Daytime TV presenter Holly Willoughby has been attributed the very unwelcome title of the celebrity whose profile is most likely to be used and abused by online scammers. The findings of a Nat West report into online investment fraud in 2021 make grim reading for those concerned about online fraud. Not least because of the ease with which scammers can exploit celebrity profiles to create fake social media posts and defraud their victims.
How Do Online Celebrity Scams Work?
The report details how one victim lost close to half a million pounds in an illegal scheme which started with a Facebook post relating to Willoughby. The false claim was that she and co-presenter Phillip Schofield had made a significant return on a £200 crypto investment. Once the scammers had their victim hooked, they exploited the situation for several months, and several payments later, the losses totalled £370,000.
Why Holly Willoughby?
Deconstructing the headline conclusion of the report, a spokesperson for Nat West offered an insight into the techniques used by fraudsters and why Willoughby’s profile was used so frequently by the crooks. He explained that Willoughby would have been ‘selected’ due to her on-screen reputation for trustworthiness and because her daytime television programme would have an audience of pensioners with spare money to invest.
There is no suggestion that Ms Willoughby or other celebrities are involved in what is turning into a thriving industry for criminals. Nor is it a ‘race’ that anyone would want to participate in, let alone win. But noting the other profiles often used by scammers sheds further light on the situation and possible ways for the public to protect themselves.
One of the other most widely used profiles is ironically the consumer champion Martin Lewis. One fake advert involving Martin Lewis was traced as the catalyst for an unsuspecting victim of crime losing £317,000 to scammers. The illegal use of Lewis’ profile highlights the brazen nature of the schemes, and things will likely get worse before they get better. The highest value fraud in 2021 was 40% greater than in 2020, which explains why criminals are incentivised to pull all the tricks they can to lure in their victims.
The increasingly sophisticated methods used by scammers expertly exploit the cross-over between mainstream and social media channels. It’s a challenge for anyone to navigate the situation safely and to remember the tried and tested ways of spotting fraud that are now more important than ever.
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