Fake 'Martin Lewis' scam ads firm shut down in court – but victims lost £1.5m
A scam online cryptocurrency trading company which falsely claimed it was endorsed by MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis, and others, has been wound up – but only after it lost almost £1.5 million of its victims' funds.
GPay Ltd, which traded as XtraderFX and formerly as Cryptopoint, targeted people in the UK and abroad, advertising its services online and via social media channels. Customers were encouraged to use its trading platform through advertisements that falsely claimed the service was supported or endorsed by Martin and other entrepreneurs.
The Insolvency Service said the firm was wound up on 23 June 2020. Following complaints, investigators found that at least 108 people claimed they had lost just under £1.5 million in total while using the company's online trading platform. In some cases, the firm's customers lost money despite paying insurance which was meant to retrospectively cover their losses.
MSE founder Martin Lewis said: "I don't know whether to dance a jig that these despicable scum have been shut down, or cry that they managed to take so many people's money. I've been fighting scam ads with my face on for four years now – sadly 1,000s have appeared. It's always been tough to get at the actual scammers, which is why I sued Facebook to try and cut off their publicity.
"Of course this isn't going to stop scams. It's just one company of many out there doing similar things, duping people into parting with cash under false promises, and leeching off the reputation of trusted people to do it. I certainly never do any adverts or endorsements (barring for charities), so all those with me in them are false.
"And as online advertising is a Wild West, I'd beware any advert with a well-known face endorsing a slightly offbeat product. Go and do a search first to check it's legit. Remember though, these ads often appear on legit sites, even broadsheet newspaper sites, so you need to ensure it's the content you're looking at, not the ad bars."
See how to spot Fake Martin Lewis ads for full info.
'This was nothing but a scam'
The Insolvency Service found that when people tried to remove funds from their accounts, they were advised that no withdrawals could be made until they submitted copies of their photo ID, a utility bill and a debit or credit card. This level of information was not asked for by GPay when they accepted deposits. Customers also reported that withdrawals would be declined if they hadn't actively traded the deposited funds.
GPay did not defend the public interest petition put to the High Court. In winding up the company, the court concluded GPay had showed a lack of commercial probity, failed to file statutory accounts and had no legitimate presence at its registered office address, which it appeared to have abandoned.
David Hill, a chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: "GPay persuaded customers to part with substantial sums of money to invest in cryptocurrency trading. This was nothing but a scam, as GPay tricked their clients to use their online platform under false pretences and no customer has benefited as their investments have been lost.
"We welcome the court's decision to wind up GPay as it will protect anyone else becoming a victim. This scam should also serve as a warning to anyone who conducts trading online that they should carry out appropriate checks before they invest any money that the company is registered and regulated by the appropriate authorities."
What to do if you spot a scam ad
If you spot a fraudulent ad, you can report it via the Advertising Standards Authority's new scam ads reporting tool. If it features Martin or MSE, please also let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and remember to include a screenshot where possible.
If you've been taken in by one of the many false ads out there, you're sadly not the first and you are not alone. Here's what to do:
- If you've already responded to a scam, end all further communication immediately.
- Call your bank directly and cancel any recurring payments.
- Report the scam to the police through Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or report a scam anonymously on its website.
- If you need further advice, contact Citizens Advice Scams Action through its website, or call its online scams helpline on 0300 330 3003. Alternatively, contact the Financial Conduct Authority's helpline on 0800 111 6768.