Celebrities warn of Christmas scams

American media personality Oprah Winfrey went on her social media accounts to warn against Instagram scammers asking for bank account and personal information.
American media personality Oprah Winfrey went on her social media accounts to warn against Instagram scammers asking for bank account and personal information.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Celebrities playing Santa and granting Christmas wishes?

You wish - so beware of being taken in by these Instagram scams, where conmen are trying to relieve you of your hard-earned money.

According to the BBC, they play on people's fascination with the rich and famous by asking them to follow celebrity accounts which are fake.

They are later asked to divulge details, such as bank account numbers, if they want to be in line for thousands of dollars in Christmas cash giveaways.

The scammers are trying to hook the innocent with names such as American media personality Oprah Winfrey, director Tyler Perry and boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Some accounts, ironically, even go the extra mile to convince people not to fall for hucksters' ploys.

"Do not share your e-mail address in the comments section due to possible identity theft. We will contact you via direct message," a post from the now deactivated @OprahOwns ChristmasRealPage advised.

The celebrities themselves have raised the red flag.

In a video posted on her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, Winfrey, 63, said the imposters are asking for money for signing up for an Oprah Winfrey Network account on Instagram.

The scammers dangled a US$5,000 (S$6,720) carrot to each of the first 100,000 followers.

"It's a fraud, it's a fraud, it's a fraud," she warned.

"Don't believe it. Don't give up any of your bank accounts or personal information to anybody posing as me, or anyone else, for that matter. And, have a merry Christmas.

"We have notified the social media platforms which are working diligently to deactivate these accounts," added Winfrey, who will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes on Jan 7, in recognition of her impact on the entertainment world.

A representative for Mayweather, 40, told the BBC that the boxer was not involved in any cash-giving campaign.

On its part, Instagram said it is aggressively curbing spam, adding: "If people see these types of accounts, we advise them to report them using our in-app tools so that we can immediately remove them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2017, with the headline 'Celebrities warn of Christmas scams'. Print Edition | Subscribe