FTC Should Ban Individual Impersonation Scams submits comment in support of FTC’s proposal to ban fake celebrity endorsements, romance scams and other impersonation scams.

| Eliza Duggan

The FTC has proposed amendments to its impersonation rule that would ban individual impersonation scams – from false celebrity endorsements to scammers using fake dating profiles or social media profiles, to companies stealing individuals’ images to sell their dupe products.

Yesterday, submitted a comment in support of the FTC’s proposal, which would add to the government and business impersonation rule. Technology has made it easier than ever to mimic real people and create fabricated profiles online – turbocharging the harms to consumers, honest competitors and the impersonated individuals.

Impersonating celebrities for monetary gain (and not for artistic or parody purposes) isn’t new. But the tools for doing so have never been easier to access or yielded more convincing results. has alerted consumers to skin care companies that claimed that celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock were endorsing their products, a fake news site that falsely claimed that Dr. Oz endorsed the skin care cream Neutratone, and a cosmetics site that allegedly used a number of fake celebrity endorsements. We have also reported on celebrities who sued companies for fabricating their endorsements to sell products. And a couple of years ago, joined other consumer advocates on a brief in support of a consumer who filed a class-action lawsuit against Sony Music Entertainment for allegedly misrepresenting that all the songs on the 2010 posthumous Michael Jackson album “Michael” were sung by Jackson when, according to the plaintiffs, three of the songs were sung by an impersonator. has also catalogued a number of examples of fake profiles on social media and dating apps that trick and harm consumers. For instance, the dating site JDI used fake profiles or “Virtual Cupids” to entice consumers into paying more for the site, and Married But Lonely offered “elite flirt” profiles who were not real people but created by the company allegedly for “entertainment purposes.” And we’ve tracked a number of lawsuits filed by consumers against dating sites for using fake profiles to deceptively lure customers, including, Tinder and OkCupid. also encouraged the FTC to consider a form of impersonation that hasn’t yet been addressed in the proposed amendments to the rule: when AI- or bot-controlled avatars misleadingly represent people in virtual spaces. For example, virtual influencers are widely used to promote various companies, and often behave in ways that indicate they are human when they are not. While their presence is not inherently deceptive, their “impersonation” of human beings can cause serious problems. Notably, although many users understand that these influencers are not real people, a significant minority of consumers do not realize they are fake. And these influencers don’t just post online – they gather sponsorships and advertise products, so the confusion is not innocuous; it can cause real financial harm. These issues are even more pronounced when the users are children, as found in its Roblox investigation.

Our comment also discussed the “impersonation” that occurs when unscrupulous companies steal the images and videos of people who post online about different products to promote their own products (or “dupes”). Models, influencers or even social media users who do not consider themselves influencers often see their faces and voices used in ads for products that they have nothing to do with. For instance, three different people informed that Vapex had used their images with fake testimonials to market products without their knowledge or consent. And our recent investigation into Aria Valentina found that the site lifted photos and text copy directly from high-end brand House of CB and passed them off as its own to sell their dupe dresses.

Finally, we encouraged the commission to hold accountable the companies that know or have reason to know that their tools and services are used for deceptive impersonation. That way, creators of these potentially harmful tools (including AI programs that impersonate celebrities or others) will have more incentive to take care in the distribution of their products. It will also give the commission more opportunities to get money back to consumers in cases where these tools are knowingly employed deceptively.

There can be no doubt that such impersonation scams will continue to flourish if not effectively reined in by regulators, and without the amendment to this rule, critical equitable relief will be unavailable to the victims of these false and deceptive marketing tactics (particularly in light of the AMG Capital Management decision).

Eliza Duggan

As a staff attorney, Eliza supports’s mission through legal actions, including drafting amicus briefs in relevant cases and filing administrative comments. She is dedicated to protecting consumers in the…

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