'Fake celebrity' fraud scheme targeting middle-aged women on short video platforms exposed to public

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/18 23:11:59

Photo: Screenshot of Douyin

Fraudsters have conned numerous middle-aged women by counterfeiting the accounts of celebrities on China's popular short video platforms such as Douyin, and impersonating them to trick their victims into giving them cash, People's Daily reported on Sunday.

The con artists have faked the accounts of movie stars, business giants and even renowned health experts. It wasn't until the celebrities themselves exposed the fraud that devoted viewers of the fake accounts, mostly middle-aged women, would believe that they had fallen victim to online scam. 

Some fraudulent accounts even guided viewers to external e-commerce platforms to which they could send money, People's Daily reported. 

Celebrities being impersonated included actor Jin Dong, business giant Jack Ma, and even Zhong Nanshan, the health expert who has been greatly respected for the contributions he made in the fight against COVID-19.

A video of Jack Ma addressing his fans was edited to entice viewers to "come to me when you need money" along with other sweet talk that apparently captured viewers' hearts. The account had 11,000 fans and the video gained 45,000 likes in 10 days. 

The con artists use actual images or videos of the celebrities but then edit them adding subtitles or mimic them in off-screen voiceovers.  

The high-tech con game not only reflects how easy it is to trick viewers, but also the void in the emotional life of women in their 50s or 60s due to the lack of attention and care from their families, observers said.  

A blogger surnamed Zhu, a skilled video maker in the Internet fraud industry, told the media that to ensure a video passes as "original" when reviewed on platforms they use cheap editing techniques such as mirroring, or simply borrowing materials from one platform to another, to gain fans in the shortest time possible.

Over 5,000 counterfeit accounts were closed down in September, according to a statement released by Douyin, People's Daily reported. 

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