Twitter saw yet another crypto scam on May 1, 2018, but this time it wasn’t someone using a similar handle to a well-known crypto influencer. Hackers had taken over the Twitter account of the Vertcoin project and were offering a prize of 10 BTC ($90,000) to their followers. All you had to do was send a nominal sum of 0.005 BTC to Vertcoin’s BTC address to enter the competition, and the winner would be announced within 48 hours.
Crypto influencers like Vitalik Buterin, Pavel Durov, and Charlie Lee, founders of Ethereum, Telegram, and Litecoin respectively, are regularly impersonated on Twitter. Experienced cryptocurrency investors are not normally fooled by tweets offering free crypto from these imposters, but many individuals that are just starting out get scammed time and time again. There are several reasons why the scammers make easy money from sending out a few tweets, and sometimes it can be much more serious than investors losing a trivial sum.
Some investors get started in crypto with free tokens via an airdrop, from projects looking to expand their community of followers, so the concept of free crypto is a concept they are familiar with. The value of the free tokens from an airdrop is normally less than $10, but this doesn’t stop some people thinking that the project is now feeling more generous and giving away tokens worth thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. The tweets are made to appear genuine as they are often posted alongside genuine tweets from crypto influencers apologizing for a problem on their network.
When the Binance exchange was temporarily closed for several days in February 2018 due to technical difficulties and the Telegram network suffered from a power outage in April 2018, the scammers were out in full force. With the Telegram scam, the hackers took over a verified twitter account, outside the crypto community, and changed the handle to Pavel Durov. So a fairly plausible offer of “compensating” Telegram users for not being able to use the service tricked quite a few people.
Individuals new to crypto don’t always convert figures like 0.005 BTC so readily to US dollar equivalents and would probably think twice about entering a “competition” if they realized the cost of entry was $45. Crypto influencers like Vitalik Buterin now use revised twitter handles such as Vitalik “Not giving away ETH” Buterin in an attempt to warn people, but this also highlights the fact that anyone can change their Twitter handle. The scams are much more successful if the handle is accompanied by the little twitter verified badge, and as we have seen, it’s not too difficult for these to be obtained.
With the powerful computer algorithms used by Twitter, they should be able to do much more to prevent these scams. Twitter knows who the crypto influencers are and surely the only reason to use an identical handle is to scam users. Normally the individual losses from the plethora of scams on Twitter are quite small, but they can be enormous when followers are diverted to fake websites, which then proceed to empty their digital wallets.
Financial analyst, smartphone app designer, technical writer, and crypto enthusiast. Blockchain verified graduate of MOOC 9, DFIN-511: Introduction to Digital Currencies, run by the University of Nicosia.