Celebrities including Dawn French, Robbie Williams and Holly Willoughby have signed a joint letter led by Martin Lewis urging the Prime Minister to crack down on scam adverts.
This Morning star Martin, 49, who has long campaigned against bogus ads using his face to lure users, wants tech giants to be held responsible under new laws, and for the government to put paid scam adverts in the upcoming Online Safety Bill.
Sir Richard Branson, Bear Grylls, Phillip Schofield, Lorraine Kelly, Davina McCall, Bradley Walsh, Rob Brydon, as well as Dragon’s Den stars Deborah Meaden, Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones, are also among the celebrities who have added their name to the letter to Boris Johnson.
Cause: Celebrities including Dawn French (above), Robbie Williams and Holly Willoughby have signed a joint letter led by Martin Lewis urging the Prime Minister to crack down on scam adverts
All of the stars have had their names and photos used in scam adverts online. In recent years This Morning host Holly’s name and likeness has been used to flog diet pills and for a cryptocurrency scam.
Dawn, 64, shared a photo of the letter signed by 14 celebrities, with the caption: ‘I’m joining @martinlewismse & 12 other folk like me that have had our names & faces used by criminal scammers in fraudulent ads – to call upon @borisjohnsonuk to regulate online scam ads in the Online Safety Bill #StopScamAds.’
The letter read: ‘The UK is facing an epidemic of scam adverts.
‘Every day, criminals are scamming innocent people out of life-changing amounts of money or risking their health by selling them fake health cures.
Targeted: Stars including the This Morning host (L) and the singer (R) have been used in scam ads
Letter: Dawn, 64, shared a photo of the letter signed by 14 celebrities
Anger: Back in June, The Vicar Of Dibley actress took to Twitter to hit back at a sham testimonial for a diet brand which used falsely attributed quotes from her
‘Consumers are being targeted on a scale we have never seen before.
‘One of the most common online scammers’ tricks is misusing the names and faces of well-known trusted public figures.’
While user-generated scams will be covered by the Online Safety Bill, as well as a wide range of areas such as terrorism and child sexual exploitation, paid scam advertising will not.
Hitting back: This Morning star Martin, 49, who has long campaigned against bogus ads using his face to lure users, wants tech giants to be held responsible under new laws
Fake! In 2019 Holly was a victim of a hoax news articles shared by the a page called Barbados Time linking back to another side called Exercise Tips in a bid to make the scam appear more genuine
Fraudulent: A Facebook user under the name Mister Flapjack used another counterfeit quote which read: ‘My mother was truly worried, even though I kept on telling he that this i actually good for me’
Made up: Another news article claimed that Holly had given a chat to ITV about her experience with the so-called diet pills, where they insist Holly admitted to being ‘image conscious’
Con: The advert, shared by Real Deal Fitness, saw an image of Holly giggling on This Morning, beside one of an angry Phillip Schofield
Martin has warned that the omission will make the problem worse, as paid advertising scams will be less regulated compared to free user generated fraud.
He told the PA news agency: ‘It isn’t for me to fix this problem, it isn’t for Richard Branson or for Robbie Williams or Deborah Meaden, we are having our names ripped off to rip off vulnerable people.
‘That’s why we have Government and regulators, and this is an unpunished crime that people can get away with with impunity and it has to stop.
‘People like Robbie, they care, in his case about his fans, that he doesn’t want them to be ripped off, because people trust him.’
Duo: Both Bear Grylls (L) and Lorraine Kelly have signed the letter
Stamp it out: Sir Richard Branson has also signed the letter to the PM
The MoneySavingExpert.com founder, along with Virgin founder Sir Richard and businesswoman Meaden are among some of the most-used faces in online fraud, according to Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
Sir Richard said: ‘We know there has been a sharp rise in scams since the start of the pandemic, and it’s deeply concerning that people may be tricked into parting with their money by someone pretending to be me.
‘This is a global issue, and we are doing all we can to unmask scammers, but we can only do this by working together and ensuring the public are protected from these terrifyingly deceptive tactics.’
Meaden added: ‘For too long, people have fallen victim to scams because they trusted that myself and others were behind these false ads.
‘It’s not enough for us to warn people through the press and media, something needs to be done to stop the ads appearing in the first place.
