Impersonation Scams Part 1 – The Rich and Famous

It’s Fraud Prevention Month and to help protect investors we’re going to highlight a couple of prevalent scams that have caused considerable losses for investors throughout North America. Both are impersonation scams, but who is being impersonated is different.

In part one of our look at impersonation scams we’ll look at fraudsters who are impersonating rich and famous people to lure their victims to invest.

If you use any social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn, TikTok, or YouTube, you’ve likely seen a few of these impersonation scams. They are everywhere online these days, and unfortunately, they have caused many people to lose considerable amounts of money.

Some of the most common rich and famous individuals that fraudsters are impersonating include Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Joe Biden, and Donald Trump. In Canada, fraudsters running impersonation scams have also been known to impersonate Justin Trudeau, Pierre Poilievre, and stars of the CBC program Dragon’s Den such as Arlene Dickenson and Kevin O’Leary.

Impersonation scams using rich and famous individuals can be done in many different ways, but they all use a famous face to tout an investment opportunity. They can include:

Online ads

Deepfake videos

Social media posts

Fake media stories that appear to be from a legitimate media outlet

An example of an impersonation that the Commission has been sent was a video posted privately to YouTube that showed an interview between Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson. The interview never actually happened and was created using deepfake video technology. In the video, which was supposedly from CNN, Musk shares an amazing quantum AI stock-picking tool he has created to share only with Canadians. The stock picker is 90 percent accurate and Musk is only offering it to Canadian investors. This video was viewed more than 450,000 times before being removed by YouTube. There were several comments in the video asking for information on how to invest, so unfortunately several people were likely taken in by the fake video and lost money.

If you see anything online in which a famous person is being used to tout or recommend an investment, be extremely cautious as this may very well be an impersonation scam. Do not invest in the so-called investment opportunity and do not provide any personal or financial information.

Next week in part two of our look at impersonation scams we’ll look at scams in which fraudsters impersonate advisers and regulators.