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Utahns are losing money and their personal info to celebrity imposter scams

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man contacted the KSL Investigators to ask us to verify if he was messaging the real Gal Gadot of “Wonder Woman” fame through social media. This was after he sent her $1,700. Only, it wasn’t the real Gal Gadot. It was an imposter. And he’s far from being the only one to have fallen for a celebrity imposter scam.

Gadot, Chris Stapleton, Taylor Swift and Keanu Reeves are among many other celebrities who have had their names and images hijacked by con artists to help them steal money from loyal fans.

“They really want to believe in what they’re seeing,” said cybersecurity firm Aura’s, Zulfikar Ramzan, of fans excited by interacting with their favorite celebrities. “And that causes them to let down their guard to make really poor decisions.”

Ramzan says scammers create fake social media accounts that mirror a real celebrity’s posts, pics and videos. The fans who interact get messaged by their favorite movie star, singer, athlete — you name it.

“They’re just so many forms of scams out there,” he said.

The bogus star might make a “personal” plea for help or money for their charity. Or they might promise a high return on an investment in their project or in cryptocurrency. Another celebrity imposter scheme involves telling their victim that they have won a contest and just need to pay a fee to get their prize.

Ramzan says scammers also use artificial intelligence to create bogus ads or social media posts that show celebrities seemingly endorsing a product.

“With the idea of deep fakes and other AI tools, it’s so easy to impersonate somebody and make it look incredibly believable,” he said.

To avoid falling for a celebrity imposter scam, start by sticking to verified celebrity accounts. They’ll have a verified badge next to the username. Ramzan warns posting on a real account can still put you at risk.

“Anybody who’s looking at that page can see that you’ve commented and thereby believing that you are perhaps a strong fan or have some kind of an interest in that celebrity,” he cautioned.

This is why you have to remember that no celebrity will ask you for money or personal info through social media. And never share any of that info after getting an out-of-the-blue message from anyone — even Gal Gadot.

With almost any scam, con artists create a sense of urgency so you’ll ignore any inkling you might have that something’s wrong. So, always, stop and think critically about whether any unsolicited offer or plea is legitimate.

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