Tony and Eloisa Johnson, of Paulsgrove, have lost £45,000 through a manipulative fraud which used the likeness of well-renowned financial expert Martin Lewis. Eloisa saw a Facebook advert on March 9 that promised to multiple any investments through trading Bitcoin.
The intensive care nurse at Queen Alexandra Hospital was directed to a website where she partially filled out a registration form, but had second thoughts. A man then rang the 45-year-old and persuaded her to go ahead.
She told The News:‘I asked if it was legitimate and he said yes because “as you can see, it is affiliated with Martin Lewis”. I trusted them and they had lots of good comments from people saying they doubled or tripled their money.’
A fake trading profile was then set up for Eloisa after the form was completed. She was then bombarded with phone calls from purported financial advisors – saying they would teach her how to trade cryptocurrency.
Eloisa deposited an initial £180 and a £4 registration fee, but the nefariousness of the ploy soon became clear. She said: ‘Every time they called me, it was always through withheld or unknown numbers.
‘Whenever I tried to ring the number they gave me, it wouldn’t connect, and there were no replies to my emails. It was just a show. It wasn’t real.’
Eloisa said to the fraudsters that she was no longer interested in investing after speaking to her husband, but they began to start speaking to her menacingly – so much so that at their request she downloaded apps Anydesk, Revolut and Quicksupport on her phone out of fear the criminals would go to their house.
Because of these apps – which are usually used for perfectly legal practices such as remote IT support and financial management – the scammers could see all of Eloisa’s activities on her phone and WiFi network, including her bank details.
‘They knew all of the money that’s going in and out of my account,’ she added. ‘They kept threatening me and saying they knew where I lived. I was left crying and shaking.’
Loans were taken out in Eloisa’s name using her details, with separate payments also being made to them directly. Tony, a part-time cleaner and former car salesman, said whole thing has been ‘traumatic’ for the couple.
The 57-year-old said: ‘It’s been a really bad time. She thought it was a legit thing. Next thing, we get a phone from someone she thought was legit, but it was a scam, and they’ve basically cleared us out.
‘They took out two loans in my wife’s name, with the loan companies saying she is liable even though she didn’t fill out the forms or see the terms and conditions.’
The couple’s costs, including mortgage payments, are mounting. They are also facing calls and letters from the loan companies after their bank, Barclays, blocked those direct debits.
I initially knew nothing about the scam itself,’ he added. ‘I only heard about it when it all went pear-shaped.
‘They were calling her constantly when I was at work, getting right inside her head, and it’s caused all this. I think more people need to know about it.’
Tony said he reported the advert to Facebook. He added that the tech giant refused to remove them, saying it met their terms and conditions. ‘It’s a scam,’ he said, ‘those adverts should be taken down straight away.’
The couple issued a complaint about the loan companies through the ombudsman in a bid to freeze the payments. They also reported the incident to Action Fraud.
Tony said the financial stress is intense and that he is not confident at all about getting the money back. He added: ‘It’s just pressure, pressure, pressure. From the way that everyone is dealing with it, we are just going to have to pay it all back. We just have to lose.’
Martin Lewis is a well respected financial journalist who offers consumer rights and money-saving methods to millions on TV and through his MoneySavingExpert website. His likeness has been used to legitimise frauds in a whole host of manipulative schemes.
He told MPs in November 2022 that he was ‘very disappointed’ that scam adverts were still appearing on Facebook since a legal settlement with the social media giant in 2019 which forced them to set up a scam prevent project and reporting tool.
Deputy editor Gareth Shaw, for Martin Lewis’ website, told The Sun: ‘Sadly, this is similar to scams we’ve been seeing for years. Please know – and spread the word if you can – that neither MoneySavingExpert nor Martin Lewis ever endorse products or investments. Here at MSE, we find it so frustrating and disheartening that many scammers get away with it.’
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, confirmed it had received Tony and Eloisa’s case on April 21.
‘it is currently being assessed by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) at the City of London Police,’ she added. Reports to Action Fraud take up to four to six weeks to be assessed.
The victim will then be informed of the next appropriate steps to take, and if the case is passed on to the police. The NFIB analyse reports for possible lines of enquiry and immediate disruption opportunities.
Tony said he hopes that by telling their story, no one else will fall for the same devious trick. He said: ‘Just don’t click on it. Be aware that it isn’t Martin Lewis. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’