Remember the old saying, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” — especially when it comes to online contests. Although there are no shortage of faux celebrity social media accounts, when it comes down to contests, fans should probably exercise a higher degree of caution — especially if the prize is cash, and the account is unverified.
Instagram accounts popped up last week with names like @OWNChristmas__ and @OprahOwnsChristmasRealPage and purported to offer fans of the OWN network a chance to win $5,000 cash from the queen of giving herself, Oprah Winfrey. Asking contestants to DM personal information such as banking info, name, address and email address, the accounts promised handouts to all who asked. Both accounts seem to now have been taken down.
The BBC first took note of the accounts last week, calling their veracity into question while explaining how common these scams can be online. After the network reached out to Winfrey’s company, Oprah’s reps responded to the news outlet, saying, “These are false social accounts. We have notified the social media platforms who are working diligently to deactivate these accounts.” Oprah herself issued a warning on Twitter last week, reminding fans that she would never ask for the information required for these false contests.
“Hi everybody, I just wanted you to know that somebody out there is trying to scam you, using my name and my avatar on social media, asking for money if you sign up for an OWN account on Instagram,” the Wrinkle in Time star says in the video. “It’s a fraud, it’s a fraud, it’s a fraud! 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.”
If you’re worried about internet scams, the Federal Trade Commission says there are a few things you can do to ensure your data remains secure. Their top ten list of ways to say safe includes: learning to spot impostors — who often pose as celebrities, the government or other “trusted sources”; do your own online research to support the contest’s claims; don’t ever pay for your chance to win a contest; don’t give anyone personal information via DM or other non secure methods; if all else fails, sign up for scam alerts.
Winfrey isn’t the only celeb who’s been duped this month. Boxer Floyd Mayweather has been dealing with a similar scam this month, and actor Chris Pratt warned fans earlier in December to be wary of a man posing as him to get women’s phone numbers over social media.
Have you ever fallen for an internet scam? Tell us @BritandCo!
(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)