Has your favorite celebrity contacted you on social media?
Before you get too excited, are you sure it’s that person? Really sure? These days, celebrities routinely share professional news, personal views, and even travel videos on social media and interact with their fans in the comment sections. Some celebrities also raise money for legitimate causes. However, if you receive a direct message out of the blue from a favorite musician, actor, or athlete, you should become skeptical – it’s almost certainly a scam.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are buzzing with fake celebrity accounts set up to trick loyal fans. The scammers contact the real star’s followers and ask for money under various pretexts:
donations to charity (sometimes to a cause related to the real celebrity)
exclusive tickets to private concerts or meet-and-greets
a surefire investment, often a cryptocurrency deal purporting to come from a famous business mogul
processing fees for a grand prize contest
Another popular tactic is the fake livestream. The scammer’s account shows a video stolen from a celebrity’s real social feed, along with a message promising a cash prize for the first, say, 500 people to comment on a certain phrase or identify something hidden in an optical illusion. Participants receive a direct message asking for an account number or other personal information to make an alleged payment.
Any celebrity who has a social media presence can be exploited by a scammer. Scammers are particularly fond of exploiting the bond between country music stars and their fans. The fraudsters who make up deceptive social media profiles claiming to be celebrities are very often found to abuse the bond between country music stars and their fans, according to the AARP Fraud Watch Network helpline.
Swindles come in many varieties, but they all work the same way: A scammer poses as someone you trust in order to convince you to send him money. And that’s exactly what these celebrity impostors try to do.
So what should you do if a celebrity contacts you on social media asking for money?
Calm down. Before sending money, talk to someone you trust.
Do some research: Search the Internet for the celebrity’s name and the term “scam.” Do the same with any charity or cause you are asked to support – and learn more about charity scams here.
Never send money, gift cards or prepaid cards to people you don’t know or haven’t met – even celebrities you know through social media.
If you have sent money to a scammer, contact the company you sent the money to (your bank, wire transfer service, gift card company, or prepaid card company). Let them know that the transaction was fraudulent. Ask the company to reverse the transaction if possible.
Be extra vigilant with cryptocurrency-related emails, websites, or supposedly surefire investments, as cryptocurrency-related scams are becoming increasingly popular.
Use two-factor authentication wherever you can. 2FA is a way to prevent unauthorized access to your credentials or network – so better safe than sorry!
Educate yourself on the latest trends in cybersecurity so you know what kind of scams to expect and what to do when your favorite celebrity lands in your inbox.
Reach out to a managed service provider (MSP) or IT professional for guidance on suspicious emails – even if it’s just as a best practice.
Report your experience to the social media site and the FTC.
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