A SoCal woman thought she was being courted online by Keanu Reeves until a request for money was made from the millionaire movie star.
“To this day, this morning, I received – yesterday and today – eight texts from this Keanu Reeves guy… I have emails and chats and texts and pictures and stuff that, I dare any girl to read these and not believe it true. They go right to your heart, ”said Playa del Rey resident Pamela Landers.
Landers wasn’t really being wooed by one of the world’s biggest movie stars. She was a victim of what are known as imposter or impersonation scams.
The Keanu Reeves scam is a relatively recent version of this racket – and one so effective, victims have reported being conned by it both nationwide and around the world.
“Impersonation scams come in a number of varieties, whether that’s government impersonation or business impersonation, relative impersonation or online love interest, otherwise known as romance scams,” said Christopher Brown, an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 150,000 romance scams have been reported to the FTC – likely just a fraction of the total. Many, if not most victims, are too embarrassed to report having been duped.
“A scammer claims to be someone that you trust in order to convince you to send them money or your personal information,” Brown said.
That’s how it worked with Landers, who says Fake Keanu spent weeks expressing his love and winning her trust.
Once the hook was baited, Fake Keanu started reeling Landers in. First, he asked her net worth. Then he asked for money – $ 400,000.
In case you’re wondering, Keanu Reeves is estimated to be worth $ 380 million. Landers, who works as an accountant, said she asked Fake Keanu why a multimillionaire needed her financial help.
“I never got an answer on that one,” she said.
She also never sent any money, but the texts and declarations of love continued. Romance scammers are nothing if not persistent.
Keanu Reeves, if you’re watching this, I know it’s not you. I hope everyone knows it’s not you, ”Landers said.
Reeves – the real one – was unavailable for comment, but his publicist said in a statement that “Keanu Reeves does not participate in ANY form of social media, nor has he ever done so in the past or plan to do so in the future. If anyone tries to contact you via social media claiming to be him, it is a FRAUD. ”
The FTC advises that you cut off all communication with an online Romeo or Juliet the second you’re asked for money.
But Landers says this can be difficult, especially for people who may be lonely or who may be thrilled just by the idea of being wooed by a celebrity.
Even now – now that she knows it was all a ruse – Landers still looks back on the first few weeks of Fake Keanu’s attentions with a sense of excitement.
“It was very flattering. It was, it was romantic… I had to always keep reminding myself after that first two weeks that it’s not real. People do not fall in love this way. It just does not happen, ”she said.
But the ruse works. Last year alone, according to the FTC, victims of romance scams lost more than half a billion dollars.
“If you’re in any way feeling emptiness in some part of you, they’re gonna find it. They found it with me, ”Landers said.
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