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Celebrity investment scams surge, with victims losing up to £370,000

The fake adverts are most commonly found on social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.

Fake cryptocurrency ads are the most popular type of scams that use images of celebrities to endorse false money-making schemes - with scams featuring Holly Willoughby, Philip Schofield and Martin Lewis resulting in the biggest losses.

This is according to the annual NatWest Celeb Scam Super League, which details the biggest fraud cases featuring celebrity impersonations.

The scams, which offer you the opportunity to make money by investing in fake schemes, are exploiting victims amid the cost of living crisis.

Scams featuring images of Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield topped the league with one victim losing over £370,000 to a cryptocurrency investment scam which impersonated the celebs. The victim first spotted the fake opportunity through a Facebook ad.

This is an increase of nearly 40% on last year’s highest value celebrity investment scam, which saw a victim lose £266,000. This scam also featured Holly Willoughby.

Other celebrities included in the league table are Deborah Meaden, Sir Richard Branson, Piers Morgan and Gordon Ramsay.

None of these celebrities have any involvement in the scams, but their images and reputations are being abused by fraudsters.

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What are cryptocurrency scams?

NatWest reported that the top seven highest-value scam cases all involved cryptocurrency investments

This type of investment isn't regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the same way as other investments, and therefore your money isn’t protected by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) should something go wrong. 

A scam using an image of Martin Lewis resulted in the second biggest scam loss. His image featured in a Bitcoin scam that saw someone lose £317,000.

A current scam doing the rounds also features an image of Martin Lewis alongside images of people with cheques on a Facebook ad, as pictured below.

Scam Facebook advert impersonating Martin Lewis
Scam Facebook advert impersonating Martin Lewis

The advert invites you to learn more about a Lewis-backed money-making scheme.

When the link is clicked on, you are redirected to a fake BBC article that discusses a scam program by Lewis called ‘Bitcoin Code’ and invited to sign up.

Scam BBC article promoting a fake Martin Lewis Bitcoin scheme
Scam BBC article promoting a fake Martin Lewis Bitcoin scheme

But it's all a lie. Martin Lewis has stated multiple times that he doesn't do adverts - and even has the words 'I don't do ads' in the picture on his official Twitter account. So, if you see an advert that suggests otherwise, it's highly likely to be a scam. 

What to do if you spot a celebrity scam

These scams commonly start by luring victims through adverts on social media. 

Which? has previously investigated how scams are promoted in fake ads and found an abundance of adverts promoting phoney investment opportunities, fake products and tax rebates.

NatWest discovered that Instagram was the predominant platform used to publish fake adverts, fellow social media platforms Facebook and Snapchat not far behind.

If you think you've spotted a scam online, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has a tool that you can use to report misleading or scam online ads.

On Instagram and Facebook, you can report scam ads by clicking on the top right-hand corner of the ad and selecting 'Report ad'. To report a story on Snapchat, press and hold the Snap and tap 'Report Snap.’

As these scams take place on large tech platforms, it's important that they implement measures to protect you from scam ads, which is why Which? is campaigning to make tech giants take responsibility.