Scam artists appear to have seized on an emotional moment in an effort to capitalize on the death of actor Chadwick Boseman.
The 43-year-old ‘Black Panther’ and '42' actor died a week ago due to colon cancer. Heartfelt tributes were shared by fans over the following days, but the California Better Business Bureau said some of the beloved actor's fans became targets of scammers.
“Over the last few days, we’ve had some unfortunate calls from consumers,” said the agency’s CEO, Steve McFarland.
The agency received complaints from people who said they received unsolicited pop-up messages and emails using images of Boseman as part of a phishing and ransomware scam.
Here’s how it works.
- Clicking the message downloads a virus, which can lock a device.
- A threat warning and 800 number appear, offering a fix.
- Calling that number connects the user with a person posing as a technician who will seeking personal information or cash.
“And the way they want to be paid is primarily from gift cards, from GreenDot cards, from Google Play cards, the kind of payments you’re just not going to get a refund from,” McFarland said.
NBC4 obtained a copy of the scam email, which makes an emotional appeal: “His family can’t do this alone and needs your help.”
An attached flyer includes Boseman’s photo and several obvious spelling and punctuation errors. It also has QR barcodes for bitcoin donations that cannot be traced or refunded.
NBC4 received the following response from Boseman’s publicist, who said it was alarming to hear about the fraudulent scams: “It has been brought to our attention that there are several parties claiming to be foundations on behalf of Chadwick Boseman, many of which are also asking for donations. These ‘foundations’ are not real and not sanctioned by the family. When there are official foundation details to share, they will be released via his representative and his verified social media accounts only.”
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see such fraud in the wake of tragedies, McFarland said.
“If it’s not Boseman, it’s going to be something else,” he said. “We’ve seen these now over the last couple of weeks, especially with disaster scams and people looking for information and your donations playing on the fires and the hurricanes we’ve had over the last couple of weeks.”
Here are a few ways to avoid becoming a scam victim.
- Don’t click on unsolicited text messages or emails.
- Even social media posts can contain viruses.
- Update your software and malware systems.
If you do unintentionally download a virus, don’t share any personal information or allow remote access to your device.
NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.