Martin Lewis is a British journalist, TV presenter and Ralph Nader-esque campaigner who has announced that he will sue Facebook for defamation. The consumer champion has seen his face co-opted by nefarious types who use his name (and brand) to sell cryptocurrency scams. These get-rich-quick ads are often posted on Facebook, and because the social network doesn't seem to have a handle on them, Lewis is taking the battle to court.
Lewis is the founder of MoneySavingExpert, a hugely influential UK site that advises people on the cheapest financial and commercial products. If you've ever read The Points Guy, then you've got a fair idea of what Lewis does, but with a focus on consumer credit and household bills. He regularly appears on Good Morning Britain, one of the UK's major morning shows and even has his own prime-time broadcast TV show. So, in the UK at least, he has cultivated a brand as an honest and serious champion of consumer rights.
Which explains why so many crypto scams have harnessed his likeness to "sell Bitcoin from home" and "Increase your income!" scams. Often, as in the example images seen here (taken from Lewis' own statement), the scammers mock-up fake news pages from BBC News and other reputable news outlets. You may not be fooled, but others have been, and Lewis says that one individual was duped into spending £100,000 ($140,000) on such scams.
Lewis isn't the only person to become an unwilling spokesperson for scam adverts; Richard Branson has suffered a similar fate. We have seen adverts posted online that feature an image of the Virgin Group billionaire that has been photoshopped to make him look bloody. When you click through, it directs you to a fake-CNN page advertising a way for people to get rich quick with cryptocurrencies or binary trading investments. It is not clear if Branson took his criticism further or sought to shut down fraudulent uses of his image in another way.
You may, of course, be wondering how these adverts reach the eyeballs of most folks, and it's mostly down to self-service ad platforms. Essentially, anyone with a credit card can sign up to buy ads on the social network and can target them to specific groups of people. Put very, very simply, you can upload an image, set a target demographic and a budget for how much you're prepared to spend. It probably isn't hard to use a platform to target, say, vulnerable folks with professional-looking adverts.