Scammers are picking on Canadian TV hosts

Mary Berg is many things — MasterChef Canada winner, beloved celebrity chef, host of CTV’s The Good Stuff — but now she can add “unwilling star of a crypto scam” to her resume.

What happened: All month, X users have been bombarded with ads about a fake scandal involving Berg. There are a few different versions: Some show Berg crying, while others use edited photos of her in a courtroom or handcuffs. All of them appear with a fake CTV News headline alluding to “on-air comments” ending Berg’s career.

  • The ads link to the same CTV News lookalike website. It features a fake interview/argument between Berg and Breakfast Television host Sid Seixeiro that devolves into a pitch for a crypto platform (which we should make clear is definitely not legitimate).
  • Berg hasn’t commented on the fake ads, but a post acknowledging them has been pinned to The Good Stuff’s X account since January 5.
  • Yesterday, scammers expanded their scope to include CTV News anchor Sandie Rinaldo, directing users to a nearly identical site where Seixeiro is swapped with The Social host Melissa Grelo.

Why it matters: The ongoing stream of ads exemplifies the state of moderation on X. Even though the ads have become a weeks-long joke among Canadian users, and CTV parent company Bell Media is actively reporting them, only a few of the dozens of accounts pushing them have been suspended.

  • X’s content moderation team has been “radically diminished” in massive layoffs since Elon Musk bought the company, and its head of trust and safety left in June.

  • Many large advertisers have left X, but they’ve been replaced by smaller accounts, including ones pushing clickbait and misleading claims, if not outright scams.

Zoom out: It’s still unclear why the scammers are targeting Canadians. But the vibe of these ads is similar to the “chumbox” of links on some news sites, where headlines about a celebrity scandal appear between weight loss tricks and things doctors don’t want you to know. Daytime TV hosts are frequently exploited for their squeaky-clean images (which make a scandal more surprising) and their popularity with older people (who tend to be more frequent scam targets).—JK