Beware of ‘celebrity’ scams


Prominent Australians are among those being misrepresented in “deepfake” online advertisements trying to scam people out of tens of thousands of dollars. 

Altered images or videos of some of the nation’s richest people – among them Gina Rinehart, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, and Dick Smith – and popular television hosts are being used in online advertisements endorsing “investment” schemes that are responsible for stealing the life savings of hundreds of Australians, many of them elderly. 

The scams, often said to involve cryptocurrencies, continue despite legal efforts taken by the billionaires and celebrities, who are not associated with, or even aware of, the advertisements. 

Ms Rinehart told Nine Newspapers that there was no legal mechanism by which scam victims could retrieve funds lost to the scams that featured on Facebook, owned by Mark Zuckerberg’s company Meta.

“The Meta team appears to take its time in removing scams, meaning that some innocent people have been left to think that they are legitimate after seeing them online for weeks,” she said. 

“It is tragic for people to lose their savings in this way because Meta is not willing to act responsibly and in a timely manner.” 

In the absence of stronger global laws to protect against such scams, the individual’s best defence is vigilance. 

What are deepfakes?

Deepfakes are synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness using artificial intelligence (AI). 

This technology can create highly realistic and often undetectable fake videos and photos. While deepfakes have been used in entertainment and satire, their misuse in scams is becoming a serious issue. 

Impersonation scams using deepfakes typically involve creating a video or image of a well-known figure, such as a celebrity, politician, or business leader, endorsing a product, service, or investment opportunity. 

These fake endorsements are then spread via social media, email, or even through official-looking websites. The goal is to leverage the trust and credibility associated with the public figure to convince people to part with their money. 

The risks

  1. Financial loss: Scammers may use deepfake endorsements to promote fraudulent investment schemes, fake charities, or non-existent products, leading to significant financial loss for victims.
  2. Identity theft: Personal information provided to these scams can be used for further identity theft and fraud.
  3. Erosion of trust: The misuse of trusted figures for scams erodes public trust in genuine endorsements and public figures themselves. 

How to protect yourself

  • Verify endorsements: Always check the authenticity of endorsements. Official channels, such as a celebrity’s verified social media profiles or official websites, are reliable sources. 
  • Be sceptical: Be wary of too-good-to-be-true offers and high-pressure tactics. Scammers often create a sense of urgency to prevent you from thinking critically. 
  • Report suspicious activity: If you come across a suspected deepfake scam, report it to the relevant platform and authorities. This helps prevent others from falling victim. 

Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stay safe and stay informed.  

This article was originally published by our friends at National Seniors.

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