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Celebrity scams: how to avoid scammers pretending to be celebrities

Over the last few years, there has been a surge in online celebrity scams

This uptick initially gained a lot of traction during the pandemic when people were stuck inside their homes and had more time to start investing but were exposed increasingly to online scams. 

While there has been a drive to increase awareness around common tactics by scammers, millions still fall victim to them.

Summary

  • Over 70% of UK adults, around 40 million people, have been targeted by scams

  • There are a number of ways to help you falling victim to a celebrity scam

  • If you believe you have been scammed, contact your bank and Action Fraud

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Millions of adults lose money to scams  

Over 70% of UK adults, around 40 million people, have been targeted by scams, with 19 million losing money, according to the National Trading Standards. The average amount lost was £1,730.  

While there are many ways that you can be scammed, one significant way is by scammers impersonating celebrities to promote fake money-making schemes.  

Here, scammers try to encourage people to invest in fake investments and products by pretending to be a celebrity.

Alternatively, scammers may also claim a celeb endorses their fake product to add authenticity to their claims. 

It’s important to stress that the celebrities being impersonated have no involvement as their image is being used without their knowledge. 

In this article, we’ll reveal some impersonated celebrities and what you can do to avoid these scams.  

Which celebrity scams result in the biggest losses? 

NatWest has an annual ‘Celebrity Scam Super League’ that reveals some celebrities that fraudsters have impersonated and is ranked by the amount of money lost by scam victims:   

Celeb impersonated 

The amount lost by scam victims 

Peter Jones 

Over £285,000 

Sir David Attenborough 

£275,000 

Piers Morgan 

£232,000 

Jeff Bezos 

£158,000 

Martin Lewis 

£149,000 

Elon Musk 

£42,000 

Bradley Walsh 

£10,000 

Over £285,000 was lost via a promotional article that included an interview with Dragon’s Den star Peter Jones, but this was a fake news piece. 

People were also targeted on X (formerly known as Twitter) by an advert of Sir David Attenborough that made a fake claim that he makes £125,000 a month from investments related to gold, natural gas and oil.  

Other effective scams involved investment opportunities allegedly endorsed by celebrities.  

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How do you avoid celebrity scams? 

As scammers target people via fake advertisements, news articles, endorsements, emails and even social media accounts, it’s worth being sceptical of anything that appears too good to be true.  

Here is what to consider:  

  • Look at what’s being promoted: If a ‘get rich quickly’ scheme via the likes of cryptocurrency, trading or sending money is being promoted, it’s likely a scam. While any investment involves some risk, cryptocurrency is very high risk and can result in huge financial losses.  

  • Do your research: A good way to avoid scams is to do your research on any schemes or products to find out how they actually work and what the risks are.  

  • Look at the username and bio: Are there lots of numbers in the username? Is the bio poorly written or suspicious? The impersonated celebrity may have an official account, so also question why there’s a second account – even if they claim it’s to interact with fans.  

  • Be wary of verified accounts: Following changes by X (formerly Twitter), people can pay for blue or gold ticks, and some scammers pay for these ticks or even hijack accounts to promote fake investments. 

  • Does it make sense? One of the above scams claims that Sir David Attenborough makes money from gold, natural gas and oil – but this doesn’t match up with Attenborough’s green-friendly credentials. Also, some celebrities actively state they don’t use social media. 

  • Don’t click on any links in suspicious content: If you don’t think something is legitimate, don’t click on any links or respond.  

  • Check the web address: If you have clicked on an ad, look at the web address – is it the official site? There are slight changes in spelling or errors that’ll be a red flag that it’s a scam. 

  • Talk to other people: Sometimes, talking to friends or family can expose a scam, as they may spot red flags or point out how unlikely it is that a celebrity will promote something in particular or offer to send you money.  

What should I do if I suspect a scam? 

If you suspect a scam, don’t click on any links and report it. 

If you believe you have been scammed, contact your bank and Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, as soon as possible. 

The quicker you act, the more chance your bank has to help you and attempt to recover any lost funds.  

How can I invest if I’m not confident with money? 

A good way to start your investment journey is to get financial advice. 

Unbiased can quickly connect you with a financial adviser who can look at your circumstances and money goals to build the right investment portfolio for you, so your money works as hard as you do.  

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About the author
Lisa-Marie Voneshen is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of experience writing and editing content across various areas, including personal finance and investing.