Fake Elon Musk accounts on Twitter targeted fans of the Tesla CEO and lured them with promises of big cryptocurrency give-aways. Early last month, a poser pretending to be Musk used an authentic tweet from the real account of the SpaceX CEO and then posted a tweet underneath it requesting users to send a small digital currency amount in exchange for a bigger return. According to Wired, the scammers were reportedly able to get away with thousands of bitcoin.
The fake accounts had the image of Musk on its profile but no Twitter verification badge. It also used names such as @elonmuskik, @elonlmusk, and @alon_musk. The authentic Musk had the simple and straightforward username of @ElonMusk.
According to the BBC, the tweets from the scam accounts were spread by automatic bots. One of the accounts claimed that it will be releasing 3,000 ether. Meanwhile the bots responded with similar fake claims that the give-away did occur and that it worked. Another fake account purported to release 5,000 ether. All users had to do was to, “..sеnd 0.5-1 ЕTH to the address bеlow and gеt 5-10 ЕTH back.” Mashable reported that when one clicked on the link provided, users arrive on a page that appeared to show that the claimed ether were being released and given away. Eventually, a tracking service revealed that the fake accounts were able to steal more than $16,000.
Threat intelligence manager Craig Hassold from the security firm Phish Labs described to Wired how the Twitter scam operated: “It’s like a social media impersonation mixed with a classic Nigerian prince scam.” He added that though Twitter will highly likely block these fake accounts, the effort of creating one is easy that he sees the scam being repeated. He declared, “”It’ll probably be a cat and mouse game, and the return on investment at the beginning will be pretty good for the actor.”
Associate professor Marie Vasek who did research on bitcoin scams advised Buzzfeed that as much as there are fake accounts, the sheer number of people falling for these scams are real. She added, “People actually do fall for this, and sometimes they fall for it twice.” Vasek explained why the scams would continue and the reason it is a lucrative form of theft – once the digital coins are sent to a particular wallet, getting the coin back or identifying the individual who received or took the coin are both impossible.