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Revealed: The top 20 celebrities used by scammers in online ads

Revealed: The top 20 celebrities used by scammers in online ads
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning
Posted:
10/07/2024
Updated:
10/07/2024

Martin Lewis and Taylor Swift have topped the list of celebrities used by scammers in adverts during 2022 and 2023, a survey reveals.

The well-known money expert is the most commonly used famous face, followed by Taylor Swift, Elon Musk and Adele, according to Action Fraud data.

A total of 165 public figures who have appeared in celebrity scam adverts online were produced following a MoneySavingExpert survey of over 800 respondents.

The main topics used by these fraudsters revolve around making money quickly and will often involve cryptocurrency, a ‘win-win’ investment opportunity or retirement planning.

With Martin Lewis fronting his own ITV show and hosting a popular segment about personal finance on This Morning, scammers have used his profile to endorse fake investment ads with doctored images and endorsements included in the advert.

One example says the presenter’s latest investment “surprises banking experts and scares big banks too”.

It is not just financial celebs featured in the list, as pop stars including Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Lewis Capaldi have been used to sell fake tickets to their gigs.

Indeed, Taylor Swift fans trying to bag a chance to see her highly sought-after Eras Tour have lost £1m to scammers since tickets went on sale, Lloyds Bank data revealed.

A commonplace where many scammers operate is on Facebook, where fake tickets for music and sporting events are sold on its Marketplace.

Social media is a ‘wild west’

Martin Lewis, the MoneySavingExpert founder described the social media platform as “a wild west” and said topping the list “is about the worst compliment I’ve ever had”.

Lewis said: “It’s likely that the criminals pumping out these scam ads effectively use their own in-house dark-web digital marketing teams, researching which celebrities and advert types get the best click-through rates, and honing the way they work to be able to attract more victims.

“Almost certainly they will be collecting data on each public figure’s power to draw people in and how many people respond to a celeb in an advert, then go through to part with the money.

“That’s why this top 20 matters. If someone is on this list, they’re likely tried and tested by scammers, and therefore will keep reappearing.”

Lewis added: “So, while it’s important to be wary of the potential for all online adverts to be a scam, especially those with celebrity figures – if it has one of these 20, you should double and treble check it’s legit via independent trusted sources before making any contact or commitment.

“And if it’s an ad with me in, it’s always a scam, as I don’t do adverts.”

‘True devastation is in human cost’

Last year, victims lost over £1.2bn to fraudsters and Mark Tierney, CEO of Stop Scams UK, has called for a cross-sector approach in the battle against fraudsters.

Tierney said: “While many of us admire our favourite celebrities, online scammers prey on exploiting that very trust.

“Criminals have become adept at using famous faces to peddle fabricated investment opportunities and unrealistic ‘get rich quick’ schemes, aimed at taking advantage of people’s trust and deceiving them into parting with their hard-earned money.”

“The headlines might focus on the staggering amount of money lost, but the true devastation lies in the human cost. People’s livelihoods can be shattered by these scams.”

Tierney added: “That’s why Stop Scams UK believes it’s crucial for the banking, technology, and telecommunications sectors to join forces with the Government and public and private organisations to develop technological solutions to stop these scams at their source and help protect the public.”

Below are the top 20 names to look out for if you see them connected to an ad on social media, courtesy of MoneySavingExpert.

The top 20 list in full

Public figure Total no. of scams featured in % of total mentions in scams
1. Martin Lewis 1,151 32.4%
2. Taylor Swift 771 21.7%
3. Elon Musk 492 13.9%
4. Adele 97 2.7%
5. Holly Willoughby 80 2.3%
6. Jeremy Clarkson 72 2%
7. Mark Zuckerberg 53 1.5%
8. Johnny Depp 41 1.2%
9. Keanu Reeves 41 1.2%
10. Ed Sheeran 40 1.1%
11. King Charles 32 0.9%
12. Peter Jones 32 0.9%
13. Phillip Schofield 32 0.9%
14. Richard Branson 29 0.8%
15. Rishi Sunak 28 0.8%
16. Rod Stewart 26 0.7%
17. Prince Harry 23 0.6%
18. Simon Cowell 23 0.6%
19. Lewis Capaldi 21 0.6%
20. James Martin 20 0.6%