If you don’t live under a rock and have been on social media sometime in the last decade, you’ve probably seen some posts or quizzes like: “find your Hollywood name by your birthday” or “what you should order at McDonald’s based on your pet’s name and your first childhood friend.”
This just seems like harmless ways to procrastinate, right? But turns out, you could have easily handed out possible passwords, answers to security questions, and clues about where you live and how old you are — all great leads for swindlers, con artists, and potential fraudsters trying to hack into your credit card account, or even just hoping to fool people into handing over money.
Fraud online and by text messages is getting more savvy and creative, but that doesn’t mean you should delete your email address and go back to living under a rock. It just means we all need to be smarter about who we give potentially sensitive information to.
Here’s where to start:
How scammers using celebrity names ask for money
If you got a message on Instagram from Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, or any other celebrity asking you for money, you’re right to be skeptical. After all, these celebrities make millions of dollars every year from the movies they act in or the songs they come out with, so why on earth would they want $5 from you?
Well, con artists posing as celebrities are becoming more and more creative in their reasoning about why the rich and famous want money from us “common folk”.
In fact, imposters many times actually do their due diligence and see who follows the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts of certain VIPs or well-known personas, and then message those followers with bogus social media accounts pretending to be the real celebrity.
Celebrity imposters have been known to reach out to the famous person’s followers, and ask them to send money for one of the following popular reasons or pretexts:
Donations for charity; many famous people are associated with a particular cause, like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis fundraising more than $34 million for Ukraine. As such, these fake accounts message the followers asking for more “donations” to the related cause, but of course not actually use the received funds or prepaid debit cards they get for their own use and not as donations to charity.
Exclusive access meet-and-greets or even private concerts; do you really think that successful singers like Taylor Swift — who is one of the most dangerous celebrities on McAfee’s list — need to reach out to their millions of followers to get people to sign up (and pay) for meet-and-greets? Anyhow, it seems to work, because it’s a common tactic used to get people to send over personal information or money to these fake celeb accounts.
In fact, Facebook was recently sued over ‘scam celebrity crypto ads’ that were never known or addressed by the celebrities used in the ad, and lead to one consumer losing more than $650,000 AUS (£365). Ouch.
A surefire investment, many times involving cryptocurrency; I don’t know about you, but I don’t typically take investment advice from the top artists on my Spotify, or my favorite actor. But scams involving a “foolproof” way to make more money, specifically betting on some cryptocurrency, are also gaining traction from these faux blue checkmark accounts.
The “celebrities” most likely to slide into your DMs or inbox
The fraudsters who make up deceptive social media profiles claiming to be celebrities are very often found to abuse the bond between country music stars and their fans, according to the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline.
They’ve found scams who use private messaging to pretend to be Nashville icons Toby Keith, George Strait, Pam Tillis, Sara Evans and Travis Tritt, among others. The celebrity scam accounts typically message and ask for payment to whatever cause they claim by gift card, prepaid debit card, or wire transfer.
The “celebrities” you’re most likely to receive an email from
If you’ve received an email from someone you’ve seen on the big screen or who just swept the Grammys, chances are, they have better things to do than ask you to send them a gift card, or asking for your phone number.
However, according to Spanish cybersecurity software company Panda Security, the “celebrities” you’re most likely to receive an email from are:
- Brad Pitt
- Tom Cruise
- Britney Spears
- Angelina Jolie
However, scammers are really expanding their fake personalities repertoire. In fact, people have reported getting emails from someone claiming to be country star Reba McEntire, Richard Branson, and others.
The celebrities with the most dangerous content on Google
After watching a movie, TV show, or even a biopic, many people go on Google or their favorite search engine to look up the main character or actor. But, what many people don’t realize, is that looking up some well-liked celebrities could actually potentially lead to harmful and malicious links and content, because many cybercriminals use these popular and seemingly innocent searches to trick fans into clicking on a link that’s actually loaded with malware and adware.
According to computer security software company McAfee, the celebrities whose search results with the most malicious content found in their search results are, in descending order:
- Anna Kendrick
- Sean (Diddy) Combs
- Blake Lively
- Mariah Carey
- Justin Timberlake
- Taylor Swift
- Jimmy Kimmel
- Julia Roberts
- Kate McKinnon
- Jason Derulo
Protect yourself against ransomware attacks
While it could be scary that scammers are getting to know us really well and tailoring their attempted attacks, there are ways to keep yourself protected.
- Be extra vigilant surrounding cryptocurrency-related emails, websites, or alleged surefire investments, as scams related to crypto are seeing an increase in popularity.
- Use two-factor authentication wherever you can. 2FA is a way of stopping unauthorized access to your credentials or network, so it is always better safe than sorry!
- Read up about the latest cybersecurity trends so you know what kind of scams you can anticipate, and how to act if “Brad Pitt’ ends up in your inbox.
- Have a managed service provider (MSP) or IT professional on hand so you can contact in case of suspicious emails, and even just as a best practice.
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