The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) from the UK has removed more than 300,000 URLs linked to ‘quick-get-rich’ frauds that used fake articles from personalities to trick people into sending money to cybercriminals.
The use of fake articles and quotes from famous people to send a bogus product is not new. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, but with an online twist in this situation. Instead of trying to con people into buying a fake product that will never arrive, cybercriminals tried to convince people to send them money directly, under the guise of real investments.
Such frauds are not uncommon, and it would have remained under the radar if not for the sheer size of the campaign. With more than 300,000 URLs blocked by the NCSC, it’s one of the most extensive operations of its kind.
“Over the last four months, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has taken down over 300,000 malicious URLs linking to fake celebrity-endorsed investment schemes featuring famous faces such as Sir Richard Branson and Martin Lewis,” says the NCSC advisory. “An increasing number of these investment scams, which come in the form of mocked-up online news articles featuring the rich and famous, has prompted the warning from security experts.”
Earlier this year, NCSC set up a new program called Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS), allowing people to send reports of suspicious online activity. Law enforcement agencies have already dismantled quite a few of these operations using the public’s reports.
Unfortunately, the NCSC can’t do much about the people behind these operations. They likely don’t operate from the UK or any place within the reach of European law enforcement, which means the campaign is likely to surface again.
People need to wary of any messages that promise quick investment returns, or that ask them for money or even for credentials. Of course, it always helps to have a security solution installed on the mobile device or PC.