‘Online scam advertising must be regulated and it must be included in the Online Safety Bill.’
In October, Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries told MPs that she ‘would love to’ include paid-for scam advertising in the Bill, but was prevented from doing so on ‘legal advice’ received.
A Government spokesperson said a response to the letter will be issued ‘in due course’.
They said: ‘We have been clear that online fraud is a huge problem and the Government is continuing to explore additional legislative and non-legislative solutions to combat it.
Support: Phillip Schofield has also lent his support to the letter
‘We’re looking into the entire issue of online advertising including whether tougher regulation is needed.’
Back in June Dawn French called out a fake diet advert using her images and branded it as ‘b******s’ in an impassioned tweet.
The Vicar Of Dibley actress took to Twitter to hit back at the sham testimonial which used falsely attributed quotes from her.
It comes after Dawn slammed scammers in May using her image to flog ‘dangerous’ diet pills in social media ads following her 7.5st weight loss.
The actress shared a screenshot of the fake advert to her Twitter which she captioned with ‘Keto lies…’ and wrote ‘b****x’ over it.
The sham testimonial used two pictures of Dawn, claiming to be before and after, with falsely attributed quotes from her.
It read: ‘All I can say is that it works! I dropped a total of 6.4 stones in the course of five months! Beret the catch, with no exercise!
‘I wanted to see if it would do as they claimed it would if I did no exercise and to my surprise it did – Dawn French, 61.’
Dawn’s 517.4K followers were quick to react to the post as they praised the star for calling out the fake advert.
Dragon’s Den stars: Former Dragon Duncan Bannatyne (L) along with current stars Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones have signed
In 2019, Holly was been targeted by scammers who were using her images and fake promotional quotes to advertise their diet pills.
The presenter was chosen as the front-woman by a fraudulent account to promote the use of a product called Purefit Keto on Facebook.
Hoax news articles had been shared by the a page called Barbados Time linking back to another side called Exercise Tips in a bid to make the scam appear more genuine.
One article shared a picture of Holly smiling on This Morning alongside the headline ‘Is this still the same Holly that you used to know?, before suggesting that her family are worried about her used of diet pills.
However all of the sham articles were set up without Holly’s consent and many have even made up quotes regarding the use of fat-burning bills that she’s never tried.
A Facebook user under the name Mister Flapjack used another counterfeit quote which read: ‘My mother was truly worried, even though I kept on telling he that this i actually good for me.’
Another news article claimed that Holly had given a chat to ITV about her experience with the so-called diet pills, where they insist Holly admitted to being ‘image conscious’.
Quotes seen by the Mirror from the site, read: ‘When your life revolves around being on camera and on TV you always have to look good for the fans, the media, and for yourself.
‘I knew dropping my weight was going to be tough, but I knew there had to be an easy solution.
‘I did some research and stumbled upon Dr Christian talk about Purefit Keto on his show Embarrassing Bodies.
More quotes – which were never said by Holly – claimed that her agent was dumbfounded when they saw her new look when they first saw her following the ‘transformation’.
One fan was quick to call out the scam after a friend fell victim, they said: ‘According to ads on Google, Holly used Purefit Keto diet pills to lose weight. They offer too good to be true discounts.
Susanna Reid and Martin discussed the issue on Wednesday’s episode of Good Morning Britain,
He said: ‘Real star power. They have had their names and faces perverted! This is the job of regulators to sort out and they have gone missing.
‘The bill [Online Safety Bill] the government is going to put through power is going to promote more scam adverts. It’s outrageously frustrating.’
Susanna revealed her harrowing experience of a scam advert, saying: ‘My face is used to advertise bogus diet pills it’s absolute rubbish I don’t use diet pills
Household name: Davina McCall is one of the stars who have signed
‘People contact me saying they’ve bought them, and I think please please don’t buy them I have nothing to do with them.’
Martin responded: ‘Scammers brainwash people
‘To have my name and face used this way to steal money is devastating. It leaves me in tears.
‘It’s only my wish that Boris Johnson were as trusted as me today, and scammers were using his face to rip people off.
‘Lives are being destroyed in magnitude. The government is flaccid in what it’s doing to sort it out. The scammers are criminals. The government is being cowardly and not taking on big tech.
Duo: Bradley Walsh (L) and Rob Brydon have signed the letter