A “worrying” surge in reports about cryptocurrency scams which falsely claim to be endorsed by celebrities is being seen by a major bank.
On average, people lost £11,872 to this type of scam in the first quarter of this year, Santander UK said.
Based on the current growth in these frauds, Santander UK is expecting to see an 87% increase in volume of cases in 2022, compared with 2021.
Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management, Santander UK, said: “We’re seeing a worrying rise in ‘celebrity-endorsed’ cryptocurrency scams, where familiar faces are being misused on social media in order to con people out of often life-changing sums of money.
“Rather than revelling in the promised high returns, people are losing significant sums after being duped by these highly sophisticated criminals.
“Always do your homework and thoroughly research any investment opportunity before moving any money – irrespective of who is endorsing it.”
Scams may involve people seeing a celebrity appearing to be advertising cryptocurrency online, or they may be introduced via another social media user to a crypto “investment opportunity”, which appears to be endorsed by someone famous.
The customer clicks on a link and shares their contact details to find out more.
They are then contacted by phone, email or social media, and offered high returns with “little or no risk”. Fraudsters often use high-pressure sales tactics.
They are told to download specialist software to support them opening cryptocurrency accounts. The software is remote access software, giving the fraudster full access to the customer’s computer.
The customer opens cryptocurrency accounts and deposits money in them.
The fraudster then freezes access, and takes over the customer’s account, leaving the victim unable to access their money.
Santander said anyone who has been the victim of a crypto scam should report it to their bank immediately.
If they have downloaded software to supposedly help with the investment, they should turn off and unplug their computer and not use it until they have removed the software and had it checked by a computer technician.
The bank is reminding people that just because an investment relating to cryptocurrency appears to be endorsed by a celebrity, this does not mean it is a genuine endorsement or a legitimate investment.
It said people should avoid uninvited investment offers, whether made on social media or over the phone.
They should also use the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) website to look up the company and check they are a legitimate registered firm, not unregistered, or a clone or fake.
The FCA has ScamSmart – www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart – an online tool to help people identify whether an investment is a scam.