As reported by the Telegraph, bitcoin scammers were able to steal GBP 120,000 in BTC while impersonating Elon Musk on Twitter. First, the hackers took over the accounts of two UK companies, Matalan and Pathé UK. Once these accounts were taken over, the names were changed to Elon Musk, and a cryptocurrency giveaway was set up. The two company profiles kept the blue verification marks of legitimacy and over 400 people donated to the giveaway. Together, the two companies boasted over 100,000 followers.
The fake Elon Musk giveaway
The hackers claimed that Elon Musk was stepping down from Tesla and was giving away 10,000 BTC to commemorate. The users were encouraged to give away a small amount of BTC, and they would be given a larger amount in return. This is a relatively common tactic, and many fake scams have been created with attempts to impersonate individuals including Vitalik Buterin and John McAfee. Buterin has since changed his name to “Vitalik Buterin – “Non-Giver of Ethereum” due to the prevalence of false accounts.
In the scam, users were required to send a small amount to ‘verify their address’ and would receive over 200% in return, according to the scam page. The scam raises concerns over the security capabilities of Twitter. In response to the Elon Musk impersonation, a Twitter spokesperson stated that –
“Twitter has also substantially improved how we tackle cryptocurrency scams on the platform. In recent weeks, user impressions have fallen by a multiple of 10 in recent weeks as we continue to invest in more proactive tools to detect spammy and malicious activity. This is a significant improvement on previous action rates.”
The perfect crime?
Bitcoin is an ideal tool for scam artists as it is difficult to track the funds. While wallet addresses are traceable using IP addresses and with the right tools, there are address laundering techniques available to mix the funds and the hackers almost certainly took precautions to evade capture. In most instances of crypto scams, the security and legal infrastructure are not in place to reclaim funds and find the culprits. In some cases, criminals can be caught, but this seems to be the exception and not the rule when it comes to cryptocurrency hacks.
However, as the industry evolves there will be ways to prevent these scams from proliferating. Twitter could simply enable a form of Two Factor Authentication (2FA), which is used on cryptocurrency exchanges and is well-known in IT communities as being an effective form of defense against hacks. The requirement to control a physical device with a 2FA code renders it much more difficult for hackers to take over accounts.
Ultimately, however, users will have to accept at least some responsibility. They sent money to an obvious scam in the hope of achieving an unrealistic return without doing any work, a hard but necessary lesson.
Digital Nomad with an interest in Zen and Blockchain technology.
Law graduate with 3 years experience as a consultant in the capital markets industry and 4 years experience freelancing on UpWork as a Creative Writer.