Holly Willoughby’s picture used by scammers to trick fans into sending money

This Morning and Dancing On Ice presenter Holly Willoughby’s image has been stolen by online scammers to trick unassuming fans into sending money

Holly Willoughby is the celebrity most exploited by fraudsters to scam fans. One was tricked into transferring £265,000 to crooks as part of a bogus investment swindle using the This Morning host’s image.

An ad appeared on Facebook linked to a fake AOL.com article that falsely featured Holly endorsing a crooked investment deal. Her co-presenter Phillip Schofield also features in a top 10 of stars unwittingly used by criminals to con cash.

One of his fans reported a £137,000 scam after being duped by a fake advert featuring the TV star.NatWest compiled a scam super league of the most exploited celebrities to alert customers not to fall for fraudulent endorsements.

A bank spokesman said investment scams often fraudulently used images of well-known stars to help create an impression of legitimacy and convince potential investors they are authentic.

“The celebrity will be unaware their image is being used and is also a victim in this type of crime,” the spokesman said.

“To further increase legitimacy fraudsters are placing adverts on social media sites and creating links to spoof media and newspaper websites with fake articles featuring celebrities endorsing an investment.

“Spoof emails are another means fraudsters are ripping off celebrity images and customers.”

The Financial Conduct Authority recently issued an alert after receiving reports of fake emails being sent by fraudsters exploiting Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis.

He has been vocal about his image being used on Facebook.

One bank customer was scammed out of £222,000 after being persuaded the investment was recommended by Lewis who was unaware his image was being used.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s image was used, unknowingly by him, to lure a football fan into investing £250,000 into a fake fund.

Others exploited stars include well-known business leaders such as Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones as well as Sir Richard Branson, Bear Grylls, Sir Alan Sugar, and Jeremy Clarkson.

NatWest’s head of fraud Jason Costain said: “Life-changing sums of money are being lost and we want to do everything we can to raise awareness and help not just our own customers, but everyone in the UK fights back against these criminals.

“You are now more likely to be a victim of fraud in the UK than any other crime.

“Criminals are increasingly using celebrity images to entice people into investment scams.”

The bank closely monitors online scams and is working with social media providers to have adverts taken down and rogue users blocked.