Keanu Reeves secretly wants to be your lover? Don’t get your hopes up, ladies, especially if he asks you for money
- Scammers are impersonating Hollywood star and multimillionaire Keanu Reeves to cheat money out of lonely and gullible older women
- More than US$304 million was lost to romance scams last year in the US, a 50 per cent increase over 2019; it’s a problem elsewhere too, including Hong Kong
Spoiler alert: if Keanu Reeves reaches out to you on social media and declares his romantic intentions, it’s probably not really him.
Nevertheless, women around the world have reported being conned out of cash and personal information by scammers purporting to be the John Wick actor.
A Google search for “Keanu Reeves scam” shows that women in Canada, Taiwan and across America have reported being duped into thinking Reeves has the hots for them – and that the multimillionaire movie star could use some money.
This is just one of numerous rackets that have become more common during the pandemic. According to the US Federal Trade Commission, American consumers have reported losing more than US$545 million to fraud since January 2020.
So-called impostor scams were the most frequently reported ruses in 2020, the FTC says. The number of impostor scam reports hit nearly 557,000 in the first half of this year, up 18 per cent from the same period a year ago. In Hong Kong, romance scams nearly doubled from a year earlier in the first half of 2021, with victims’ losses up 1.6-fold, to more than US$37 million.
The Keanu Reeves scam is particularly intriguing because to many, if not most, people, it would seem to be obviously bogus.
But try telling that to Molli Hermiston’s aunt. Hermiston, 35, says her aunt had been led on for almost a year by someone claiming to be Reeves, “and she has been so brainwashed, she won’t listen to our family”.
A request was sent to his publicist for this piece, asking whether Reeves spends his free time wooing women he’s never met on Instagram and Facebook. The publicist didn’t respond. Even so, suffice to assume the real Reeves has nothing to do with any of this.
“My aunt is not stupid,” Hermiston says. “This is purely emotional.” She says her aunt, who is in her 70s, was so far down the Keanu Reeves rabbit hole that she was now trying to sell her house in Little Rock, Arkansas. “She wants to move to Los Angeles,” Hermiston says. “She wants to be nearer to Keanu.”
As best as Hermiston can tell, someone approached her aunt on social media last year and convinced her to chat via Google Hangouts.
Once there, the scammer began an online courtship that eventually identified him as Reeves (or a facsimile thereof). The digital relationship blossomed over a number of months. “He even sent my aunt a necklace and earrings,” Hermiston says. “She wears them every day.”
What did Fake Keanu want in return? US$10,000 at one point. Curious about how this works, Hermiston says she set up an Instagram account in the guise of an elderly, well-to-do woman and followed a bunch of Keanu Reeves fan pages.
“Very quickly,” she says, “five different people saying they’re Keanu Reeves approached me online.”
Hermiston shows her Google Hangout exchanges with one of them. “Due to my profession and career,” fake Keanu said, “I want this to be a secret between you and I.”
“What do you like to be called?” Hermiston asked.
“Keanu will be fine.”
What followed were a series of probing questions on fake Keanu’s part – the sort of questions that reveal a person’s wealth and status, or that might come up as part of a bank’s security queries to confirm a customer’s identity.
Hermiston put a lot of time into this and, eventually, fake Keanu suggests he and Hermiston meet at a celebrity event. He says it will only cost her US$2,000 to attend. He wants the payment in bitcoin.
By now, you’re undoubtedly asking: How could anyone fall for this? “I’ve thought a lot about that,” Hermiston says. “We’re talking about older women, maybe lonely women who don’t get out much, especially now. Women who may not know a lot about social media.”
The success of impostor scams also depends on a desire on the victim’s part for it to be true. Who wouldn’t want to win a lottery, inherit a ton of money … or interact with a movie star?
“Millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone,” the FTC says. “But instead of finding romance, many find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money.”
Losses from romance scams hit a record US$304 million last year, up about 50 per cent from the year before, the agency says.
Never let someone talk you into doing something that seems questionable, the FTC advises. Never send money to such people.
Hermiston said she’d been delegated by her family to intervene with her aunt and try to talk some sense into her. So far, she said, it’s been difficult.
“She just doesn’t want to talk about it.”