The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are among a string of celebrities being misused in fake investment adverts on social media.
The faces of Prince Harry and Meghan have been seen promoting schemes relating to bitcoin (BTC-USD) to attract investors. The fraudsters also misused images of wealthy entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Sir Richard Branson.
The fake endorsements have also included made-up interviews, according to Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The watchdog said it was increasingly worried about scam advertisements, which have been seen using the logos of news brands such as the BBC, the Guardian, Forbes, the Daily Mail, the Sun, and Good Morning Britain.
One fake headline was: “Harry and Meghan shocked everyone in the studio by revealing how they making an extra £128,000 ($174,388) every month.”
It falsely claimed that the pair backed investment schemes related to bitcoin and cryptocurrency trading.
Watch: What is bitcoin?
It comes as the number of consumers reporting possible scams to the watchdog has risen by more than 400% over the last five years.
Last year alone there were more than 34,000 reports from consumers with suspicions about possibly fraudulent investment offers, the FCA said, while this figure was just 8,000 in 2016.
“People should be very wary when they see investment ads offering high returns, even if they appear to be endorsed by celebrities,” a spokesperson for the financial services regulator said.
It continued to warn on get-rich-quick scams being advertised through social media or search engines, and said consumers should be aware of whether or not a company is regulated in the UK.
“If it isn’t, you are very unlikely to have any protection if things go wrong,” they added.
According to the latest data from Action Fraud, in the financial year between April 2020 and March 2021, there were 500 investment frauds found using fake celebrity endorsements, with losses of over £10m.
Matthew Upton, Citizens Advice director of policy, said “consequences can be truly devastating”.
“These schemes are becoming ever-more sophisticated and can leave people feeling incredibly vulnerable and isolated – to the point where they can’t even tell their family and friends what has happened.