The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre warns that websites advertising fraudulent investment schemes are on the rise.
Criminals are defrauding people into making fake investments using forged news stories promoting investment advice from celebrities, the public is being warned.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, a part of intelligence agency GCHQ, has announced it has foiled a growing number of these scams over the last four months.
More than 300,000 malicious URLs linking to investment schemes promoted with fake celebrity endorsements, including Sir Richard Bransom, Ed Sheeran and Martin Lewis, have been taken down during this period.
But the growing number of investment scams has caused the cyber security agency to issue a warning to the public, and to let the criminals know that they are being pursued.
The agency’s chief executive, Ciaran Martin, 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.
“I would urge the public to continue doing what they have been so brilliantly and forward anything they think doesn’t look right to our Suspicious Email Reporting Service.”
Earlier this year, Mr Lewis, the founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, settled his lawsuit against Facebook for running scam s featuring his name and image.
Mr Lewis, who was given an OBE in 2014, said he was aware of a woman who had lost £100,000 as a result of a bogus advert featuring his face and initially made the lawsuit to force Facebook to tackle the s.
Guy Parker, the chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said: “We support fully the NCSC’s work in tackling online scams and the importance of providing effective reporting tools for consumers to help identify and tackle fraudulent material.”
The City of London Police, which leads on cyber fraud activity such as investment scams – which cost the public over £197m in 2018 alone – is also issuing a warning.
Commander Clinton Blackburn 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.”
- If you fall victim to online fraud, you should contact your bank immediately and report it as a crime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland). If you are based in Scotland, you can report to Police Scotland by calling 101.