FRAUD RESOURCE CENTER
En español | These days, celebrities routinely share career news, personal views, even travel videos on social media and interact with fans in comment threads. But if you get a direct message out of the blue from a favorite musician, actor or athlete, don’t get starry-eyed, get skeptical — it’s almost certainly a scam.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram teem with bogus celebrity accounts set up to fool or fleece devoted fans. Scammers reach out to the real star’s followers, asking for money under a variety of pretexts: donations to charity (sometimes for a cause associated with the actual celeb), exclusive tickets to private concerts or meet-and-greets, or processing fees for a big cash giveaway.
Some cons get elaborate. A fake Bruce Springsteen traded messages with a Chicago-area fan for about a year, eventually scamming her out of more than $11,500 after claiming he needed cash because his wife had tied up his assets in a divorce proceeding. (For the record, both the Boss’s marriage and his bank account are reportedly doing fine.)
Numerous celebrities have posted messages and videos on their genuine social media accounts warning fans about scams, but, as country music star Trace Adkins told CBS News in 2018, taking out the fakes is like playing “whack-a-mole. … You can’t stop them.” A New York Times investigation found that celebrities are the subject of thousands of phony accounts. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to spot them if you know what to look for.
- A social media post or direct message from a seemingly celebrity-affiliated account solicits money for a charitable donation or another purpose.
- A social media message in the name of a celebrity or wealthy executive says you’ve won a large cash prize but need to pay an entry or processing fee to secure it.
- The message asks for payment by gift card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
- The supposed star’s account does not have a blue checkmark (indicating it has been verified by the social network) and has a low number of followers.
- Do look for the blue checkmark on celebrity social media accounts. That indicates the platform has verified it as genuine. If there’s no checkmark, it’s an impostor.
- Do Google the celebrity’s name with the word “scam” to see if it has been connected to impostor schemes.
- Do report online celebrity impersonators to the relevant social network. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have procedures for reporting bogus accounts.
- Don’t give personal information or send money via wire transfer, gift card or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know and have only communicated with online, no matter how supposedly famous.
- Don’t engage with a supposed celebrity on an unverified social media account, even if they don’t initially ask for money.
- Don’t believe claims about why a purported celebrity account lacks a verification mark or has an unusual handle — for example, that it’s a private account the star keeps secret from management.
About the Fraud Watch Network
Whether you have been personally affected by scams or fraud or are interested in learning more, the AARP Fraud Watch Network advocates on your behalf and equips you with the knowledge you need to feel more informed and confidently spot and avoid scams.
Published February 15, 2019
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