MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Oprah Winfrey is warning fans about a new holiday scam. The “60 Minutes” special contributor released a video on Instagram warning followers not to give sensitive information to anyone posing as her online. This impersonation is called a “like-farming” scam and could expose people to malware or compromise personal data.
The fake accounts popped up on Instagram this month, promising to give 5,000 dollars to each of their first 100,000 followers.
Their names suggested they were affiliated with OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s TV network, and their posts even celebrated Winfrey’s kindness.
The fake accounts often use real videos, which include Oprah and even CBS’ own Gayle King.
However, the fake profiles do not have blue checkmarks indicating they are verified Instagram accounts.
“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,” said Oprah on her verified Instagram account.
It is a scam like this that 63-year-old retiree Victor Ockleberry almost fell for.
“It’s Christmas time, you’re taking advantage of people,” said Ockleberry. He saw a Facebook post claiming Winfrey and Tyler Perry were giving away cars and other prizes. He says he became suspicious when people were asked to send money to Jamaica to cover taxes and fees.
“If they had said I would have won, more than likely I would have sent $750 to Jamaica, because that’s just how much I believed in Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey,” said Ockleberry.”
Winfrey is responding to commenters on her official Instagram account, letting them know she’s not involved in any giveaways.
“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,” she said.
An Instagram spokeswoman told CBS News: “We apologize to Oprah and any Instagrammers who may have been affected by these fake accounts. When we catch violating activity, we work to counter and prevent it, including blocking accounts.”
About 100 phony Oprah Winfrey accounts have been removed so far.