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Beware of Celebrities Endorsing Investment Schemes:
Thousands Lost to Fake Adverts

APP Fraud

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis is just one of many famous faces used to lure in victims.

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A hyper-realistic yet incredibly fake video of celebrity consumer champion Martin Lewis recently did the rounds on social media and drew attention to the increasingly sophisticated and technological tactics scammers use to lure victims.

The video, accompanied by an advert on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram (both owned by Meta), featured computer-generated footage mimicking both Mr Lewis’ face and voice. The advert was seemingly of the presenter endorsing an app associated with Tesla and X (formerly Twitter) owner, Elon Musk. The entire video was, in fact, an incredibly convincing ‘deepfake’ in which artificial intelligence (AI) is used to create realistic images, videos, and audio based on real subjects.

This video advert is not the first time Martin Lewis’ image has been used without his permission to promote products and services such as cryptocurrency, binary and auto trading, insurance products, and PPI reclaim services; however, it is a stark reminder that scammers are using sophisticated technology to target, and ultimately defraud, unsuspecting victims.

In recent months, victims have lost tens of thousands of pounds to fake schemes using Martin Lewis – or the Money Saving Expert – in their marketing:

  • One victim lost £25,000 that she had earmarked for her son’s wedding after seeing an ad reportedly showing Martin and This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby discussing a cryptocurrency opportunity.
  • Another lost £100,000 after seeing a savings account deal with ‘Credit Suisse’ on a fake Money Saving Expert website – the site and the account were fraudulent.
  • An elderly couple lost their life savings (£80,000) after seeing a fake Martin Lewis advert for a Bitcoin scheme.

Mr Lewis and Money Saving Expert have repeatedly stated that they will ‘never endorse products…[they] don’t put [their] name or logo to ANYTHING’.

We recently listed our top four red flags that would-be investors should look out for when researching investment opportunities, and one of them was any scheme using celebrity endorsements.

Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, reported that between March 2020 and April 2021, it received “over 500 investment fraud reports which referred to a bogus celebrity endorsement”, with losses topping £10m.

While Martin Lewis’ title of ‘consumer champion’ makes him a popular subject for these fake endorsements, other celebrities, including Gareth Southgate, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, have seen their likenesses used to tout fake crypto schemes without actually having any connection to the investments.

While it is not impossible that celebrities would endorse these products, it is unlikely, so celebrity backing should not be the only basis for choosing an investment product or service. Interested investors should also look for other hallmarks to help them make the right investment decision.

Treating celebrity endorsements with caution is one way to protect yourself and your money from cryptocurrency scammers. Other steps you can take include:

  • Keep login details and personal information private; never allow another person to access this information or open accounts or crypto wallets in your name, even if they claim to be a legitimate broker.
  • Beware of elaborate marketing tactics; this is a hallmark of a scam. Genuine cryptocurrency investment opportunities are unlikely to push themselves as aggressively as the scammers do.
  • Always take time to carry out due diligence and research the opportunity thoroughly; an honest broker will understand if you are cautious, while a scammer will keep pushing.
  • Be realistic about what you can afford to invest, and don’t let anyone else convince you to keep spending; the value of investments can go up or down.
  • Speak to an adviser regulated by the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – spending a little money initially to save your finances in the long term could be a shrewd investment!
  • Use the FCA’s Warning List to check if the firm you’re dealing with is on their radar as one to avoid and double-check the firm’s contact details on the FCA website.
  • Don’t date and invest – a common cryptocurrency scam tactic is to befriend and form a ‘relationship’ with a victim via online dating apps or social media, also known as a romance scam. Don’t let someone you’ve never met tell you what to do with your money.

Familiarise yourself with our list of cryptocurrency scam red flags, and always enter into any investment with caution.

If you have invested – and lost money – due to a cryptocurrency scam with fake celebrity endorsement, the first thing you should do is report it to your bank, the police and Action Fraud.

Often, these types of scams involve a kind of cybercrime called Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud, where victims are convinced to send money to a scammer’s account for what they believe to be legitimate purposes, e.g., investing in cryptocurrency. The scammer often moves the money onto another account before the victim even realises what has happened.

Banks in the UK have a duty of care to provide safeguards and procedures to prevent fraud from happening in the first place, including:

  • security questions
  • monitoring accounts
  • blocking suspicious transactions

If your bank refuses to award compensation following their investigation of a cryptocurrency APP scam, and you believe they have not upheld their duties, you can have your case independently investigated by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). FOS is a government-backed, independent body that investigates and resolves disputes between financial institutions, such as banks, and their consumers.

Sarah Spruce, head of Professional Negligence at TLW Solicitors, commented:

“Martin Lewis’ is a trusted name in the UK for consumer affairs and financial health advice, so when individuals see him reportedly backing a service or product, they are immediately open to it. Unfortunately, scammers have quickly learnt to manipulate this trust, and the consequences are devastating; we have had clients come to us having lost tens of thousands of pounds due to similar celebrity endorsements.

There is light at the end of the tunnel; if you used a UK bank account for any transactions during the fraud, you may be entitled to compensation from your bank, and my team can help make a ‘no win, no fee’ refund claim.”

If you, a friend, family member or colleague have invested and lost money to an APP scam because of a fake celebrity endorsement, get in touch to see if we can help.

We have years of experience dealing with FOS – we understand the timescales, processes, challenges and intricacies involved in these cases. Our sophisticated case management systems mean you will always be kept up to date with the progress of your case and we can keep the momentum going with your claim.

We work on a no-win, no-fee basis, so contact us for a no-obligation, confidential conversation about your case. Call us on 0800 169 5925, email info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk or fill out one of the forms below.

Getting advice as soon as possible is essential as strict time limits can apply.

Minimum case values apply.

Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Authorised Push Payment Fraud Claims team.

Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.

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