7:33pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'Ellen' Producer Says Fans Targeted In Facebook Scam (Exclusive)
Pretty much everyone with an e-mail account is familiar with the type of scam wherein a person with connections has something valuable to offer, but is experiencing some form of trouble and is willing to provide compensation for needed assistance. Is someone trying to swindle those who would do practically anything for an all expense paid trip to meet their favorite talk show host?
On Tuesday, Telepictures Prods, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. and a producer of The Ellen DeGeneres Show filed a lawsuit against an anonymous individual who allegedly has been posing as Ellen's manager.
According to the complaint, the defendant(s) created fake email accounts and a profile on Facebook in the name of Eric Gold, DeGeneres' manager. After passing himself off as an employee of her show, the fake Eric Gold is said to have solicited and collected personal information from fans. How? Fans were told that they had been selected to appear on the program.
We've collected more info on the scam. A typical message began:
"You have been selected from members of the Ellen DeGenere's Facebook Fan page to be on her talk show because of your comment on the 'Halloween edition'. If you are interested in attending, this offer is an all expense paid trip from Ellen in appreciation of being a fan of Ellen.You are required to reply as soon as possible because we have limited time."
The message then promises that the recipient will receive a $3,000 check to cover travel expenses. To receive the check, the recipients have to give their full name, address, cell phone number and e-mail address.
Afterwards, if a fan responds, trouble arises. Those who respond are told that he or she is the ninth person to say yes but that only eight people will be picked. But "Eric Gold" likes the fan, so he's willing to make an exception so long as some account information is provided:
"You have to quickly rush to bank cash the funds and head to the western union store to wire your ticket and hotel reservation funds. So you are hereby being advised to send the funds to the below Agent's name."
The complaint doesn't detail how many people were caught up in this trap, but we found one individual who appears to have been ensnared, writing for help:
"Hi Ellen I am so worried that I might be a victim of a scam and I'm petrified! Does an Eric Gold work for you? With email firstname.lastname@example.org? I got a response only on my facebook email from what says Ellen but now it doesn't have us as friends it has facebook user and its almost a week since we were chosen to come to meet you and have an all expense paid trip to LA & be on your show and it said something about being picked up by your company but no 3,000$ check has come to our house I haven't even heard from Eric gold after that!"
Telepictures is seeking a permanent injunction to enjoin the mystery perpetrator from using its marks and representing they are acting in affiliation with the show. The company is also seeking damages for malicious, oppressive, and fraudulent actions.
Clearly, not every individual who purports to have an inside route to Hollywood stars like Ellen DeGeneres is real. For those who "like" top stars and TV shows, beware of fishy messages in your Facebook message box.