Dubai: A fake charity, which claims to represent a member of a UAE royal family, is targeting celebrities as part of a sophisticated online scam.
So far, at least five celebrities have been caught in the web of deceit spun by con men behind the fictitious Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation (www.mansourfoundation.org), which exists only in the virtual world.
The celebs include Baywatch beauties Donna D’ Errico and Krista Allen, American reality TV star Duane Lee ‘Dog’ Chapman senior aka Dog the Bounty Hunter, media personality Madison Hildebrand and Taylor Armstrong, who is known for her role in reality show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
All of them have been approached by the bogus foundation and offered anything between $300,000 and $430,000 to speak at a charity event in Dubai this month.
In fact, Donna and Krista almost fell for the scam when the fake foundation, fraudulently claiming to represent the office of Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, emailed them detailed contracts offering the duo $300,000 to make a speech at an economic empowerment convention for small business owners at One & Only The Palm resort in Dubai on August 31.
“They [contracts] looked legit on the face ... but once the women signed, things got super sketchy,” US-based tabloid news website TMZ reported on Monday.
The purported organisers in ‘Dubai’ claimed they were facing trouble wiring the payment and asked Donna and Krista to share their personal details. They were also asked to donate half of their fee back to the organisers.
Sensing something amiss, the stars developed cold feet and backed off.
How Dog the Bounty Hunter was targeted
Earlier this month, Dog the Bounty Hunter was also targeted in the same scam. According to media reports, the 66-year-old was still reeling from the death of his wife Beth when his literary agent Alan Nevis received an email from the fake charity.
Like Donna and Krista, Dog was also invited to deliver a speech at the convention, albeit for a higher fee.
The organisers offered him $430,000, but he had to first donate $250,000 back to the foundation.
A detailed contract, which appeared to cover taxes and indemnity, was subsequently sent to Dog, which he accepted and duly signed.
However, when his agent couldn’t reach the ‘organisers’ on phone, Dog got suspicious and decided to call off the deal. He was still in the process of doing that when a $430,000 cheque landed at his doorstep with the added stipulation that he first donates $250,000 to the event organisers.
New version of ‘Nigerian Prince’ email scam
US investigators have described the scam as a new version of the ‘Nigerian Prince’ email of the early 2000s.
According to them, if Dog had remitted the money as per the terms of the contract, the con men would have emptied the bank account against which the $430,000 was issued and vanished with the $250,000 that he would have sent from his own pocket, resulting in a total loss for the actor.
Madison Hildebrand said he was close to signing a $300,000 deal with the event organisers when he noticed several red flags.
Recently, Taylor Armstrong also tweeted about receiving a similar invitation to speak about domestic victims rights in Dubai.
“I was targeted in this as well — they sent me a fake cashiers check from a business bank to Chase bank and asked me to come speak about domestic victims rights — my passion and my cause #sickpeople,” she said.
No convention scheduled
Enquiries made by Gulf News show that no convention or charity dinner is scheduled at One & Only The Palm or at hotel Burj Al Arab on August 31 as falsely claimed by the website which appears to have been blocked when accessed by smartphone browsers but opens on desktops. Further investigations show the website was hosted barely two months ago and has a California IP address.