Despite years of efforts to catch scammers in their tracks, multiple HGTV hosts are expressing frustration that their fans continue to be targeted with increasingly convincing and calculated hoaxes. Victims have had their safety jeopardized and lost huge sums of money.
The scammers frequently target fans online, impersonating hosts including Drew and Jonathan Scott, Mike Holmes, and Bryan Baeumler, or pretending to be casting agents for their shows.
Despite Crackdown, Scammers Continue To Use Social Media
General contractor and longtime HGTV host Mike Holmes is so fed up with having his likeness used by scammers that he devoted his July 14 “Holmes On Homes” podcast to the issue. He said he’s spent thousands of dollars on legal fees, trying to squash fake Facebook ads that feature his photos and logos to make fans believe he’s hawking their products.
“I am busy filming 12 months of the year,” he said. “I’m not into these things. I’m into helping people, I’m into educating people. I’m sick and tired of seeing things like this.”
In 2019, Holmes wrote a blog post about his frustration after hearing from countless fans who’d fallen for fake ads and articles that made it look like he was endorsing male enhancement supplements or erectile dysfunction drugs. Months later, a BuzzFeed investigation exposed a company called Ads Inc., which cheated consumers out of millions of dollars through fake endorsement ads featuring trustworthy celebrities like Holmes.
BuzzFeed reported that in most of the scams, people would sign up for a “free trial” and submit their credit card information to pay a small “shipping fee,” only to later discover they’d signed up for an expensive monthly subscription that was nearly impossible to cancel. The report revealed Ads Inc. spent over $50 million on Facebook ads featuring fake celebrity endorsements to lure people in, making it one of the largest “free trial” scams ever exposed.
Holmes and others were hopeful that the scams would end when Ads Inc. shut down and Facebook announced new strategies to combat fake ads. But on his podcast, Holmes revealed that other scamming operations are still out-smarting social media platforms and authorities.
Exasperated, he asked, “What does it take, instead of me spending thousands of dollars on lawyers? How come they don’t go to jail? This is the largest money scam in the United States.”
“Renovation Island” host Bryan Baeumler has been fighting similar campaigns for years, too. In 2020, he alerted his social media fans about fake ads and articles, sharing images of some that were circulating. He wrote, “They are fake clickbait and have nothing to do with me.”
But fans continue to reach out about scams they think he’s behind. In 2021, when a fan tweeted that he’d no longer trust Baeumler “after getting conned into your sponsored CBD oil sales pitch,” the host replied, “Well…they’re using my photo without permission, it’s got nothing to do with me. We’ve posted to warn people about that scam multiple times.”
On July 20, 2022, a fan tweeted new images to Baeumler of a scam claiming he’s now promoting a “secret” crypto investment that could turn people into millionaires practically overnight. Baeumler replied that it was “fake, fake, FAKE.”
In response, another fan tweeted, “When will the bs scamming stop???”
Baeumler responded, “When people stop being so gullible. We shut one down, 2 more pop up. People need to do their due diligence!”
Scammers Are Also Posing As HGTV Casting Agents
Hosts and production companies also warn of another scam targeting fans who hope to appear on an HGTV show or have their favorite hosts redesign their homes. Con artists pose as casting agents, they say, trying to convince people to sign contracts and pay large deposits for renovations and show appearances that will never actually happen.
These hoaxes started popping up several years ago. For instance, in 2017, Lisa Hartman told ABC13 that she and her husband were nearly duped into working with someone who claimed to work for one of Jonathan and Drew Scott’s HGTV shows.
Lisa was a big fan of the “Property Brothers,” and had posted on their Facebook page that she would love to have them come to Colorado to update their home. About a week later, she said, she received a message from a so-called producer who provided an official-looking contract with logos for both HGTV and the show.
“When I first saw the message, I got really, really excited,” she told the TV station. But upon further inspection, the couple noticed misspellings and were nervous about the amount of money they were required to pay upfront. They realized it was a hoax before losing any money, but Hartman said she felt heartbroken that they wouldn’t appear on HGTV.
The Scotts have tried many times to warn viewers that these casting scams are growing; in 2020, they posted an in-depth message about it on their website. But the scams continue for them and other hosts.
On his July 14 podcast, Holmes shared details of a brand new hoax he’d just been alerted to. He read from a print-out about a man posing as a “campaign manager for HGTV,” telling consumers he was looking for homeowners to appear on HGTV shows. The document included his bio, including a fake education and roles he never actually held at the network.
“They’re trying to do a casting call, pretending that they’re working with my company,” Holmes said, adding that the man claimed show hosts would renovate kitchens for $150,000, with a $50,000 deposit required upfront.
“Sure as hell, some people have answered, sending them money,” he said, clearly frustrated.
His daughter, Sherry, shared emails their company has recently received from others caught up in similar casting scams. One person said they’d sent over 40 photos of their property and their children before growing suspicious of the person claiming to be one of Holmes’s producers.
Holmes has vowed to keep fighting scammers by telling fans how to notice and avoid them, but he wants social media companies and law enforcement agencies to get better at tracking down the con artists.
“What I want to see is people go to jail,” he said.