Instagram imposters are trying to trick users into following fake celebrity accounts and sharing confidential details, with promises of thousands of dollars worth of Christmas cash giveaways.
It seems too good to be true – and it is. Instagram accounts purporting to be from celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, director Tyler Perry and boxer Floyd Mayweather are advertising Christmas cash giveaways.
The accounts urge users to “follow page” and “share with friends” in order to receive handouts as large as $5,000 (£3,700). But they are fake, and anyone counting on a big payout simply for following an account will be disappointed.
After following the fake accounts, users are encouraged to privately send personal information, including email addresses and financial details, to the account owners.
“Money distribution has been slower than expected,” claimed one post from a recently-deactivated fake Oprah Winfrey account. “For a quicker distribution please send your CASH APP usernames to @OwnChistmas__ direct messages.”
“Cash App” refers to a a money transfer application.
Some of the accounts even claim they have users’ security in mind when they encourage the switch to private communication.
“DO NOT share your email address in the comments section due to possible identity theft. We will contact you via direct message,” added another post from the now deactivated @OprahOwnsChristmasRealPage.
Thousands of Instagram users appear to be following the accounts, oblivious to the potential danger posed by the hoaxers.
“I really hope this works,” wrote one Instagram user using the hashtag #OprahOwnChristmas.
“As a mother facing homelessness if there’s even the smallest chance something good like this will happen, I’m taking it,” she added, after being informed that the accounts were a hoax. “I don’t care if it’s fake. If it is oh well but if even for the smallest chance of it being real, I’m taking that chance.”
“So my idol is giving out $5,000” wrote another user. “Ma’am $5000 will go a long way in building my business and securing my tomorrow. I pray I get it!”
The celebrities whose images are being used have made it clear that they have nothing to do with the scams.
“These are false social accounts,” a spokesperson for Oprah Winfrey told BBC Trending. “We have notified the social media platforms who are working diligently to deactivate these accounts.”
BBC Trending approached boxer Floyd Mayweather’s team to ask if he had any connection in a similar scheme called the “MoneyMayweatherChristmasGiveaway”.
“None whatsoever,” responded a publicist for the former five-weight world champion.
While a number of the accounts have been removed, others using similar names now operate in their place using the same hashtags and claiming “we are back” and “it was hacked”.
“We work aggressively to fight spam on Instagram,” said a spokesperson for Instagram. “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.”
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