Business Technology

Friday 21 September 2018

Elon Musk among high-profile Twitter users hit by cryptocurrency scam

Elon Musk. Photo: Reuters
Elon Musk. Photo: Reuters

Andrew Griffin

Scammers are tricking followers of Elon Musk and other celebrities into losing cryptocurrency.

The rapid rise of digital currencies is leading many criminals to trick innocent people out of their newly valuable assets. And perhaps the most high-profile of them is a scam that sees people pretend to be famous people offering digital money – but actually stealing it from anyboy who replies.

The messages appear on Twitter and come under any post by a celebrity such as Elon Musk. They appear to be sent by the celebrity himself, but are actually being done by a fake account – usually one using a handle like e1onmusk, which at first glance looks like Mr Musk's real handle.

In the posts, the scammers say they will send out cryptocurrency like ether to anyone who wants it. But first, people must send a small amount of money to the scammers account, they say, so that they have their details.

However, if people actually send the money, it's unlikely they'll get anything back at all. And because of the way cryptocurrencies work, it will never be possible to get those funds back from the scammers.

The fake messages appear under just about every post that Mr Musk sends. Even an update he sent about his discovery there is a jazz hands emoji, for instance, was met with a whole series of scammers to reply – some of whom tried to make their responses relevant, with one writing that the emoji had put him "in the mood for a giveaway".

All of those posts are then replied to by their own series of bots, in what appears to be a co-ordinated project. They reply to the original message claiming that it has worked, and that though they might have doubted it they did actually receive the bitcoin they'd expected to.

But, of course, nobody who sends the bitcoin actually receives it. The posts aren't coming from Elon Musk or any other celebrities, and there is no cryptocurrency being offered.

The impersonating accounts aren't limited to Mr Musk – with what appears to be hundreds of them swarming underneath every post. Many of the people being targeted appear to be those with followers who are particularly engaged with technology, but they are not limited to them, with almost any viral or high-profile post becoming a target for the attacks.

Independent News Service

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