BBB Scam Alert: Celebrity impersonations get more sophisticated with AI technology

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

From the Better Business Bureau:

To trick you, scammers need to earn your trust first. What better way than by posing as a popular celebrity? Recently, BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports involving products supposedly endorsed by well-known and trusted celebrities. With the rise in deepfake scams and ever-improving AI technology, these phony endorsements are more convincing than ever.

How the scam works

You see a post on social media of a celebrity endorsing a weight loss product, health supplement or another product. In the post, photos show the celebrity using the product, or a video features their voice talking about the amazing results they’ve seen. It sounds too good to be true, but the photos and video look so real! Also, the social media account appears to belong to the celebrity.

For example, one consumer reported ordering “Oprah Winfrey’s keto gummy bear supplements” after seeing a phony endorsement. They explained: “The ad showed Oprah’s face and featured her explaining the product and offering a first-time buyer discount of buy one bottle for $49 and get a second one free.

I clicked on the link and put in my order. The next morning, I received an email stating my order had been processed for $198!” The company denied the customer a refund and shipped the product anyway.

Upon arrival, they found the gummies were from a company that had no affiliation with Oprah Winfrey.

Before you make a purchase, take a minute to reexamine the post and social media account. The photos and videos are most likely fake. If you make a purchase, you’ll lose money (often more than you expected) on a product that is substandard or doesn’t exist.

How to spot fake celebrity scams

● Get familiar with deepfake technology. Scammers use deepfake technology to trick people.

They take real video clips and photos of a person and use them to create new videos and audio clips. Deepfake images and videos can be surprisingly realistic.

● Understand how AI-generated images work. With AI image generators, you can type in a few words describing the image you want to create, and the AI generates an image based on your text. It’s valuable technology, but scammers can abuse it to create images to back up their stories, products, or outright lies.

● Know that scammers often impersonate celebrities. Don’t assume celebrity posts, images or videos are legitimate until you verify they came from an official source. Just because something is shared widely on social media does not mean it’s real. For example, an AI-generated photo of Pope Francis in a designer puffer jacket recently went viral. Always do your due diligence before you purchase or reshare something you saw on social media.

● Only do business with companies you know and trust. If you want to purchase a product or donate, do so through a reputable business or non-profit. If you want to buy something from a company you aren’t familiar with, do plenty of research first. Look up the company name, website, and contact information. Read reviews on and do a general search with the company’s name and the word “scam.” It’s the best way to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft.