The British public has been warned not to fall for investment scams seemingly endorsed by celebrities, after the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) revealed it had been forced to take down over 300,000 related URLs.
The GCHQ body has seen an alarming rise in such scams of late, claiming they usually take the form of emails or online ads which are spoofed to appear like news articles featuring household names like Richard Branson, Ed Sheeran and money expert Martin Lewis.
These emails and ads lure users to click through to hoax websites which claim the victim can make money fast, but in reality any funds they send end up in the pocket of the fraudsters.
The NCSC said it is taking action under its Active Cyber Defense program to takedown the malicious URLs and encouraged users to report anything fitting the bill to its recently launched Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS).
SERS has received 1.8 million reports from the public since its launch in April, resulting in over 16,800 malicious URLs being blocked or taken down. More than half of these URLs related to cryptocurrency investment scams.
“These investment scams are a striking example of the kind of methods cyber-criminals are now deploying to try to con people. We are exposing them today not only to raise public awareness but to show the criminals behind them that we know what they’re up to and are taking action to stop it,” said NCSC CEO, Ciaran Martin.
“I would urge the public to continue doing what they have been so brilliantly and forward anything they think doesn’t look right to our Suspicious Email Reporting Service.”
Commander Clinton Blackburn of the City of London police urged users to be cautious online and if they feel they’ve been a victim of fraud, to report it to the national reporting center, Action Fraud.
The news comes after a group of scammers managed to hijack the Twitter accounts of several big-name celebrities and politicians in July and use the exposure to publicize a cryptocurrency scam which is said to have made $100,000 before it was swiftly shut down.
The US has indicted three alleged perpetrators, one of whom lives in Bognor Regis in the UK.