Investors warned over ‘celebrity-endorsed’ scams

Scammers are continuously attempting to lure people into making bogus investments with fake news articles promoting advice from celebrities.

But over the last four months, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has taken down over 300,000 malicious URLs linked to fake celebrity-endorsed investment schemes featuring famous faces such as Sir Richard Branson and Martin Lewis.

In January 2019, Lewis was involved with High Court proceedings in the UK with Facebook, where the company settled out of court to crack down on fake ads on its website.

Striking example

An increasing number of these investment scams, which come in the form of fake online news articles featuring the rich and famous, has prompted a warning from security experts.

Ciaran Martin, NCSC chief executive, 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.”

Stark warning

The NCSC is taking “unprecedented action” to remove these investment scams from the internet as part of its active cyber defence programme.

Some of the scams have also been detected thanks to reports from the public to the NCSC’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service (Sers), a system which has already received over 1.8 million reports from the public since its launch in April, resulting in more than 16,800 malicious URLs being blocked or taken down.

More than half of these URLs related to cryptocurrency investment scams.

Clinton Blackburn, commander at the City of London Police, said: “These figures provide a stark warning that people need to be wary of fake investments on online platforms.

“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.

“To those of you who might be tempted, remember not every investment opportunity is genuine. Criminals will do all they can to make their scams appear legitimate. It is vital you do your research and carry out the necessary checks to ensure that an investment you are considering is legitimate.”

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