Martin Lewis and Sir Richard Branson’s names most used by scammers

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Martin Lewis and Sir Richard Branson are the celebrities whose names are used most in fake endorsement scams, a report has found.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) removed more than 730,000 websites running the tricks in 2020.

Mr Lewis, founder of the website Money Saving Expert, said the whole issue sickened him.

Experts at the cyber-agency, which is part of intelligence agency GCHQ, say it’s a growing problem.

What are fake endorsement scams?

Criminals create fake news articles claiming that celebrities are backing new investment schemes.

The articles are spread through mass email campaigns, SMS texts, or adverts on social media.

They come with a link to websites which encourage victims to invest in the unscrupulous programmes.

Although the theme of these attacks is often cryptocurrency, the template can be used to promote any type of fake investment opportunity.

“Makes me feel nauseous”

Mr Lewis said: ‘It’s the worst flattery I’ve ever had. These thieves and con artists leach off the reputation for trust I’ve built up by trying to help and protect consumers, in order to try and steal money off vulnerable people.

‘The concept makes me feel nauseous. We must step up our fight to stop these scams which destroy millions of people’s finances and mental health.’

The news comes from the NCSC’s annual Active Cyber Defence report which outlines the actions the agency took to prevent fraud, scams and cyber-attacks.

The NCSC says it began taking action against the websites in April 2020, and by the end of the calendar year it had taken down 286,322 separate campaigns across 731,080 URLs.

The cyber-agency says the relatively new scams are a global issue.

UK victims see curated content with recognisable British figures, but if you were to view the same article from France, the content served would probably appear as an article in a fake French newspaper featuring a celebrity from the country.

“Really convincing”

Ian Levy, the NCSC’s technical director, said Mr Lewis and Mr Branson made up “a decent chunk” of all the celebrity endorsement scams they discovered.

“They’re really convincing and it’s no surprise that people fall for them. Criminals use both newspaper brands and celebrities combined to make these articles look really good,” he said.

“Martin Lewis and Sir Richard Branson are used because they are famous and because they are related to money. It must be horrible for them.”

Mr Lewis is urging the government to reverse its decision not to include scams in the future Online Safety Bill, which is expected to be in the Queen’s Speech this week.


advert for fake online shop


In 2019 Mr Lewis agreed to drop legal action against Facebook for allowing his name and photo to be used in fake adverts on the platform.

In return, Facebook agreed to donate £3m to set up an anti-scam programme.

Elsewhere in the NCSC’s report, it says it carried out a 15-fold increase in campaign takedowns in total.

The agency it took action against nearly 1.5 million web addresses from fake shops to phishing sites pretending to be government services.

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