– ‘Always verify claims before parting with your money’ – Police
– Common celebrity-related scams on social media
The spate of celebrity impersonation on social media is becoming a source of concern as many have fallen prey to tricks of conmen.
In recent times, many celebrities – from politicians, entertainers, to religious leaders – have been impersonated by conmen on social media.
To curb this, social media giant Facebook commenced the restriction on popular names and started reviewing applications from users for reserved names in 2009. This prevents impostors from using the names or even variations of the names of famous people on the social media. In 2011, names which were similar to hundreds of famous people were removed from Facebook to prevent online impersonation, including those of Jeff Bezos, Aliko Dangote, Brad Pitt and Barack Obama.
Once a name is tagged as a reserved name, it becomes very difficult for someone other than the beneficiary of the reservation to set up a Facebook account with such name.
Twitter has also implemented the reservation of name system; but despite various verification measures put in place by Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to prevent identity theft, increasing cases of impersonations of Nigerian businessmen, celebrities and religious leaders especially is a source of serious concern.
ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mr. Joe Offor, and he spoke on how to protect yourself from being conned on the social media…
How can people protect themselves from conmen on social media?
The matter of people being conned or scammed on social media is a case of gullibility and indiscretion on the part of anyone who falls prey to such mouthwatering offers that are usually made. Any law abiding person without criminal intention will not fall for such.
It wouldn’t make sense for a celebrity to go on social media and make certain claims; I believe they would have better avenues to do that.
What are the warning signs to look out for?
When you start seeing some fantastic offers, one should seek other means of authenticating the offers either by putting a call across or send a message to the celebrity in question to verify the claims assuming you can get the number, which are sometimes outrageous!
Recently, some people used the Commissioner’s Facebook to defraud certain persons, some people tried to find out if such offers were true when they put contacted us, we immediately refuted it that we didn’t know anything about the claims. We put messages out in the media and warned people against believing the offers.
I think it is proper for people to take steps to verify before parting with their money.
How has the prosecution of arrested suspects unfolded?
Cyber crime is relatively new in our operation. Most states haven’t enacted laws which criminalise certain aspects of what people do in the cyber space.
Some of our criminal codes have not undergone any amendment, and I am not aware if there is any law made on cyber crime offences. I remember a bill was sent to criminalise some of this activities, but I’m not aware if it has been passed into law. It would be difficult to prosecute and secure conviction for persons who perpetrate this act because of that.
Some common celebrity-related scam tricks on social media
These are some of the common tactics employed by conmen on social media that involves the use of the identities of celebrities.
Meet the star
In this celebrity scam, you are led to believe you’ll get the chance to meet a famous person, perform with them (if you’re a budding entertainer), audition with them or to feature them on your song. Victims have paid small fortunes by responding to social media posts that may say they’ve won the chance to have a meal with a star, or join a celebrity on stage.
Victims could be asked to send money to cover air tickets and hotel costs, or a fee to participate in a nonexistent event.
Posing as a celebrity
This trick involves impersonating a celebrity (especially not so popular ones) with a lookalike.
This trick has been used by scammers trying to borrow money. They (posing as the celebrity) claim they’re in one form of trouble or the other (like being locked out of their car), hoping you’ll believe them if they’re known to have plenty of money.
The bogus event
This is another concert-related celebrity scam – the bogus event which people fall for quite often. People buy tickets for a show that simply doesn’t exist. The promoter either disappears or makes an excuse about why the event won’t hold, then you have a battle trying to get your money back.
Celebrity lottery scams
A recent scam using the name of the chat show host, Oprah Winfrey, illustrates this celebrity scam.
Victims received letters or emails saying they have won a prize in the “Oprah Summer Show Sweepstakes.” The message carries a photo of the star, but it hasn’t really come from her.
It’s a con in which victims are then asked to pay a handling fee for their prize.
Similar scams based on other well known TV shows are often accompanied by a picture of a well known celebrity connected with the show.
- MICHAEL NWOKIKE