A SHOCKING crimewave is flooding social media – with celebs plugging scams where Brits are conned out of thousands of pounds of their hard-earned cash.
Celebs including Joey Essex, Katie Price, Carl Woods, Chloe Ferrry and Sophie Kaseai have all fallen prey to the lowlife scams, "mistakenly" plugging the dodgy schemes to their millions of followers.
A raft of other celebs and influencers have also been called out for promoting rogue traders.
The bizarre ripoffs usually play out with the "scammer" approaching a celebrity for endorsement.
The celeb then takes to Instagram to plug it, usually referring to the scammer as a friend, promising their followers they can either make them money, should invest or purchase a service.
In some cases it has resulted in fans being conned out of thousands.
It come as a parliamentary committee urged MPs to introduce measures in which online fraud should be treated as seriously as terrorism as part of the forthcoming Online Safety Bill.
And an expert has now called for influencers to "consider their moral and ethical duty to their followers".
Social media expert Alfie Green, founder of We Are Monty, told The Sun: "It's a classic story ofa lack of accountability from talent all the way up to their agents.
"There's a running theme among reality stars and TV types calling a bluff of innocence when they're called out.
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"Agents will also play innocent and say that they have done some background checks, but remember – it is literally their job to protect their talent."
Alfie's comments come after a year of scandals.
In June, The Sun exclusively revealed how Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry, 25, Helen Briggs, also 25, from Ex on the Beach, and Towie’s Myles Barnett, 27, were paid to promote a dodgy financial scheme that is similar to bankruptcy.
But the ads have been banned by watchdogs, with the Advertising Standards Agency ruling they were misleading and not clearly labelled.
Then in July, two Geordie Shore fans lost over £1,000 after plugging cash into a ForEx scheme MTV star Sophie Kasaei promoted.
Pals Clare Radford, 32, and Jade Swift, 27, said they were lured into a false sense of security after 32-year-old Sophie told followers on Instagram the scammer was "well-known" in the Forein Exchange industry.
She told her two million followers: "She can help you earn money from home no matter what you need to do."
The scam is almost identical to the one plugged by Katie Price, who encouraged her followers to invest in a “friend” of hers called Josh Chandler.
Katie Price’s team said the TV personality had no idea it was a scam and that she too had been deceived after one her fans lost almost all of her £1,140-a-month salary.
It is understood around five other of Pricey's loyal followers were also tricked into parting with cash.
Then in October Joey Essex claimed he had been duped after the 31-year-old, ex-Radio 1 DJ Charlie Sloth, 40, and Love Island star Belle Hassan, 23 attended a launch party for, and promoted, EATS Coin – part of a company pegged to rival Uber Eats.
FANS DUPED OUT OF THOUSANDS
But the company mysteriously vanished without a trace after it is believed £500,000 was invested into the "coin", which was linked to supposed food delivery app CryptoEats.
Joey told The Sun: “I’m fuming. This company used my name to dupe lots of people into investing money. It’s disgusting and I feel bad for anybody in that situation."
And most recently, Katie Price's husband Carl Woods was caught out promoting another rogue ForEx trader – with striking similarities to the one plugged by Katie and Sophie Kasaei.
When contacted by The Sun Carl's representative claimed that they undertook "due diligence" when vetting which businesses he promotes.
And earlier this year, The Times reported ex-Love Islanders Belle Hassan, 23, and Kendall Rae Knight, 29, were among a raft of Brit influencers who had been promoting gambling on their feeds, with scores of teenage followers.
But social media expert Alfie has branded the string of scams "bizarre," suggesting influencers could have been handed cash or freebies in exchange to promote the scams.
He said: "It does seem odd when management allow talent to take part in these rogue and quite cowboys schemes, which are not regulated and have a high level of risk."
Alfie said it is "absolutely" fair to assume B-listers plugging these dodgy schemes have been paid to do so, adding: "The options would usually be an upfront payment, a percentage of profit from an affiliate link or it could be as simple as paying them £10,000 to do the post."
The social media insider said: "They're all looking for that next way to build that brand and, at the end of the day, fill their pockets."
He explained how followers and fans of the influencers can become extra vulnerable to the schemes because "while it may seem like a scam, why would their favourite account be scamming them?"
And Alfie warned more regulation is needed.
Instagram DMs are the new door-to-door scammers
He said: "Previously, people would come door to door but now they email you.
"Instagram, DMs have become the new version of that, and people put so much trust into an account of someone that they've never met – it's an element of catfishing."
Which? say the best way to spot a social media scam is if it's too good to be true.
The consumer website also encourages users to inspect the URL to see if it matches the page, check your timeline for other similar looking schemes and, if possible, contact the company directly.
A spokesperson warned scammers "are trying to exploit the credibility of social media advertising, understanding that you’ve grown used to seeing and trusting offers from genuine advertisers on social media".
And Adam French, Consumer Rights Expert at Which?, told The Sun: "From fake delivery texts to social media adverts for fraudulent investments with bogus celebrity endorsements, scams have been rampant this year.
"We know that many scams start online via paid-for ads on sites that many of us use daily, yet time and again big tech firms have failed to prevent fake content from appearing on our screens.
"The government has a chance to crack down and make tech giants take greater responsibility for removing fraudulent content, via its Online Safety Bill – and it should take it."
A spokesperson for Meta, which operates Instagram, said: "Scammers use multiple methods both online and offline to exploit people, including fake phone calls and text messages, phishing emails and online scam ads.
"We are dedicating significant resources to tackling this industry-wide issue on and off our platform and work to detect and reject scams on our services.
"We have also donated £3 million to Citizens Advice to deliver a UK Scam Action Programme to both raise awareness of online scams and help victims."
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