If you spend any time on social media platforms, you’ve likely been bombarded with posts featuring celebrity-endorsed products. While these promotions can seem like a great way to get access to exclusive products and services, they can also be a gateway for scammers to access your personal information, sell you scammy products and more. Sometimes, victims can even be conned into donating money to “charity” when they’re actually lining a scammers’ pockets.
Unfortunately, celebrity scams are becoming increasingly common and can be challenging to spot. Here’s what you need to know about celebrity scams and how to protect yourself from falling victim.
How the scams play out
Celebrity scams are especially dangerous because they prey on society’s natural trust in celebrities and the adulation many people have for the rich and famous. In every celebrity scam, a scammer uses the influence of a celebrity persona to con innocent victims out of their money. There are several ways celebrity scams play out:
- Online phishing schemes. In this ruse, a scammer pretends to be a celebrity to get personal information from unsuspecting victims. They may create fake social media accounts, send emails or even set up fake websites to lure people in. The goal of these scams is to get credit card numbers, bank account information and passwords.
- Fraudulent charities. Here, a scammer will create fake charities and use a celebrity’s name and image to solicit donations. They may also use the celebrity’s name to advertise non-existent events or products in support of this bogus charity. Of course, any money donated will go directly into the scammer’s own account.
- Fake autographs. In this variation, scammers will attempt to sell fake autographs as authentic, often at a fraction of the cost of a real autograph. These scams can be hard to spot because the forgeries are often well-made.
- Bogus endorsements. In this scam, a celebrity aggressively promotes a new product or service – except that they aren’t really involved. Instead, a scammer has created a bogus promotional post that appears to be from the celebrity to sell their own product. Unknowing victims will eagerly purchase the product or sign up for the service, believing they are following the advice of their favorite celebrity when they’ve actually fallen into the hands of a scammer.
The best way to protect yourself from celebrity scams is to be vigilant.
Do your research and make sure that every celebrity-endorsed social media post is legitimate. Many celebrities have their own accounts on Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms, and it’s easy for scammers to pose as celebrities to promote their own scammy products. Be sure to verify the account before engaging with it. It’s also important to follow basic online safety rules at all times. Never share your credit card or account numbers with an unverified contact, and only visit secure websites.
When donating money to charity, even if it appears to be endorsed by your favorite celebrity, it’s best to verify that it’s legitimate. You can look up the charity on a charity-vetting site, like Charity Navigator, GuideStar or CharityWatch. You can also Google the charity along with the word “scam” to see if there’s anything suspect about this organization.
Finally, when purchasing an autograph or buying a product or service that’s allegedly endorsed by a celebrity, do careful research to verify that it’s legitimate. Use reputable dealers for autographs, as celebrities will never sell autographs directly to the public. If you believe a product is actually being endorsed by a celebrity, check out their account on another social media platform to see if they’re really promoting this product.
Follow these tips to protect yourself from celebrity scams so you don’t become the next victim. Stay alert, and stay safe!
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a celebrity scam? Tell us about it in the comments.