National Cyber Security Centre
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Celebrity scam alert as criminals use rich and famous to lure online victims

In just four months, the NCSC has removed over 300,00 URLs linking to investment scams with fake celebrity endorsements.

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  • National Cyber Security Centre warns of online scams promoting fake celebrity-endorsed investment opportunities
  • Follows an unprecedented effort to take down over 300,000 URLs linking to investment scams in just four months
  • Emails and online adverts driving traffic to spoofed news articles featuring the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Ed Sheeran and Martin Lewis
  • Public urged to continue reporting scam emails to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service

Scammers’ attempts to lure people into making bogus investments with fake news articles promoting manufactured investment advice from celebrities have been foiled by experts keeping the UK safe from cyber attacks.

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

An increasing number of these investment scams, which come in the form of mocked-up online news articles featuring the rich and famous, has prompted the recent warning from security experts (August 14th).

NCSC Chief Executive Officer Ciaran Martin recently 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.”

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, recently said:

“We have dealt with hundreds of instances of fake sites and fraudsters impersonating me or my team online. We are working in partnership with organisations such as NCSC to report these sites and do all we can to get them taken down as quickly as possible.

“Sadly, the scams are not going to disappear overnight, and I would urge everyone to be vigilant and always check for official website addresses and verified social media accounts.”

Emails and paid-for digital advertisements entice people to visit hoax websites which contain information about fake “get rich quick” schemes. They are then encouraged to click a link to invest, but the money is actually being sent to cyber criminals.

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 pioneering 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.

SERS is the first service of its kind anywhere in the world. To use it, people simply forward suspect emails to and if they are found to link to malicious content, it will be taken down or blocked, helping prevent future victims of crime.

Advertising Standards Authority Chief Executive Guy Parker recently 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 ASA is working alongside the NCSC and other organisations, including Action Fraud and the major online platforms, to boost these protections.

“Our new Scam Ad Alert system enables consumers to quickly and easily report paid-for online scam ads so we can work efficiently and effectively with ad networks and online publishers to remove obvious scam ads as quickly as possible.”

Working in partnership with the City of London Police, the NCSC is committed to protecting the public from cyber criminal activity like investment scams, which cost the public over £197 million in 2018 alone.

Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, recently 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 think you have been the victim of a fraud, make sure you report it to Action Fraud.”

Those who do fall victim to online fraud should contact their 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.

For more guidance on protecting yourself online, please visit Cyber Aware. Scam online adverts can be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority by filling out a simple form. Based on reports, the Advertising Standards Authority works with advertising networks and online publishers to remove scams as quickly as possible.


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