Saskatoon woman ‘devastated’ after fake Rick Springfield scam
Lavender Hitchings has been a fan of Rick Springfield for 30 years, so when someone messaged her saying he was the real Springfield, she believed him.
“(I’m) devastated because I got my kids also thinking that ‘Oh, wait a minute. Yeah, Rick Springfield is actually going to come,” she said. “And the day came – day left. I mean, they made posters for him and they were excited because they’re fans of his music too.”
The fake Springfield promised to come visit her in person if she sent $1,000 to help pay for the visit. However, when she tried to send the money through the post office, they suspected it was a scam and sent it back.
“I sent a message to him saying ‘Okay, something’s not right,’” Hitchings said. “Then he got all upset and he kind of disconnected. A couple of days later, here it was another person saying they were sorry and ‘I’m the real Rick Springfield.’”
Hitchings said after talking to him for a few weeks, again, he wanted her to send $800. In the end, Hitchings spoke with three different people claiming to be Springfield, from Twitter and Facebook and even being given supposed private cell phone numbers for both Springfield and his manager. Each fake Springfield asked for money, whether it was cash or iTunes cards.
A different bank refused a second attempt at rendering the money. She eventually did send the cash on her third try.
According to Alec Couros, an information and communication technology professor at the University of Regina, when “celebrities” begin asking for money, it’s clear it’s a scam.
“The scammers who are behind these scams are really, really good at it,” he said. “This is their life. They often put in months and months – if not years – of time developing relationships with people, ultimately to defraud them of money.”
According to Couros, for victims of these scams, it’s less about the money lost, but more about the hurt of being let down after spending so much time developing a relationship with someone.
Additionally, although the fake Springfield refused to video chat, Couros says it’s now easier than ever for scammers to use technology to fool people by video as well. He says the scammer can now take a video of a celebrity and combine it with a video of someone else talking, to make it appear as though the celebrity was speaking.
“It’s fairly easy once there’s enough of a digital profile out there, that people can reasonably reflect what seems like an authentic identity,” he said.
Now, Hitchings says she’s planning to take extra precautions on social media in the future – likely not talking to anyone if it isn’t clear who they are. She also wants to warn others of the scam, especially fans of any artist.
“Die-hard fans who are fans of rockstars, they will think ‘Oh yeah, cool, this is so-and-so. I can send the money, this will happen for me,’” Hitchings said.
“I wouldn’t trust it.”