For the last year multiple Facebook accounts have posted posts like the one reproduced below with a photo of comedian Ellen DeGeneres (not Ellen Degeeneress, as the scammers refer to her in the posts) promising to pay $750 to random winners. The scam’s goal is to get people to either provide personal information that will be used to make them victims of identity theft or to click on links that will download dangerous malware such as ransomware or keystroke logging malware that can lead to identity theft.
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. 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 as may have been the case with this particular Ellen DeGeneres scam. 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.
Facebook has a blue verification badge program that helps people know that a celebrity Facebook page is authentic. The blue check verification badge 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 this one does, getting something for nothing.
Whenever you see one of these free giveaways appear in social media remember my motto, “B.S. Be 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.
Never click on links or provide personal information in response to a social media post unless you have absolutely determined that it is legitimate.
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