Conmen falsely claiming to be endorsed by Martin Lewis scammed £24k from a Nottinghamshire woman. The woman, who is in her 60s, told police she had clicked on an advert for a bitcoin investment scheme which appeared to be promoted by money expert and broadcaster Martin Lewis.
But the advert turned out to be a scam and was not endorsed by Mr Lewis. The personal finance guru has warned before that he never does adverts or promotion of investments.
After entering her details, she was immediately called by someone who said she would be put in touch with a financial advisor who would do the work for her. She was told there would be a £250 fee for the advisor’s work, which she paid.
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She then invested thousands of pounds and downloaded an app to see how much profit she was making. She later had the horrifying realisation that her balance was empty and she had actually been looking at the rates for various cryptocurrencies.
Her story was shared by Nottinghamshire Police, which said it had received dozens of reports of people falling victim to advance fee fraud recently. This is where scammers promise something valuable in return for paying money upfront, but then disappear leaving the victims thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Police said 41 cases were reported in July, which is significantly higher than in May and June, when 30 and 28 cases were reported respectively. In another fraud, an elderly couple paid £56,000 over a period of seven months, also believing they were investing in Bitcoin.
The couple said they had fallen for the scam because the person who called them had been “very polite and persuasive”. In a third case, a vulnerable woman was almost defrauded out of £70,000 before her bank stepped in and stopped the transaction.
Detective Sergeant Tara Clapperton, of Nottinghamshire Police’s fraud team, has urged people to think extremely carefully before investing in schemes advertised online. “Investment fraud is prevalent across the UK and is sadly destroying many lives,” she said.
“With the cost-of-living crisis still at the forefront of everyone’s minds, there is the potential that more people will fall victim to this devastating type of fraud as they try to find a way to get quick financial returns to help pay the bills. While criminals are now using social media to target people with fake investment opportunities, the ‘typical’ cold calling tactics also haven’t gone away, so we must not be complacent and remain alert to these types of approaches.
“If you’re contacted by anyone not known to you and unexpectedly asking you to invest or to send them money, you should treat it with caution. Don’t be pushed or rushed into anything you are not sure of and remember, if it is too good to be true, then it probably is.
“Always be on your guard and take time to do your research thoroughly before deciding to invest any amount of money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Follow the Take Five to Stop Fraud advice as it will help protect you and your money.”
Victims of fraud should report it to Action Fraud, which is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, online by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling on 0300 123 2040. Police say it is important to report all fraud-related incidents to Action Fraud to help build a national picture and help prevent others falling victim to scams.