Fraudsters used a fake Holly Willoughby advert to scam an unsuspecting member of the public out of £370,000, as the television host topped the list of celebrities used by online scammers

The This Morning presenter was falsely quoted on an advert that appeared on Facebook, which claimed both Ms Willoughby and co-host Philip Schofield had made a huge return on a £200 cryptocurrency investment. One victim lost £370,000 over several payments to the scammer, who convinced them to keep sending money over a number of months. 

The report by high street bank NatWest found scammers had also used the face of consumer champion Martin Lewis to lure people into bogus cryptocurrency schemes. One victim lost £317,000 to a fake advert featuring Mr Lewis promoting a “Bitcoin evolution”. 

Other popular television personalities were used to lure victims into online scams, including television host Piers Morgan, Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden and billionaire Sir Richard Branson.

Ms Willoughby also ranked at the top of the list in 2021, when an investment scam using her name cost its victim £266,000. The highest value fraud was 40pc higher this year. 

A spokesman for NatWest said fraudsters continued to impersonate Ms Willoughby because of her reputation for trustworthiness, and that This Morning’s audience likely included many pensioners who had money spare to invest. 

Stuart Skinner, of NatWest, warned investment adverts with celebrity endorsements should be met with extreme caution. “In knowing that criminals are exploiting the images of celebrities we can all take steps to protect ourselves. If you have seen an ad promising large profit, high rates of return or offering to help you invest in cryptocurrency, this is likely to be a scam – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” 

The bank found cryptocurrency scams with fake celebrity endorsements were becoming increasingly common, with seven of its largest fraud cases involving digital currencies. 

The cryptocurrency market has collapsed this year, with Bitcoin losing more than 50pc of its value. These digital currencies are not regulated investments in Britain, which means that there is no protection from industry regulators. There is no suggestion any of the celebrities are connected to the scams.