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Facebook users are being warned to watch out for scammers cloning the profiles of celebrities and ordinary Australians.
The scammers are using the fake Facebook accounts to send direct messages to the person’s friends or fans, often mentioning a fake government grant they might be eligible for, or a prize.

Northern Territory radio presenters Danielle McMurrich and Alice Burton from station Hot100 have both been caught up in the scam in recent weeks.

Hot 100 radio announcer and DJ Danielle McMurrich has been caught up in a Facebook scam involving cloned profiles.
Hot 100 radio announcer and DJ Danielle McMurrich has been caught up in a Facebook scam involving cloned profiles. (Facebook)

The radio station said it had been inundated with messages from listeners saying they had been contacted by scammers using phoney profiles made to look like the accounts of both the announcers.

“One of the pages is promoting a bogus event, giving 20 people the chance to win a ‘special prize’ of $1000 but it’s understood people are being asked to provide their credit card details to enter the draw,” the station said.

Northern Territory Consumer Affairs Deputy Commissioner Rebecca Davey told the radio station fake profiles appeared to be a new scam trend. 

The Hot 100 radio station is warning about a Facebook scam involving presenter Danielle McMurrich.
The Hot 100 radio station is warning about a Facebook scam involving presenter Danielle McMurrich. (Facebook)

“It is a bit of an emerging strategy where scammers are obviously using celebrities or local identities to hook people into thinking something is legitimate and then taking away your money or your personal information,” Davey said.

But it is not just high-profile people the scammers are targeting.

Jessica Pappelau, from Darwin, told 9News.com.au she was shocked yesterday to get a call from her best friend in Adelaide about a new profile her dad appeared to have set up.

“My friend sent me some screenshots and said it looked like my dad had created a new Facebook page, but that it had been hacked,” Pappelau said.

Scammers made a fake profile for Jessica Pallelau's dad, Wolfgang, and then began contacting his friends.
Scammers made a fake profile for Jessica Pallelau’s dad, Wolfgang, and then began contacting his friends. (Supplied: Jessica Pappelau)

The scammer had cloned Pappelou’s dad’s Facebook page and sent her several messages. 

The conversation starts with the scammer casually asking how she is going. They then go on to mention a government grant from the Department of Health and Human Services she should check out. 

Pappelau said her friend’s suspicions were almost immediately raised, and for good reason.

“My dad hates the government so he’d never say anything like that,” she said.

Pappelau said her dad had also heard from some of his other friends who the scammers had contacted.

“He was really shocked. He can’t get his head around it,” she said.

Davey said it was often very hard for victims to get their money back as the scammers were usually operating from overseas.

There were several things people could do to help identify if a profile was fake, she said.

“Looking for spelling errors, grammatical errors, a lot of these [scammers] are based from overseas … or perhaps foreign words that appear on the page or in the domain name.”

“I’d definitely just advise people to take the time and investigate any claim or offer before you hand over any money.”

A fake profile of another Hot 100 radio presenter, Alice Burton, has also been used by scammers to trick listeners.
A fake profile of another Hot 100 radio presenter, Alice Burton, has also been used by scammers to trick listeners. (Facebook)

If it sounded too good to be true, chances are it probably was, she said, adding people needed to use their common sense.

“For example if they’re offering a prize, why would you then need to give your credit card details, that just doesn’t make sense,” Davey said.

Contacting the person or business directly was always a good idea, she said.

“Don’t just put a question in the comments if you’re dealing with a Facebook post because it’s probably the scammer who’ll respond to you,” Davey said.

“Call the business instead and ask them to confirm if they’re running a competition or offering a prize.”

“If it’s say, Hot 100, you could look up their contact details on the website from a legitimate source and call them and verify that information.”

It was unknown exactly how many people had fallen victim to the scam and Davey said it was unlikely any money received by scammers would be returned.

“Unfortunately a lot of the scammers are located overseas so that makes it very difficult when we don’t have jurisdiction but by reporting it, that’s the first step you can do to take action in the fight against them,” she said.

9News.com.au has contacted Meta, which owns Facebook, for comment.

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]

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