Fraud experts have revealed the growing list of celebrities whose images are being used in online scams. Thieves stole more than £750million via fraud in the first half of 2021, according to banking trade association UK Finance.
And they are increasingly impersonating well-known stars of sport, stage and screen to trick vulnerable victims into sending them cash. Chloe Roche, fraud team leader at CEL Solicitors, who have represented hundreds of people caught out by such scams, revealed committed celebrity fans are often targeted.
She said: “They are already engaged with the high-profile personalities they admire, and scammers try to foster a personal connection before asking for money. These people are master manipulators who often put hours, days and even months into nurturing each ‘relationship’.
“This can take the form of a so-called romance fraud, where vulnerable people are drawn into believing there is some sort of spark between them and their supposed idol. It’s one of the most common types of online scams and the number of cases is increasing at an incredible rate.
“The amount lost to romance scams – also known as ‘catfishing’ – soared from £9.3m in the first half of 2020 to £15.1m in the first six months of last year.”
The issue was brought into the spotlight by recent hit Netflix show The Tinder Swindler, which revealed how conman Simon Leviev duped several women out of a staggering £10m. CEL Solicitor’s Miss Roche added: “Sophisticated criminals set up accounts that mirror celebrities’ private profiles and wait until the relationship has developed before asking for or demanding money.
“We find victims are ashamed when they start to realise something is amiss, but are too embarrassed to tell friends or family and often continue falling prey to the scammers as a result.”
Here are some of the celebrities who’ve been used in impersonation scams:
The ‘Dance With Me Tonight’ hitmaker has been a popular subject for scammers, with his image used to swindle around £200,000 out of unsuspecting victims.
Women in two different countries were targeted by imposters who went to the lengths of forging the former X-Factor host’s driving licence to support a fake profile.
Sweary Brit chef Ramsay became a real-life nightmare for one America-based female, who was tricked into believing they were on the verge of moving to Los Angeles to start a new life together.
She shelled out around £800 to an imaginary estate agent before wising up to the ruse.
Another kitchen-based heartthrob had to post a warning to his social media followers about cruel impersonators.
Great British Bake-Off judge Paul Hollywood told fans to beware after impersonators offered personal messages and even raunchy snaps of the apron-wearing Adonis.
But it was too late for one admirer, who was reported to have parted with £4,700 thanks to a fake profile.
This Morning favourite Holly became the unwitting face of a cryptocurrency scam last year, when bogus financiers used her face and false quotes to lure investors through fraudulent websites.
Under the headline “Brexit Millionaire”, articles promised hefty instant profits by investing in cryptocurrency.
The ‘I Kissed a Girl’ popstrel is an obvious celebrity for scammers to use, due to her glamorous image and devoted followers.
That didn’t stop one man in the United States falling victim to an imposter who made him believe they were in a relationship for six years.
But rather than the American Idol host, he was in fact in contact with a woman from Gloucester.
Controversial US actor Cage was impersonated by a fraudster who conned a British woman out of around £10,000.
She believed spurious claims that the Oscar winner needed money to pay his tax bill and also that he was flying to the UK to meet up.
Even old rocker Bruce has been impersonated for the purposes of a sophisticated online scam.
Faking ‘The Boss’, the fraudster claimed he was separating from his wife Patti Scialfa and needed some financial assistance with legal fees.
But one victim was left Dancing in the Dark after parting with £9,000 over several weeks.