Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

In Texas, Lisa Risk thought Toby Keith could help her family.

In Alabama, Melisha Hammond turned to Luke Bryan.

But the country music fans would soon join scam victims across the country in falling prey to scammers posing as celebrity singers

“I feel horrible. I've lost money,” Hammond said.

The News4 I-Team first exposed how fans of country music stars were fooled into thinking they were following, and corresponding with, the social media accounts of famous musicians.

In one case, a woman in South Carolina got scammed $160,000 after thinking she was corresponding with Dierks Bentley.

Since then, we have continued to find more people out thousands of dollars, falling victim to sometimes elaborate schemes.

Hammond got on Instagram to follow what she thought was the real Luke Bryan Instagram account, and was stunned with the image from the account reached out to her on direct message.

Hammond received a video, showcasing pictures of her and Bryan.

In the direct messages, the crook posing as Bryan said he was splitting with his management company and divorcing his wife, asking her to send a phone so they could communicate privately.

“Surely it crossed your mind that Luke Bryan doesn't need any money,” asked the News4 I-Team.

“That's part of the reason I'm like, jeez, you are so stupid,” Hammond said.

Hammod ended up sending a $1200 phone before realizing her suspicions were real.

Lisa Rick can sympathize.

Desperate to get her military family home for Christmas, she reached out to what she thought was Toby Keith’s Instagram account.

Knowing the country star has helped military families in the past, she was thrilled when a direct message came from the account offering to help her family.

The News4 I-Team reviewed days worth of messages between Risk’s family and the account, in which the scammer ultimately gained access to their credit cards, offering to make payments.

The scammer even sent pictures showing he had made the payments.

Then, he asked if Risk would go buy Google Play cards and send them to him.

When she refused, she learned that her credit card accounts had frozen and all the payment rejected.

“All the payments fell through,” Risk said, “I think everybody wants to believe that there's good out there.”

The only good may be the victims themselves, who are coming forward with their stories to warn other fans.

The News4 I-Team found all of these victims have followed fake accounts that look legit.

Some of them even had the verified symbol.

You’ll know if you’re following a fake account because you’ll start getting direct messages from what appears to be celebrities.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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