How To Successfully Impersonate a Nigerian Celebrity Online
The successes of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Skype to mention a few has not come without its pros and cons. Many celebrities have enjoyed immense benefits from these platforms – sales, promotion, interaction and engagement directly with their fans. However, some of the bitter pills these platforms have left many celebrities to chew includes the criminal impersonation by internet fraudsters. The protective screen of anonymity on some platforms provide combined with ignorance on behalf of some ‘promoters’ has made it easy for wily individuals to interact personally with their would-be-victims before sweet-talking them into parting with hard earned money.
The aim of this piece is to establish who a celebrity is, what it means to be an impersonator and consequently outlining the steps taken by fraudsters to achieve success in their impersonating ‘trade’ of public figures online. Hopefully, this information will help the reader become knowledgeable of such nefarious activities and employ a level of wariness whenever he/she comes in contact with such social media profiles.
A celebrity is a person whose distinct role and contribution in his area of specialty has been noticed by the public, is unique and his action stands him out from the pool of crowd that engage in the same endeavor. A musician, a politician, an actress, a fashion icon etc. For this fact, brands, businesses and individuals are drawn to such individuals because of their fan following to partner on various marketing, media, PR or even speaking activities. This would require making contact with said ‘celebrity’. In Nigeria, most celebrities aren’t in the Yellow Pages or even listed in a booking agency, so this ‘contact process’ usually (if no one knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows Wizkid’s cousin’ss gateman) starts with a simple Google search, email and or maybe a phone call to a ‘number’ listed on their social media. This major loop-hole in the contact process is the space that our impersonator and would-be-victim usually are introduced to themselves.
Just FYI: Impersonation is a criminal offence punishable by law in Nigeria and if proven and tried in a court of law can bag a minimum of 15 years in prison. In this scenario, an impersonator is a person who leverages on the popularity of a public figure for his personal aggrandizement and to also exploit unsuspecting members of the public.
Some of the tricks deployed by internet fraudsters in achieving their aim of a successful impersonation of celebrities includes the following.
They (fraudsters) have perfected the act of hacking the social media addresses/account of celebrities and consequently use them to raise money, get customers and even organise concerts for naive persons or fans of these celebrities. How do you hack a celebrities social media? There are quite a few ways but we’ll discuss only one for now. First it starts with a ‘Gullible’ celebrity and his need to be accepted in the social network. Scammers send out mails from accounts like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and ask celebrities to fill a form with their details to get a ‘verified’ account.
The celebrity is flattered and excited and without checking to see if its for real or not, goes ahead and fills out the form with his username and password and sends. The scammer receives the details and changes access details, emails, phone numbers and begins work on promoting ‘himself’ by posting photos and pictures. The celebrity then rushes to create a new account and announces to the world that he’s been hacked but the damage is already done.
There have been instances where the scammer even claims the celebrities ‘new’ account is the scam account. These scammers are aware of the gullibility of most people who believe almost anything that is related to a celebrity. They use the names of famous people from the worlds of entertainment, sports, politics and even men of God, who have made names in the society.
Another trick is what i’ll call the fallacy of Argumentum Misericordiam (Appeal to Pity), that is the act of trying to play on peoples emotions in order to get ones wish accomplished. The internet fraudsters understand this fact and consequently hide behind the names of well known celebrities in other to get fans of these famous people to pay them, sometimes using bogus messages supposedly sent from someone or a company wanting to give you some large amount of money, if you will just pay an upfront fee.
Finally, fraudsters also profit from the fact that on some social networks especially Facebook, some celebrities mostly in the entertainment industry shoot themselves in the foot by having more than one account with same picture and almost the same profile of the celebrity leaves little to doubt. Most celebrities were regular Joes a few years ago and probably didn’t care about social media that much. So that Facebook, Twitter account that they created way back then? They hardly remember their access details. So when they eventually ‘blew’, they have to create another account. They hand over that account to their new management. But then they left ‘that management’ and joined some new guys and then they created another account. But then again you created another account but that one was just a fan-page to promote your work. And then the cycle begins.
Impersonators would take advantage of the proliferation of accounts and just add their own. While this may not always be the case, sometimes these accounts simply spring up just because you’re public figure, nothing else. However, if you find yourself in this situation, quickly find a means to delete previous accounts if they’re not active if you still have access (you can learn how to do that here) and also repeatedly inform your fans and general public on your authentic account of other impersonators. It helps to have a verified account also like Kunle Afolayan in the image above. However, that’s easier said than done. I’ll be talking about how to get your social media accounts verified in a later post.
In conclusion, this whole thing may seem like it is a lot of work but it is not only the price you may have to pay to be a ‘celeb’, it is also important so you can avoid being legally liable. Wizkid recently had to perform shows for free in Germany because an ‘impersonator’ had collected cash on his behalf. He was required to perform the show else he could open himself up to a legal and PR battle. And thats not good for business. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
In my next post, I’ll be stating some ways celebrities can prevent and protect themselves from being impersonated online. Cheers!