Two Bloomberg reporters who cover Bitcoin, technology, and business for the wire service have become the latest, unwitting tools of cryptocurrency scammers.
But as tech sites continue their war on legitimate cryptocurrency ads, these reporters will not be the last.
The Twitter accounts of Lily Katz (@LilyKatz) — who according to her Twitter bio covers “crypto and fintech and real estate” — and Olga Kharif (@olgakharif) — a technology writer for Bloomberg and Businessweek — both had their accounts spoofed by scammers who then asked people to send them small amounts of cryptocurrency.
The scammers created false accounts — with the Twitter handles @LilyKatz5, @subidetu4692, and @o1gakharif — using the same names and photos as the pair they were impersonating.
How the scammers do it…
In an attempt to avoid detection the scammers blocked the reporters’ true Twitter accounts and then spam their followers with crypto-related offers they said would be transferred in return for small amounts of Ethereum Ether.
Despite the accounts of both Katz and Kharif being verified by Twitter (verified accounts have small blue tick next to their name indicating they are who their account says they are), the pair said once the fake accounts were reported to the micro-blogging site, Twitter took a week to suspend Katz’s fake account while @o1gakharif remains active.
These two are far from the most high profile Twitter users to be used by scammers in this way, however.
Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin has added “Not giving away ETH” to his Twitter name to warn people that might be contacted by scammers pretending to be him.
Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has also been impersonated to trick people into parting with their cryptocurrency.
In Musk’s case, scammers replied to the SpaceX Twitter account saying he was going to “give away” 3,000 Ether, worth at the time around $2 million.
What Twitter is doing about it…
Twitter has been long criticised for failing to tackle the huge number of bots that plague its platform. Some think it is unwilling to do so because deleting them will mean a hefty fall in the number monthly active users on the site as well as a sharp reduction in many of its users’ follower counts.
World leaders from US President and prolific tweeter Donald Trump, to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis all have been found to have many millions of bots among their followers.