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Harry and Meghan used in impersonation scam ad

Written by: Emma Lunn
Fake endorsements from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are being used to promote cryptocurrency-related investment schemes on social media.

Photos and bogus interviews with the couple and other celebrities are being used to attract investors by dodgy companies running pyramid or Ponzi schemes and other scams.

One headline on a scam ad said: “Harry and Meghan shocked everyone in the studio by revealing how they are making an extra £128k a month”.

Other famous people who have been used in impersonation ads include Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg.

In 2021, there were more than 34,000 reports from consumers with suspicions about possibly fraudulent investment offers reported to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). In comparison in 2016, the figure stood at about 8,000.

Debbie Barton, financial crime prevention expert at Quilter, said: “Sadly, Harry and Meghan are being targeted because they are household names and can grab the attention of potentially millions of people. They are not the first to be impersonated and certainly won’t be the last. It is far too easy for scammers to steal the identity of a well-known celebrity, or impersonate the brand of a well-known financial services firm, host a website with a domain located outside the UK, and use a cheap advert to reach potentially thousands of unsuspecting individuals.

“Impersonation scams are rife online and on social media, and without government action they will simply get worse. We need the government to include paid-for advertising within the scope of the Online Safety Bill so that online content providers have a legal duty to remove these suspected scams.

“We are almost there, with the government saying recently that they’ve heard the message ‘loud and clear’. Now this particular case has emerged there really is no excuse not to act.”

How to avoid impersonation scammers

Check the FCA’s register

Whenever you consider an investment opportunity, you should check the FCA’s register to make sure you are dealing with a real financial services firm. An FCA registration number will be listed which you can use to verify that the firm is real.

Check the FCA’s warning list

The list is updated daily and provides a record of every clone firm scam identified so you can check whether there have been any cases of impersonation fraud with the firm in question.

Consider how you were contacted

If you have been contacted by phone, email or text out of the blue without even looking for an investment then it’s highly likely it is a scam.

Be wary of investment comparison sites

Be wary of sites that try to get your attention by using an advert on a search engine and that asks you to input your details. You have no control over where your details go, and to whom they are sold.

Be wary if there’s a celebrity endorsement

Scammers like to use trusted individuals such as Martin Lewis to catch people’s attention and give the perception that the investment is a no-brainer. More often than not these endorsements are completely fictitious.

Check for the little details

Look for any unexpected words in domain names, email addresses or in brochures. If you receive an email from someone, check exactly who it has come from. If it’s a scam, the email address may be filled with random numbers or be misspelled. There could be even more subtle additions, including words relating to finance or even one letter added or amended, which can be very easily missed.

If it’s too good to be true

It is said often, but if something looks too good to be true then it probably is. A rate of return considerably above the market rate with promises of guaranteed interest should set alarm bells ringing.

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