in crypto need to be aware of how crypto can be lost and how it can be avoided.

It said many crypto assets are not commonly considered to be financial products.

This means the platform where crypto is bought and sold may not be regulated by ASIC and traders may not be protected if the platform fails or is hacked.

Earlier this month the government announced it will require crypto exchanges to hold an AFSL issued by the corporate regulator.

More specific obligations on crypto traders will also be introduced, aimed at reducing the risks for investors while also supporting the growth of the digital asset sector.

The government said it plans to regulate at the level of the crypto exchanges, rather than specific “tokens”, under existing financial services laws.

According to the ATO, over $950 million is invested in crypto in Australia.

Regarding SMSFs investing in crypto, the tax rules specify that investors must have direct custody of those assets as shares or property.

However, evidence suggests that many SMSF trustees purchase the assets via online currency exchanges, and several major exchanges do not give custody to investors.

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