The Celebrity Scam: 10 tricks that aim to fool you by using the names of showbiz and sporting stars: Internet Scambusters #351
The celebrity scam relies on the simple fact that many of us
are prepared to believe almost anything that has a star’s name
attached to it.
From phony product endorsements and celebrity impersonations
to fake shows and non-existent prizes, these scams are rife
both online and in the real world. And some are little-known
— but can cause you grief.
While celebrities are genuinely involved in many of the events
and promos we discuss in this issue, it makes sense to be wary
and check them out first.
Before we get started, we suggest you visit last week’s most
popular articles from our other websites:
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7 Tips for Reducing your Home Insurance Bill: Follow these tips and
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should have one.
Time to get going…
Celebrity Scam Tricks That Lurk Behind the Names of the Rich and Famous
The celebrity scam, which uses the names of famous people from
the worlds of entertainment, sports and politics, is a common
way of trying to hoodwink the public.
Mostly, names are used to make the scams seem more believable.
If a star’s name is attached to a story or product, it must be
genuine, mustn’t it? Or so the thinking goes…
Many of these tricks also fall into other well known scam
categories, like supposed lottery wins, with the tricksters
hoping use of a star’s name will lower your natural
skepticism. Others are less well known.
Here are 10 of the most common celebrity scams you might
Product endorsement. Marketing experts know that if a
celebrity is seen wearing or using a particular item, people
will be more inclined to buy it. So it’s a short step from
this for a con artist to tag a product with a famous name
without their permission.
In the US and many other countries, the power of the law is
usually enough to make these crooks “cease and desist” (which
is the legal term for making them stop). But, the Internet
puts some of these scammers out of reach of the law — so be
wary of endorsements you see online.
Posing as a celebrity. OK, you’re not likely to fall for a
scam where someone claims to be Britney Spears. But there are
plenty of lower-ranking celebrities, particularly sporting
figures, who can be impersonated by someone with just a
This trick has been used by scammers trying to borrow money.
They claim they’ve been locked out of their car, hoping you’ll
believe them if they’re known to have plenty of money.
Some con artists are real cheeky, though. Earlier this year, a
promoter in South America organized a concert supposedly
featuring singer Toni Braxton. Instead, he used a lookalike
stand-in. The fans, though, were not easily misled and booed
The bogus event. This brings us to another concert-related
celebrity scam — the bogus event. People buy tickets for a
show or an event like a sports camp that simply doesn’t happen.
The promoter either disappears or makes some lame excuse about
why the event won’t now take place, then you have a battle
trying to get your money back.
Celebrity lottery scams. A recent scam using the name of
the world’s number one chat show host, Oprah Winfrey,
illustrates this celebrity scam.
Victims receive 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.
Nigerian celebrity scam. The Nigerian celebrity scam
exploits the name of a well known person and tries to get you
to pay the scammer. Sometimes it’s even a bogus message
supposedly from the President of Nigeria wanting to give you
some cash, if you’ll just pay an upfront fee.
Or how about this latest, sneaky version: You get a message
purportedly from Ruth Madoff, wife of the disgraced Ponzi
crook Bernard Madoff, inviting you to help her hide some of
her husband’s supposed hidden millions. All untrue of course.
Website name hijacking. You visit a website that’s named
for a well known person and, understandably, assume it’s
theirs. Well it ain’t necessarily so.
Celebrities who weren’t so quick off the mark in the early
days of the Internet sometimes find a website with their name
has already been registered by someone else.
Such sites might just be used as an advertising page for other
websites or they may contain malicious code.
In the US, stars can now claim the sites back for themselves,
as one guy who registered the name TheJayLenoShow.com recently
found out. He was ordered to give the domain to the late-show
Bogus news alerts. As we reported recently in Issue #347,
Legends and Hoaxes Straight from the News Headlines, celebrity
names are often used in emails either concerning
their deaths, or saying they’re dead when they’re still very
much alive, or making some other sensational claim about them.
The idea is to arouse your curiosity so that you either click
on a link that leads to a virus-infected website or open an
attachment that installs a virus on your computer.
“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) or otherwise
audition with them.
Victims have paid small fortunes by responding to emails that
may say they’ve won the chance to have a meal with a star, or
join a celebrity on stage, or to an ad for training with their
They’re asked to send money to cover air tickets and hotel
costs, or a fee to participate in a nonexistent event like a
celebrity sports camp (see item #3 above).
Outrageous messages on Twitter. Recently, the Twitter
accounts of celebrities like Britney Spears have been hijacked
and used to publish sensational or even obscene messages.
This, presumably, is just some hacker’s idea of fun, but in
other cases, the messages contain links to malicious websites.
Fake biographies. This is another hacking trick, again
usually someone’s idea of a joke. Most often it involves
biographies of well known celebrities on the collaborative
Although anyone can contribute to and edit Wikipedia articles,
the organization does have security controls in place but
these may not stop a seasoned hacker.
What to Do…
The purpose of highlighting all the celebrity scams in this
issue is to put you on your guard against accepting the use of
celebrity names as some sort of token of credibility.
It’s understandably easy to be excited and perhaps to feel in
awe when you encounter the name of a famous person, and
especially if it involves a sensational story or a current or
potential future meeting with them.
And, of course, many celebrity-linked events and promotions
Just make sure you check them out in detail, especially before
parting with money. And never click on those email links.
Let’s not forget, either, that some stars are great scammers
themselves. There’s no shortage of marriage, divorce and
break-up stories or other dramas in the celebrity world that
turn out to be just clever publicity stunts.
Unlike the others in our list, though, they are usually
harmless. However, we want to make sure you’re aware of all of
these celebrity scam tricks.
That’s a wrap for this issue. Wishing you a great week!