Rhonda Vincent was surprised last week by a call from the Nashville office of the FBI, asking her to come in for an interview. Just imagine the thoughts that were running her head driving to that meeting!
What they wanted to speak with her about was a report that someone, who had created spoof accounts on social media using her name and likeness, had successfully extorted a half million dollars from some poor man who believed their false story that Rhonda was in the midst of an ugly divorce, and in desperate need of cash. The spoofers have been creating fake accounts on all the popular social media platforms, posing as Rhonda, and then luring them off the social accounts to speak to them by phone or in private messages.
The agents quickly determined that Vincent was not involved in the scam in any way, a suspicion that had been fueled in part by the fact that she and her husband had recently sold a home, and showed a large infusion of cash into their personal accounts. Now the FBI is working with Rhonda, and a number of other celebrities, whose fans have been likewise victimized by scammers.
Rhonda said that she feels terribly about this, and is on a mission to let her fans know to be aware of this ruse before anyone contacts them.
“People need to know about this, need to be warned. It’s quite alarming, but mostly heartbreaking. Herb and I will have been happily married 36 years this Christmas Eve, and I would never ask anyone for money.
On my birthday this year I was at Renfro Valley, and some guy came to the show having just left his wife, thinking I was going to go home with him. The scammers had solicited money from him in my name, and convinced him that we had a relationship.
You can see these fake accounts online, and I report them when I find them.”
She said that the FBI are trying to run these people down, but fear that the money is already offshore, and will be difficult to track.
“It’s so sad, because people are believing the spoofers. We’ve told them it’s fake if they contact me, and they don’t believe it.
Another story they tell is that I’m in the studio, and Herb has locked all my accounts so I need money.”
These scammers do a thorough job, learning relevant details about the celebrities they fake, with enough information to convince a fan they are the real thing. Rhonda has always been very open about her personal life, and shares it with her fans online, making them vulnerable to such an attack.
The FBI told her that they are trying to get the word out that people are spoofing popular celebrities this way, but haven’t yet found a way to reach them all conveniently.
Bottom line from Vincent – she is still happily married, would never ask a fan for money, and wants them all to be aware and on guard against this kind of fraud.