Rotterdam woman uncovers hundreds of bogus celebrity scams online

ROTTERDAM – The recent revelation about a 68-year-old woman from Rensselaer County turning over half of her life savings ($70,000) to online scammers she believed to be TV stars from the popular series Yellowstone, shines a light on the shady, ever-growing underworld of so-called celebrity internet scams.

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“Technology is great, but it’s also a way for scammers to do what they do,” Katarina Schmieder, Communications Director for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York, said.

What happened to the local scam victim was sad, but not surprising, she said.

“The story is usually the same,” she said. “They’ll find somebody and try to pray on their insecurities or vulnerabilities, and while their story might change from case to case, the end goal is always the same: they want your money, and they will do what ever they can to get it.”

Darlene Geloso of Rotterdam, wants to make sure nobody else falls victim to a “celebrity scam.” By scouring the internet daily, she has uncovered hundreds upon hundreds of bogus ads sprinkled with photographs and endorsements from celebrities ranging from Oprah Winfrey to Reba McIntyre to Alan Jackson to many more.

“They make billions and billions of dollars,” Geloso said. “It’s more prevalent than people think. Ten in a row will pop up, and then I’ll report them and take screenshots, but there’s nobody that I can send it to.”

For Geloso, her biggest frustration is that even though she reports the scam sites, in her mind, nobody seems to be doing anything about them.

“It’s security, it’s our economic security,” she reminded people. “It’s people’s lives. It’s retirees. It’s their lives. It’s their savings.”

“If it does happen to you, I understand people are embarrassed, but they shouldn’t be because it could happen to anybody,” said Schmieder. “We’d encourage you to report it through our scam tracker. That’s where we list scams that are reported on our website and people can view that. By sharing your story, you can hopefully prevent it from happening to somebody else.”

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” said Schmieder.