Criminals use artificial intelligence, imitate celebrities to trick people into handing over money

ORLANDO, Fla. — Artificial Intelligence or A.I. technology is creeping its way into our daily lives and scammers have now found ways to use it to pump up their cons.

An Orlando woman found out the hard way after she was tricked into believing she was speaking with a popular actor. Margarita Brito admits she has a crush on Kevin Costner like many who grew up watching him, but she never imagined an innocent Facebook ‘Like’ would lead her down an emotional rabbit hole.

She started receiving messages from someone pretending to be Kevin Costner after following his Facebook page.  Brito told Action 9′s Jeff Deal it started with a message she received in the middle of the night. She was skeptical but responded.


On Facebook, Instagram and on Whatsapp, the messages became a steady stream of manipulation. The scammer even sent a doctored passport and driver’s license showing Kevin Costner’s photo and information.

Then he called her for a video chat using Whatsapp. The scammer used artificial intelligence to make it appear as though Kevin Costner was making the video call.

Brito showed Action 9 a screengrab from the video chat that showed Kevin Costner’s face and she said, “Mira, mira, es la primera vez que me llamo era ese.” Translated to English: “Look, look.  It’s the first time he called me. That was it.”

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But in a future video chat, there was a glitch and the imposter’s real face popped up on the screen. That’s when she finally knew the whole thing was a sham and tried to block him.

Still, he kept asking for money. The fake Costner told Brito he couldn’t access his accounts because of his recent divorce and needed $3,000 paid through gift cards.

She never sent him a dime but claims somehow the scammers got enough information to charge than $300 worth of food through her Uber Eats account. That left the senior, who is on a fixed income, in a tough spot.

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Breanne McClellan, the co-founder of the online dating investigation service Social Catfish, told Action 9, “The holidays are around the corner. We do see an increase with the romance scams around this time only because people are lonely and vulnerable.”

She said there’s no limit to the sophistication of these romance cons and deep fake videos are now part of a real problem. According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 70,000 Americans lost a record $1.3 billion to romance scams in 2022. And social media was the preferred gateway to their wallets.

“Someone that you just met asking you to send money or gift cards, you know, asking you to send money to people you don’t know. These are all red flags. Poor grammar, you know, that’s also a red flag,” she added.

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And the scammers are persistent.  Margarita was even getting messages in the middle of her interview with Action 9.

At one point, the bad guy sent Margarita a manipulated photo of Kevin Costner holding a framed photo of her.  It’s laughable to her now, but she wants to warn others that they could be targeted by heartless criminals playing with their emotions.

Contact the FBI (Internet Crime Complaint Center(IC3) | Home Page)  and the Federal Trade Commission (ReportFraud.ftc.gov) right away if you think you’ve been the victim of a romance scam.

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Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.