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“People really, really need to be on their guard”, warns Trading Standards scams expert

Posted on: 17 August 2023

Consumers’ champion, Martin Lewis, has had to repeat his advice for people not to engage with online adverts promoting investments.

The Money Saving Expert’s spokesperson reiterated: “Martin NEVER does adverts and never promotes investments. Anything you see suggesting otherwise is fraudulent and a scam.”

The rebuke was in response to a scam that left a Somerset resident £40,000 poorer.

Responding to a post that the resident had seen on Facebook, she became embroiled with a cryptocurrency investment scheme that she believed was backed by Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.

Instead, she was groomed by online scammers who took out several loans in her name. And when thousands of pounds appeared in her account, the scammer called her, demanding that she transfer the money to her online trading platform which was a scam.

The resident reported the incident to the Police, Citizens Advice Bureau, and to Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service.

“Cryptocurrency, bitcoin, and any type of investment scam is big at the moment,” says Janet Quinn, Trading Standards lead on scams.

“People are trying to find a way to make quick or easy money because of the cost of living crisis. And if they see something that is allegedly endorsed by a celebrity – and Martin Lewis is one of the most commonly used people because his face is so recognisable – people think, I want some of that.”

And it’s not just Martin Lewis. Other celebrity names, including Lord Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson and Deborah Meaden, have all have been used in scams to convince people to depart with their cash or to share sensitive information.

Janet says that people should be suspicious of schemes that promise quick wins.

“People really, really need to be on their guard. The best advice is to be really cynical and think everything is a scam. Always Take 5 to stop fraud.

“Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

“If anyone phones you, saying that they’re from your bank for example, try to assume that they’re not. In that case, end the call and phone the bank back, so that you know that you are actually speaking to your bank and not a criminal.

“It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.”

The experience has left our resident now having to repay the loans for the next five years.

She told BBC Radio Somerset:

“I’ve felt incredibly stupid and ashamed. I still don’t answer my phone to unknown numbers. I live in fear. They have my address. They have all my contact details. I’ve had to change all my passwords and my bank details because I don’t know what they’re capable of.”

In a statement to BBC Radio Somerset, Martin Lewis’s spokesman, gave this advice:

“If you see a post online, don’t engage with it, as it may be trying to trick you into handing over information. Instead, report it so that it can be taken down.”

If you suspect that you’ve been scammed, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. For help and advice on scams visit our webpage Scams, rogue traders and doorstep crime.