An ongoing issue with online scammers pretending to be popular celebrities seems to only be worsening for many Hallmark stars whose fans keep reporting that they’ve been tricked into corresponding with and even giving money to fake accounts posing as their favorite actors on social media.
Hallmark actors from Ryan Peavey to Victor Webster have issued warnings to fans in recent weeks, urging them not to fall prey to “scumbag con artists,” as Webster described them in a recent post. Resources are available, including from Hallmark, to help consumers steer clear of fake accounts. Here’s what you need to know:
Multiple Stars Have Issued Warnings About Their Fans Being Duped by Scammers
Celebrity impersonators have been scamming fans online for years, according to AARP, which says one common tactic for celebrity imposters is replying to comments on online fan page posts, especially on Facebook and Instagram, pretending to write a personal message from the star or someone who works for them. The fake account of a famous actor or musician, AARP said, will often write that they’re flattered, “values your fandom and would love to meet you,” but asks that the fan first donate to their charity or fundraiser, or purchase their merchandise.
Ryan Paevey, who sells handmade jewelry through his Fortunate Wanderer website when he’s not filming, has posted many warnings on his social media accounts over the last several years, including two videos shared in his Instagram Stories on June 14, 2023. Paevey said the scammers are growing more clever, and that some have gone so far as to buy merchandise from his online shop and then resell it to fans as a way to make money and try to convince them it’s really him.
Meanwhile, Webster shared in his Instagram Stories on May 9 that he’d heard from multiple fans that people pretending to be him or a member of his team had attempted to interact privately with them.
“I have to make this post every few months,” he wrote, and then assured fans, “I am not reaching out to people to chat privately. On Facebook or Instagram. I don’t have telegram, I don’t even know what telegram is. Please don’t be fooled by scam artists out there.”
Webster added, “I don’t have a manager that speaks on my behalf, I don’t have a private account, please don’t let these scumbag con artists lure you in.”
Back on March 11, actress Alicia Witt also issued a warning to fans in an Instagram post, urging fans to be careful online.
She wrote, “beloved ones, i know most of you do know this, but allow me to say once more: i have one and *only one* verified page on every platform. it’s like whackamole- no matter how many times you alert them to the imposters, five more pop up.”
Hallmark stars often love interacting with fans at official conventions or by replying to and retweeting comments on their official social media accounts, but some fans have been burned by imposters taking it a step further, asking them to send money, “friend” them on their personal feeds or connect privately.
In February 2022, one fan tweeted about falling for an imposter who pretended to be actor Tyler Hynes on multiple sites. And though she didn’t get involved financially, she said the scammer took advantage of her emotionally.
“I’m definitely naive to a lot of things, but this hurt me so deep,” she wrote in one tweet, and then continued, “I didn’t loose any money. The scam was to my heart and soul thinking I was talking to Tyler and it was someone who took what was meant for him. I was naive, but I’m only guilty of loving Tyler Hynes so much.”
Resources Available to Help Fans Navigate Online Scams
With scammers growing more clever all the time, quickly re-emerging even after their other accounts are blocked, organizations are continually looking for ways to stop the madness and offering consumer resources to help fans stay safe.
During ChristmasCon, the fan convention held in Kansas City in mid-June, Hallmark Media issued a list of official social media accounts for all of its stars who were in attendance, urging fans to only interact with those real accounts. Witt was among the stars who shared the link via Instagram.
AARP has created a Fraud Watch Network Helpline for both members and nonmembers to call when they’re not sure whether or not they’re being scammed. The free hotline — at 877-908-3360 — is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.
And the Federal Trade Commission has an online guide to detecting celebrity scams, encouraging fans not to quickly jump into interactions with so-called stars.
Chloe Roche, fraud team leader at CEL Solicitors, a firm that helps victims recoup money lost in online scams, told Birmingham Live that imposters often try to find people who are looking for love and companionship.
“The lure of a celebrity is compelling for someone looking for love online,” she said. “Sadly, manipulative scammers make the impossible seem possible, often playing on people’s vulnerabilities to get their hands on their cash.”
In a cruel twist, she said when people are victims of a scam, they are sometimes re-targeted by the same scammers, who then pose as someone who can help them out of their jam.
She said, “A lot of scammers often re-target their victims, posing as professional advisers, so it’s always important to check the credentials of anyone offering to help you get your money back from a scam.”
Meanwhile, experts say it’s also important not to fall for fake product endorsements. In April, the Better Business Bureau also issued a warning to fans about fake — but incredibly convincing — celebrity endorsements, many of which have been created using artificial intelligence (AI) to make it look like a star is speaking about and endorsing a particular product, event or charity.
“Don’t assume celebrity posts, images, or videos are legitimate until you verify they came from an official source,” the BBB says, citing an example of a video that went viral in the spring that made it look like Pope Francis was wearing a designer jacket.