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Celebrity impostor scams: How to protect yourself on social media

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Craig Johnson, Clark.com

The explosion of social media has resulted in unprecedented access between fans and celebrities. It has become increasingly common for big-time celebrities to interact with everyday people online. But what happens when someone “famous” contacts you privately? Could it be a fake social media account posing as a celebrity?

It’s true that some celebrities interact with fans more frequently than others. And yes, you will soon be getting Presidential Texts, but don’t expect Justin Bieber to hit you up anytime soon. If it happens, it’s likely a scam, according to consumer advocates.

Contacted by a celebrity on social media? It’s likely an impostor scam

In one case, a woman thought she was conducting a flirtatious relationship via a message app with legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen. She eventually wised up, but not before she had sent the faux-“Born in the USA” singer more than $11,000 to an account in Dubai, according to CBS Chicago.

As a sign of how big the problem is on social media, earlier this year Facebook revealed that it had removed nearly 600 million fake accounts in just the first three months of 2018. Of course, not all of them were celebrity impersonators, but many were.

Money expert Clark Howard says he is often contacted by people seeking help regarding impostor scams on social media.

“We have had a number of calls from people who have lost money to scamsters impersonating family and friends,” Clark says. “We have heard from others who were close to getting scammed or avoided the scam.” It’s only natural that the scammers have added pretending to be celebrities to their bag of tricks.

Here are some ways you can safeguard yourself against fake social media accounts pretending to be celebrities:

4 ways to spot a fake social media account scam

  • Money solicitation: If someone asks you to send money and you’ve never met them personally, beware. Besides, most celebrities already have more money than you, right?
  • Gift cards are involved: Gift card scams are one of the most popular ways crooks scheme online these days. If they say they want you to send you a gift card — in physical or electronic form — don’t do it.
  • Online search is your friend: If a “celebrity” reaches out to you, Google their name plus the word “scam” and see if there are reported instances of other people being duped. Most of these are not isolated incidents.
  • Verification check: Most celebrities have verified accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Look for a blue check as verification that the account is real. If it’s not there, be leery.

In the event you feel you’ve been scammed or someone attempted to scam you, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The Better Business Bureau also has a Scam Tracker tool that lists the latest ruses criminals use to trick unsuspecting consumers.

Keep up to date with the latest money-saving tips and more at Clark.com. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

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