A sad story comes from the UK where a vulnerable woman still grieving over the deaths of her mother and her fiance was scammed out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by a scammer posing as Fast & Furious actor Jason Statham. The scam victim was contacted through a Facebook fan page by the scammer posing as Statham. He then convinced her to continue their communications through WhatsApp. Over a short period of time, the scammer developed his relationship with his victim, convinced her that he loved her and then went in for the kill by asking her to wire him money because of costs incurred due to a delay in a movie he was making. It wasn’t until after she had lost a fortune that she realized she had been scammed and went to the police.
Posing as a famous person on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is quite simple to do and has proven to be quite lucrative for many scammers who are able to convince unsuspecting victims to rely on the phony accounts. I wrote last year about a Facebook scam involving Dwayne Johnson. The subject of the most phony celebrity accounts, according to a study by a company called Social Impostor is Brazilian soccer player Neymar with singer/actress Selena Gomez a close second. Social Impostor is a company which works to protect celebrities from misuse of their names on line. Setting up a social media account is easy to do for a scammer requiring merely a name, a photo and an email address, all of which can be done to make it appear that the account is that of the real celebrity when, in truth it is that of the scammer. Sometimes the scammer will add a middle initial or a slight misspelling of the name of the celebrity to avoid detection. There are even companies that for a few dollars will set up phony celebrity social media accounts for scammers. Despite the efforts of the various social media companies to try to stop this practice, it continues in great numbers. Facebook estimates that there are as many as 60 million phony Facebook accounts including hundreds of its founder Mark Zuckerberg. It tries to remove the accounts when it becomes aware of them, but they spring up soon again.
Last year a fan of country singer Chris Stapleton was scammed out of $800 when she sent him a message on what she thought was his Facebook account after seeing him in concert. In response to her message a running communication began on Facebook between the fan and the person she thought was Chris Stapleton. In the course of the online conversations, she confided that she was having health issues that were financially costly and she asked if he could help her. The phony Stapleton indicated he would be willing to help, but that first she had to send him gift card numbers for him to make a donation to an orphanage. She complied with his directions and ended up being scammed out of $500 before realizing the Facebook account was a scam and she had not been communicating with the real Chris Stapleton.
Facebook has a blue verification badge program that helps people know that a celebrity Facebook page is authentic. The real Chris Stapleton’s Facebook account carried the blue check verification badge which is used by public figures and media organizations to indicate that Facebook has verified the account as legitimate. Many of the Facebook and other social media scams involve, as did the Dwayne Johnson Facebook scam about which I wrote last month, getting something for nothing. Whenever you see one of these free giveaways appear in social media be a little skeptical and don’t provide any personal information. Certainly don’t give away any credit card information and don’t click on unverified links.You should never trust a social media account of a celebrity or anyone for that matter that promises to give you something for nothing. No celebrity is giving gifts to total strangers, not even Oprah Winfrey, whose generosity is well known and whose name was used to perpetrate these scams, as well. Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.
As for Facebook accounts of celebrities always look for the blue check verification.
If you are contacted in the manner of the scammed British woman, who law enforcement haven’t named, you should always confirm the identity of anyone with whom you communicate on line and be very skeptical of someone who quickly falls in love with you and soon thereafter asks for money.
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