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Martin Lewis scams: How to avoid being duped by fake adverts

With a woman recently losing £40,000 after falling for a fake Martin Lewis ad, here are some scams to look out for.

File photo dated 02/02/2023 of Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert, who has written to the Chancellor to call for April's planned rise in the energy price guarantee to be scrapped. The average bill is expected to rise from £2,500 to £3,000 but Mr Lewis, who founded the website MoneySavingExpert.com, has said it is no longer necessary because wholesale prices have
Martin Lewis's name, face and reuputation has been misued by scammers for years. (PA)

Fake adverts created by scammers using Martin Lewis's face without permission are rife on the internet, as one woman from Somerset found out the hard way after losing £40,000.

The victim, using the name of "Lisa" to protect her identity, told the BBC that she had invested in a cryptocurrency scam she believed was being promoted by the MoneySavingExpert.com founder.

She found the ad on Facebook, and with Lewis having such a solid reputation as a personal finance guru helping people through the cost-of-living crisis, seeing his face on the post gave her a sense of confidence.

Lisa initially decided to invest £200 in bitcoin, and was subsequently "groomed" by a scammer, who called her every day for two months, opening an Experian account on her behalf and taking out 11 loans in her name.

On one occasion, Lisa says £55,000 appeared in her account, which the fraudster demanded back. When she started asking questions, she says he became abusive and said the money would be lost if she didn't comply.

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The MoneySavingExpert website features on an iPad tablet device which rests on a wooden table beside a notepad (Editorial use only).
Neither MoneySavingExpert nor Lewis ever endorse or promote products. (PA)

Now, the victim has had no choice but to make an agreement with loan companies and will have to pay back more than £1,000 a month for the next five years.

Lewis has warned about scams using his image in recent years, including a "frightening" advert on Facebook showing an AI-generated deepfake version of him endorsing a fake Elon Musk endorsed investment scheme.

Here, Yahoo News UK takes a look at what fake Martin Lewis adverts are out there and how to spot them.

What Martin Lewis scams are there?

Scam adverts using Lewis's name, face and reputation have been spotted on a number of big platforms, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Quora.

One particularly convincing scam involves fake news articles with headlines such as "Martin Lewis lends a hand to British families with revolutionary Bitcoin Home Based Opportunity", or "Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis invests £500,000 in wealth-creation system".

Those two articles appeared on websites designed to impersonate MoneySavingExpert.com and BBC News.

The format and colour schemes look fairly convincing, but a closer look shows the writing style is very different, and the URL is not the same, but someone finding a link to one of the articles on Facebook could still be duped.

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Various fake adverts showing Lewis encouraging people to invest in cryptocurrencies have been put out over the years, and the scarily convincing deepfake video of Lewis released recently puts more people at risk of falling for them.

There have also been a number of fraudulent ads and impersonations of news websites claiming Lewis has discovered a "wealth loophole" that could "make you a millionaire within three or four months".

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Similarly, there have been several showing Lewis endorsing binary and auto-trading, all of which are fake.

MoneySavingExpert warns: "Of course, we can't tell you how to invest, but the Gambling Commission and City of London Police have both issued warnings about binary trading.

"Binary trading isn't regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, which means if things go wrong, you won't be able to seek help from the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme."

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Another common scam using Lewis's name and image involves fake news articles in which he encourages readers to download an app that "makes him £23,000 every month".

Energy suppliers who "may be genuine" have been "falsely trading off Martin's name" by plastering his image on Facebook ads, MoneySavingExpert says, warning that it has had several reports of them ripping off customers and carrying out shoddy work.

Life insurance companies, which may or may not be genuine, have also used Lewis's face and name for adverts on social media without his permission, along with PPI reclaiming companies and mortgage brokers.

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These scams have even been carried out offline, with door-to-door "salespeople" posing as staff from MoneySavingExpert and dropping Lewis's name in their pitches.

How to spot Martin Lewis scam adverts

One key thing to remember is that neither Martin Lewis nor MoneySavingExpert ever endorse products. They might mention a product or service on their site, but they'd never put their name to them or promote them.

MoneySavingExpert tells its readers: "Don't just take what these false advertisers say at face value," advising them to check on their website to see what it thinks about a particular subject.

Be sure to check the URL when you do visit the site to make sure it isn't a fraudulent copy. Consumer champion website Which? has also put out some more general advice on how to spot a fake ad.

1. Find out who posted it – Do your research. Has the ad been posted by a limited company with an address or contact details beyond a generic email, does the website look complete? If not, alarm bells should be ringing.

2. Look out for errors – It's best to stay clear of anything with unusual formatting, poor-quality or strange images, or spelling and grammar mistakes.

3. Preview the URL – You can check where a web link will take you without actually clicking on it by hovering over it with your mouse. Anything with a long jumble of letters or numbers is a red flag.

4. Be wary of big and bold claims – Anything with attention-grabbing claims about health or finance (like an app that will earn you thousands every week), should be approached with caution.

If you think you've spotted a fake advert, you can complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. Some platforms including Google and Facebook have their own internal channels for reporting scams.

After Lewis settled a defamation claim with Facebook in 2019 over fake ads using his image, the social media giant agreed to make changes to the way it operates, including the introduction of a "report ad" button.

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