Unfortunately, not everyone on the internet is who they claim to be. Celebrity imposter scams—where a perpetrator poses as a celebrity, athlete, or other notable figure, to coerce money or personal data from victims—are increasingly common.
If you are the victim of a celebrity imposter scam, know that you are not alone. These scammers use sophisticated tactics to fool even the savviest of internet users. We recommend taking the following actions immediately to mitigate the damage:
- Cease all contact with the scammer immediately,
- Do not pay them any more money,
- Preserve evidence of the scam (including the account profile and URL),
- Maximize the privacy settings on your online accounts,
- File a complaint to law enforcement and the platform(s) where the scam occurred, and
- Reach out to an experienced blackmail attorney.
At Minc Law, we have extensive experience helping victims fight against online harassment, impersonation scams, and extortion schemes. Recently, we have seen an increase in scams involving an extortionist posing as a celebrity, building a relationship of trust, and eventually coercing money or sensitive information from the victim.
In this article, we provide information on celebrity imposter scams, how to spot the key warning signs of a scam, and how to respond if a scammer targets you.
Celebrity Imposter Scams Explained
Online scammers can be very creative—and extremely convincing. Celebrity imposter scams are a new and growing threat involving extortionists catfishing victims into believing they are interacting with a famous and beloved figure.
Below, we explain how these scams typically unfold and the key red flags indicating you are interacting with a celebrity scammer.
What is a Celebrity Imposter Scam?
Celebrity imposter scammers reach out to victims posing as famous individuals like Taylor Swift, Keanu Reeves, or Blake Shelton. They often offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, such as meeting them in person or a new financial venture.
But before this opportunity can be explored, the celebrity imposter tells the victim they need a favor—usually involving payment or personal information.
Unlike a typical sextortion scam that can take place quickly, these scams often start by building a trusting relationship between scammer and victim. Scammers exploit fans’ enthusiasm and excitement to speak to their idols, hoping the victim will pay money, reveal personal information, or click on malicious links that may compromise their devices.
How These Fake Celebrity Scams Typically Unfold
Celebrity scammers often create fraudulent social media accounts designed to trick dedicated fans. They reach out to several followers simultaneously, posing as the celebrity and attempting to obtain money or sensitive information.
Victims are often targeted from a celebrity’s “official” social media followers list, forums or chat rooms dedicated to the celebrity, and fan groups. The scammer usually begins by building a relationship of trust. Eventually, they ask for money under pretexts such as:
- A chance to meet them in person,
- Prizes and other exclusive fan events,
- Donations to charity,
- Business investments,
- Cryptocurrency deals,
- Entry or processing fees for prize giveaways, and
- Romantic relationships.
Other scammers put on large events targeting multiple victims at once. For instance, they might create an impostor account and play a video stolen from the celebrity’s real social profile. They may promise cash prizes or VIP tickets to the first 100 people to comment—and then message those commenters asking for their banking information so they can process the “transaction.”
The Key Warning Signs of Celebrity Imposter Scams
While celebrities are on social media and do sometimes interact with fans online, it is best to approach any supposed celebrity interaction with caution. Listen to your gut, and be wary of sharing personal information or money. Do not be afraid to abandon any conversations that reveal red flags like:
- Profiles with unusual punctuation or that spell the celebrity’s name wrong.
- Accounts with low activity and/or a low follower count.
- Soliciting money (even if it is for a charitable donation or other seemingly legitimate reason).
- Asking for payment via wire transfer, bitcoin, gift card, or prepaid debit card.
- Fake ‘verified’ check marks.
- Their inability to meet you in person or communicate with you in real-time like a video call. Constant excuses as to why they can never meet.
- Requests to perform intimate acts on camera or video webcam.
- Asking for your personal information such as your full name, address, and phone number in order to send you ‘gifts’ or free merchandise.
- The scammer tells the victim things that are at odds with publicly available information.
- Love bombing with nonstop messages of adoration and affection – usually without having first taken any steps to get to know the victim on any level.
Damage Caused By Falling Victim to These Scams
Celebrity imposter scams can not only damage your bank account and digital security but also your emotional health. Realizing you placed your trust in a malicious scammer for weeks or even months can be traumatic and harm your ability to trust others.
Many celebrity scam victims are also ashamed that a scammer fooled them, so they avoid confiding in their friends and family. They do not seek help because they do not want to be judged or seen as gullible. However, celebrity imposter scammers are good at what they do; they employ techniques carefully engineered to lure in and trick victims, often over a long period.
What to Do If You Are the Victim of a Celebrity Imposter Scam
Once an online user asks you for money or your personal information, it is vital to interpret that behavior as a red flag and immediately stop all contact with them. If you have already sent this person money, contact your bank or payment vendor to determine if you can stop the payment.
Next, do everything possible to protect your digital footprint and report the scammer to the appropriate authorities.
