Fraudsters use fake celebrity recommendations to lure in victims

Warning over investment scams ‘endorsed by stars’: Fraudsters use fake recommendations from celebrities including Ed Sheeran and Holly Willoughby to lure in victims

  • Con artists are using fake celebrity endorsements to promote investment scams 
  • Fraudsters are using fabricated quotes from Dragons’ Den stars to dupe victims
  • Reports of investment scams soared by 45 per cent over coronavirus lockdown 

Fraudsters are using fake endorsements from celebrities including Ed Sheeran and Sir Richard Branson to promote thousands of investment scams.

The con artists bombard victims with emails and online advertisements for supposed get-rich-quick schemes. 

These include links to what look like genuine news articles featuring photographs and made-up testimonials from the rich and famous.

Victims are then encouraged to click another link to invest, but their money is sent to cyber criminals. Many relate to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency scams.

Fraudsters are using fake endorsements from celebrities including Ed Sheeran and Sir Richard Branson to promote thousands of investment scams

Fraudsters are using fake endorsements from celebrities including Ed Sheeran and Sir Richard Branson to promote thousands of investment scams

The con artists bombard victims with emails and online advertisements for supposed get-rich-quick schemes

The con artists bombard victims with emails and online advertisements for supposed get-rich-quick schemes

As well as singer-songwriter Sheeran and entrepreneur Sir Richard, other well known names including This Morning hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield and Moneysavingexpert’s Martin Lewis have been used in this type of scam. 

Fabricated quotes from Dragons’ Den stars are also often used by fraudsters to dupe victims into handing over money.

The National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, said it has taken down more than 300,000 malicious links to bogus investment opportunities in the past four months alone.

It has also received more than 1.8million reports of suspicious emails from the public since launching a new alert system in April – resulting in more than 16,800 links being blocked or taken down.

Fraudsters are using fake endorsements from celebrities including Ed Sheeran and Sir Richard Branson to promote thousands of investment scams

Fraudsters are using fake endorsements from celebrities including Ed Sheeran and Sir Richard Branson to promote thousands of investment scams

Reports of investment scams soared by 45 per cent over lockdown, with 1,600 cases recorded in June, reports Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. 

These scams cost victims more than £197million in 2018, with savers losing an average of £29,000 according to the Financial Conduct Authority watchdog.

Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the NCSC, said: ‘These investment scams are a striking example of the kind of methods cyber criminals are now deploying to try to con people.

‘We are exposing them today not only to raise public awareness but to show the criminals behind them that we know what they’re up to and are taking action to stop it.’

As well as singer-songwriter Sheeran and entrepreneur Sir Richard, other well known names including This Morning hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield (above) and Moneysavingexpert’s Martin Lewis have been used in this type of scam

As well as singer-songwriter Sheeran and entrepreneur Sir Richard, other well known names including This Morning hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield (above) and Moneysavingexpert’s Martin Lewis have been used in this type of scam

Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, said: ‘Celebrity endorsements are just one way criminals can promote bogus schemes online.

‘People should not be fooled by images of luxury items such as expensive watches and cars, and posts on social media showing extravagant lifestyles, which are often used to persuade you to invest.’

As savers desperately seek a decent return amidst rock-bottom interest rates, another increasingly common tactic is for crooks to pose as genuine investment companies.

Hoax news articles had been shared by a page called Barbados Time linking back to another site called Exercise Tips, featuring a picture of Holly Willoughby in a bid to make the scam appear more genuine

Hoax news articles had been shared by a page called Barbados Time linking back to another site called Exercise Tips, featuring a picture of Holly Willoughby in a bid to make the scam appear more genuine

Fraudulent: A Facebook user under the name Mister Flapjack used another counterfeit quote which read: 'My mother was truly worried, even though I kept on telling he that this i actually good for me'

Fraudulent: A Facebook user under the name Mister Flapjack used another counterfeit quote which read: ‘My mother was truly worried, even though I kept on telling he that this i actually good for me’

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, said: ‘We have dealt with hundreds of instances of fake sites and fraudsters impersonating me or my team online.

‘We are working with organisations such as NCSC to do all we can to get these sites taken down as quickly as possible. Sadly, the scams are not going to disappear overnight.’

In 2018, consumer champion Mr Lewis launched a lawsuit against Facebook after more than 1,000 scam advertisements using his name or image appeared on the site.

He dropped the case after the social network agreed to create a reporting tool and donate £3million to Citizens Advice for an anti-scam project.

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