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Data phishing hacking online scam illustration, with laptop and envelope hook.

Celebrity online scams

When browsing the web, it seems all too easy nowadays to stumble across online scams, a dodgy website, malware, or a multitude of other risks. Especially when a deal is being endorsed by a seemingly trustworthy celebrity. However, this may not be the case as these deals are often scams set up by cybercriminals. The cybercriminals in question create fake posts or advertisements to convince innocent users that the product or investment scheme is being backed by a high-profile celebrity. 

What’s going on? 

 The BBC recently reported that based on statistics provided the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the two most commonly used identities in these scams were Martin Lewis, also known as ‘the money saving expert’, and Sir Richard Branson, a famously successful British entrepreneur. These scams seem to have unsurprisingly increased in popularity over lockdown. With more and more people working from home, cybercriminals have been attempting to come up with more innovative ways to trick people online. In fact, the NCSC removed more than 730,000 websites running this sort of trick in 2020. Suggesting that whilst cybercriminals may be attempting different forms of attack, the NCSC is primed and ready to counter said attacks. 

These attacks can come in a variety of forms, one being simple phishing scams. This is when cybercriminals send emails or offers purporting to be from reputable companies or celebrities. People can often fall victim to these due to how professional they may seem. It is important to remember that not all online scams will look poorly made, and will often be indistinguishable from the real thing.

A further example of cybercriminals using celebrities for online attacks appeared in July 2020. A number of twitter accounts belonging to high profile celebrities seemed to offer out free cryptocurrency.

Hackers Took Over Obama, Bezos, Biden Twitter Accounts for Bitcoin Scam
Image source: businessinsider.com

The user was first required to send Bitcoin to the linked account with the promise of double in return. However this was not the case and the money was stolen. The hackers put out similar offers across other accounts such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Joe Biden. In total it was reported that the a total of $121,000 was stolen over the scam. Unfortunately due to anonymity of Bitcoin, it is unlikely to be returned to those suffered.

How can you prevent online scams?

Whilst there are a number of new online scams popping up every day, but there are things you can do to stay safe. 

If you receive an unexpected email from an address that you don’t recognise, stop and think. Take a moment and consider, would you be expecting such an email, if not – don’t open it. If you’re unsure however, take a look at the email address, they will often feature a company or brand name. Google this name, if it is a company you were expecting or would expect to hear from then open it, but if not, it’s probably best left unread. Find out more about preventing phishing scams in our guide.

Secondly, if you do open an email and believe it may be a scam then there is now a way to report it. Simply forward the email to report@phishing.gov.uk. This service was launched by the NCSC in April 2020, and by August that same year, they had received over 1.8 million reports from the public. This resulted in more than 16,800 URLs being blocked or taken down, more than half of which were linked to cryptocurrency investment scams.

Finally, online scams are not a new feature of digital life. There are ways to prevent scams from causing any damage with just the click of a button. Avira Free Security scans your device for any potential threats before they have the chance to cause you harm. This is a simple and free way to ensure you and your family stay safe online.

With cybercriminals using increasingly innovative ways to push their online scams, it is more important than ever to ensure you are remaining vigilant online. Be wary of trusting deals just because they carry a famous face. And ensure your devices and family stay safe with Avira Free Security.