The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned online scammers are increasingly using celebrities such as the investors from Shark Tank in online scams exploiting established brands or names to peddle products, trials or schemes.
Fake online articles or advertisements purporting to represent trustworthy websites with fictitious quotes and doctored or out-of-context images are becoming more common, the ACCC said in a warning on Monday.
In one example provided by the consumer watchdog, a fake online article proclaimed “Shark Tank’s biggest deal ever” could make “you rich in seven days” in an attempt to lure in visitors.
Consumers are often asked to provide their credit card details in the process of signing up for trials or products, such as skin care creams, weight loss pills or investment schemes.
The ACCC’s Scamwatch website has received 200 reports of online celebrity scams so far in 2018, an increase of 400% over last year.
Other celebrities to have been used in the scams include Cate Blanchett, Kyle Sandilands, Meghan Markle and Lisa Wilkinson.
Losses have ballooned, increasing 3,800% over last year, with people aged 45 and older accounting for 63% of losses, according to the ACCC.
“The growth in these scams is very concerning, particularly as over half the reports we received included a financial loss,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.
“Most people lost between $100 and $500 and in one case, a victim lost more than $50,000 through fake celebrity endorsement of an investment scheme.”
Rickard said the fraudsters behind the scam are “organised and sophisticated”, and she called on tech giants Google and Facebook to crack down on dodgy advertisements or pages on their platforms.
“Most of the reports to Scamwatch involve these scam advertisements running on Google ad banners or as ads in Facebook’s news feeds. These tech giants must do more to quickly suspend ads, as every time consumers click on a scam ad, they are at risk of losing money,” Rickard said.
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