Similar investment scams on Instagram have cost unsuspecting victims more than £3 million.
Scam artists are using fake news stories on social media featuring celebrities such as Holly Willoughby to trick unsuspecting people into signing up to “get rich quick” investment schemes.
The criminals are using photographs taken from Ms Willoughby interviewing Akshay Ruparelia, who became a millionaire after launching his online estate agent Doorstops.co.uk while still at school.
However, instead of the actual interview in which Mr Ruparelia talked about his business, the story explains how people can sign up to an online trading platform that does not actually exist.
Mark White, chief executive of scam avoidance service Reassura, says: "Scams like this are all the more shocking because of how well they are put together. Gone are the old days of sloppy fraudster spelling and grammar as well as slightly-off logos.
“The new scam sites look very authentic with sophisticated little touches such as the date updating and lots of social media comments. But however sophisticated the scam, they rarely beat the ‘if it's too good to be true, then it's a scam test’ which we all need to remember to avoid getting carried away and losing our money”.
How it works
Fraudsters are posting fake stories on Twitter about a This Morning broadcast stopping due to a production fault with photos of its presenters along with a link. See the screenshot below of a tweet found by Moneywise.
Once unsuspecting victims click this link they are then directed to a bogus news website designed to look like the the Mirror's website called “Major”.
To trick people, the fake news story uses pictures of Ms Willoughby interviewing teenage millionaire Akshay Ruparelia taken from an episode of This Morning from October 2017.
It explains (falsely) how Ms Willoughby made over £200 profit from an initial investment of £250 on a live trading platform in the space of three minutes.
Readers are then asked to sign up for a free account with a minimum deposit of £250, which they will never see again.
Online investment scams
There has been a spate of online “get rich quick” investment scams similar to this one in recent months.
Earlier this year, Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre, warned of a rise in fraudulent investment schemes on Instagram, which have cost users over £3 million.
The people most at risk are young people aged between 20 and 30 as they are the biggest users of social media.
Fraudsters typically try to entice victims with the promise of high returns within 24 hours.
Once the victims make payments via bank transfer to the fraudster’s bank account they are sent a screenshot showing their account thousands of pounds in credit with the profits they have made.
However, when the victims request to withdraw funds from the account the fraudsters stop contact and close the account.
How to protect yourself
You can often tell that a fake news website is an investment scam if it is a strange URL that you have never heard of before.
Another warning sign is that the social media account providing the link has practically no followers. See the one Moneywise found below that posted the original tweet:
Never respond to any requests to send money, or have money transferred into your account by someone you don’t know and trust.
These types of requests should always raise a red flag. If something feels wrong then it is usually right to question it.
Don’t immediately agree to any offer that involves an advance payment or having to sign a contract on the spot. Always speak with a friend or family member first.
Always check the credentials of any financial company on the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) website. Contact the preferred company directly and reject any offers made through unsolicited communications.
If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, you can report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
This article was first written and published by our sister magazine Moneywise.
This article was originally published in our sister magazine Money Observer, which ceased publication in August 2020.
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