2 Investigators: Fans Scammed Out Of Millions Of Dollars By Fake Celebrity Accounts
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Imagine your favorite celebrity reaching out to you on social media. At first you're thrilled, but this brush with greatness can soon take a sinister turn. One that is costing people millions of dollars. CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports.
Perhaps no other singer epitomizes the "glory days" of 1980's rock 'n roll like Bruce Springsteen.
"I have been loving Bruce Springsteen since the 80's, ever since i heard him and I thought, oh this guy is so handsome and has a good voice," said "Mary" who asked us to conceal her identity.
"Mary" said she commented on a Bruce Springsteen Facebook and got a message back from Bruce.
"I'm like whoa Bruce Springsteen, I'm good how are you," said Mary.
Pam: "Did you think you were dealing with the real Bruce Springsteen?"
Mary: "Yes I was thinking that."
A search of "Bruce Springsteen" shows there are dozens of Facebook pages purporting to be the "Boss".
The real, verified account is noted with a blue check-mark.
Mary and Fake Bruce exchanged pics and text messages for almost a year -- the tone turned flirty.
Fake Bruce told her he was getting a divorce, his wife had tied up all his bank accounts and he needed money.
He suggested she send him whatever she could using ITunes gift cards.
"I sent him ITunes up to maybe four, five, six-hundred bucks, little by little every week," Mary said.
But then, "Fake Bruce" texted her a picture of his stash of gold, saying he needed money to ship it home from Dubai. He said it was a huge amount of gold, worth millions.
"My mind was just so, so like maybe brainwashed or something I said okay how much money," Mary recalled.
She ended up sending $11,500 through both MoneyGram, Western union and a cashiers check to someone in DuBai.
"I was vulnerable at the time ,but you know it hurt, it hurts and you feel so stupid," Mary said.
For the record, Bruce Springsteen is still married and is worth about $460-million.
78-year old Ardiss Robbins has been in contact with a different celebrity.
"I was texting somebody who said they were Kenny Chesney," Robbins said.
Pam Zekman: "How much money did you send?"
Ardiss Robbins: "Ten thousand dollars all together."
Fake Kenny Chesney also reached out to her after she liked a page on Facebook. .
"I realized now that Kenny Chesney never needed any of my money," Robbins said.
Police say Robbins' money ended up in China.
Celebrities have started warning fans to beware of these "Fan Scams". A group of country music stars have issued a public service announcement in which they urge their fans to " not engage with these people or send them money."
"Impostor scams was the number one fraud for the FTC last year," said Todd Kossow of the Federal Trade Commission.
The F.T.C. says all kinds of imposter scams cost consumers $328-million in 2017 with over 350,000 complaints.
"If somebody asks you to send money through a money transfer or through ITunes gift cards or through prepaid gift card, don't do it," warns Kossow.
Recent court rulings obtained by the F.T.C. now require money transfer companies to warn customers about possible scams.
The 2 Investigators wondered if they were following these new rules, so we visited ten MoneyGram and Western Union locations posing
as a soon-to-be victim of the Jamaican lottery scam..
Pam Zekman: "I got a phone call that i won a lottery."
Clerk: "No, that's a scam, don't send the money, no."
Or needing money to bail out a young relative in what's known as the grandparents scam.
Pam Zekman: "He's in jail and I have to pay the bond to get him out."
Clerk: "Absolutely not, do not send any money that's a scam."
All locations either gave us a verbal warning or had signs or brochures posted regarding potential fraud.
Our fake Bruce Springsteen victim concedes she was warned multiple times, but chose to send the money anyway.
"I was just so fooled," Mary said.
"I got a little nervous thinking oh, I wonder if this is someone pretending to be Derek Hough," said Kathy Marden.
Kathy Marden was nervous because the Derek Hough, of Dancing With The Stars Fame, she met on Instagram had an odd request.
"He said would you want to donate to an orphanage house in support of me," Marden recalled.
Marden reached back out to "Fake Derek" during our interview telling she suspected fraud.
Pam Zekman: "He's responding?"
Kathy Marden: "Yes and his response was LOL, which is laughing out loud.'
Pam Zekman: "He's laughing out loud at the suggestion he's scamming you."
At least Marden never sent any money.but says
"It's hard to know what's real and what's fake anymore and i think that's the sad part," Marden said.
Facebook recently revealed that in the first quarter of the year they disabled 538-million fake accounts, which represented about 3-4% of their total, active accounts."
It's difficult for local law enforcement to help with these scams because the perpetrators are mostly overseas.
To report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission:
You can also report impostors on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger at: www.facebook.com/help/fakeaccount
Spotting scams: Here are some things to look out for when trying to spot a scam:
People you don't know or any person asking you for money or financial information
People asking you for advance fees to receive a loan, prize or other winnings
People asking you to move your conversation off Facebook (typically another messaging service)
People claiming to be a friend or relative in an emergency - In these situations it's probably best to call that person before you respond.
People or Pages claiming to represent large organizations or celebrities, particularly those who are not verified
Blue Check mark: It's known as a verification badge: The blue check mark lets people know that a Page or profile of public interest is authentic. If your account doesn't have a blue verification badge, there are other ways to help let people know that you're authentic. For example, you can link to your Facebook profile or Page from your official website, Instagram profile or Twitter account. You can submit a request by filling out this form: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/342509036134712
For more information about a verified badge, please visit: www.facebook.com/help/196050490547892
for more features.