Preserve Evidence of the Scam & Profile
As soon as you suspect a scam, document all conversations, messages, and other related data. Screenshots, email headers, chat logs, and transaction details can provide crucial evidence if you decide to report the fraud.
At Minc Law, we recommend using advanced screen capture and preservation tools like PageVault and VisualPing.
Lock Down All Online Accounts
Prioritize your online safety by updating passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and reviewing privacy settings on all your accounts. These actions reduce the chance of a scammer gaining access to your information or manipulating you further.
Keep Calm & Do Not Take Extreme Action
It is easy to panic when targeted by a scammer. However, remain calm and avoid acting impulsively, like sending money or divulging sensitive information. It can feel like you have no choice but to do what the scammer asks—but acting out of panic can further compromise your position.
Seek Out Emotional Support From People You Can Trust
Being the target of a scam can be emotionally draining and incredibly stressful. These scammers hope to capitalize on your shame and isolation to manipulate you more easily.
Confiding in trusted friends or family members who can offer support, perspective, and advice during this time can help provide some relief and comfort.
Due to the length of time these scams usually take, it is common for victims to be in denial once the extortion starts. It is important to stay in touch with friends or family members to work through what many people find to be a difficult time.
Report the Imposter Scam
Depending on the platform(s) on which the scam took place, there may be numerous places where you can report the unlawful activity. Many law enforcement and non-profit agencies also specialize in addressing celebrity imposter scams and similar crimes.
Platform(s) Where the Scam Occurred
First and foremost, report the scam to the platform or platforms where the scam took place. All major social media platforms, dating apps, and communication tools have regulations prohibiting scams, abuse, and impersonations.
Several popular online platforms and apps that we see celebrity imposter scams occur on include:
Most of these platforms allow users to report or flag unlawful activity for Terms of Service (ToS) violations. By reporting scammers, you allow the platform’s moderators to suspend those accounts and deter scammers from targeting others using the same profiles.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a database of scam reports to help educate the public about potential scammer activity. You can report the celebrity imposter scam attempt using their reporting tool. Your information can help the FTC take legal action against scammers.
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
The FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3) compiles and investigates reports of online criminal activity, including imposter scams. You can report such scams to the IC3 by visiting their website and filing a complaint.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide addressing you to effectively report sextortion and other cybercrimes to the appropriate authorities.
Reach Out to an Experienced Blackmail or Cybercrime Attorney
An experienced online blackmail or cybercrime attorney can provide legal guidance on how to respond and avoid drawing unwanted attention to the matter. They can help you understand your options moving forward, report the scam to the relevant authorities and platforms, take over any communications with the perpetrator, navigate any potential legal claims, and even monitor your online presence after the threat has ended.
What You Should Avoid Doing if You Are the Victim of a Celebrity Imposter Scam
While there are many proactive steps you can take to fight back against a celebrity scammer, you should also avoid specific actions that can make the situation worse. Never act out of panic—and do not try to weather the situation alone. Also, we generally recommend that victims of celebrity imposter scams avoid communicating with or paying the scammer further.
Avoid Acting out of Panic
Reacting impulsively can make the situation worse and leave you more vulnerable. Instead of making decisions in haste, take a moment to assess the situation and consult trusted friends, family, or legal professionals for advice.
Avoid Communicating Further With the Imposter
Unlike other online scams like sextortion, celebrity imposter scams often take place over months or even years. The scammer develops a foundation of trust with you and makes it harder to extricate yourself from the relationship.
However, even if you have already had a lengthy conversation or relationship with the scammer, cut off all contact as soon as you suspect a scam. Further communication might give them more ammunition against you or provoke aggressive responses.
Additionally, avoid confronting or threatening them. Threatening the scammer can escalate the situation and may have legal implications for you.
Avoid Paying Into Their Demands Further
While it might seem like an easy way out, giving in to the scammer’s demands rarely guarantees your safety or the security of your information. Giving into their demands might inadvertently embolden them to target you or others in the future.
Typically, once scammers realize they will not receive anything (or anything more) from you, they will move on to another victim.
We Help Victims of Celebrity Imposter Scams
If you are the target of a celebrity imposter scam, it may be difficult to know where to turn for help – especially when the scam involves the exchange of intimate content or money. We understand just how devastating and overwhelming it is to be victimized by these sophisticated scammers.
We are here to help and guide you through this deeply stressful time by providing objective, actionable advice on how to best proceed, advising on your legal options, and implementing strategies (including content removal) to remedy any online damage or fallout.
“I was recently a victim of a predator trying to extort me. I was lost and had not idea what to do till I found Minc Law. Dorian and Anna were amazing, patient and completely understanding of my situation. I followed their expert advice and the problem went away and I fell like a weight has been lifted off my shoulder. I cannot thank Minc Law enough for protecting my reputation. I would recommend Minc Law to anyone in a similar situation. They are simply the best. Thanks you for everything.”
March 10, 2023
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