A genuine-looking phishing scam involving Holly Willoughby and cryptocurrency has once again been circulating online, this time featuring a police officer. The scam, which has been in existence for a few years, involves the popular This Morning presenter.
It features false claims she invested in a digital payment system, typically Bitcoin, live on air with a celebrity guest with Northamptonshire Police sharing a post on their Facebook page to warn local residents.
Original versions of the scheme seem to suggest Holly was amazed by just how quickly her guest earned a large amount of cryptocurrency in such a short space of time.
The celebrities claimed to have been on the show – and therefore used to bolster the scam campaign – include Russell Brand, Jeremy Clarkson, Lord Alan Sugar, Gordon Ramsey and Money Supermarket Expert, Martin Lewis.
None of these celebrities has ever been on the show in conjunction with cryptocurrency gains and they have all publicly distanced themselves from the scam, as have Holly and her co-presenter Phillip Schofield.
Each celebrity has had their image superimposed onto a still image by the scammers, which made it appear as though they were actually on the show chatting with Holly.
The original photograph used in the scam is from a genuine interview with equally innocent Akshay Phillips, Britain’s youngest self-made millionaire.
The “guests” supposedly earn a significant amount of money in minutes, and Holly is falsely quoted as saying: “I’ve heard about many Bitcoin success stories over the past few years but it was always too complicated for me to understand.”, suggesting that it’s now really simple to use.
Holly’s “claim” that it’s now perhaps easier to make money than it once was – combined with the genuine-looking imagery and the endorsement from the celebrity – has resulted in many people falling victim to the scam.
The phishing trick becomes successful when the reader, intrigued by how much money they could earn, clicks to watch the video that does not exist.
The link takes the user to a phishing site which collates the data from the device they used to view it, including the phone number if viewed on a mobile.
One user the Cyber Resilience Centre for the East Midlands spoke to was bombarded with phone calls from Bitcoin brokers after she had clicked on the link.
They said: “I clicked on a link that said Gordon Ramsey had made a large amount of money in minutes, live on This Morning. The image looked incredibly real.
“Since I clicked on it, I have received calls from America, Switzerland, Germany and Malaysia to name just a few places, with the person on the other end asking the same question every time: ‘So I understand you wish to invest in Bitcoin?’, which I do not”.
It’s believed the same fraudsters behind the celebrity scheme are now trying a different angle, with a police officer seemingly chatting to Holly about her success with the cryptocurrency.
The headline, supposedly from The Mirror, reads “Female police officer from (UK town) has revealed how she earns £18,000-a-month. People think I have a sugar daddy!” – but the URL is not the Daily Mirror’s own.
It is presented as a news story and claims that the police officer, Emma Davis, had challenged Holly to deposit money live on air.
It then says: “After she (Holly) deposited the initial £200, the algorithm started to buy Bitcoin and other currencies for cheap, selling them for a higher price very quickly. Within only seven minutes, Holly made a profit of £60.24.”
The scam is once again centred on convincing people that the chat happened live on national television, the media covered it and this time being a police officer was endorsing it.
However, a female police officer going by the name of Emma Davis has never appeared on This Morning. The scam has led police in North Yorkshire to issue a warning to residents after they became aware of the scam circulating on at least one local Facebook group.
Police believe it is directly linked to Bitcoin, and it is possible that once you click on the link it may download a virus onto your device or steal your bank details or other personal information.
A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “We would also ask that if you are an admin of a local Facebook group and have seen this scam then please delete it immediately.
“Please also ensure if you are sharing posts to local Facebook groups that they are genuine and are not likely to put other members at risk of being scammed.”
The scam has been reported in other areas of the UK, and this week the EMCRC were made aware of an article running on Google with an officer from Derbyshire Constabulary as a guest on the show.
You can report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to email@example.com. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).
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