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.
To combat this scam Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have all set up verification programs that provide for verification that the account is a legitimate one and then provide a badge or other symbol to indicate to everyone that the account is indeed a legitimate account. Now scammers are taking advantage of this and sending messages or emails that purport to come from Twitter, Facebook or Instagram indicating that there is a problem with your status and that unless you appeal, you will lose your verified account status. A link or download is provided for you to start the appeals process, but if you click on the link or download the attachment you will end up downloading malware that will steal your data from your device and put you in jeopardy of identity theft.
As always, whenever you get an email, text message or a DM on your social media account you can never be sure who is actually contacting you and so you should never click on a link, download an attachment or provide personal information unless you have absolutely confirmed that the communication is legitimate. Twitter, for example never sends emails with attachments. If you get such a communication and believe that it may be legitimate, your best course of action is to contact the particular social media directly at an email address that you know is accurate to determine if the communication was legitimate. You should also review the terms and conditions of the particular verification program for the social media where you have a verified account. They differ from social media to social media.
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