If you’ve used Twitter at all recently, you’ve probably seen what looks like Elon Musk peddling a cryptocurrency “giveaway” on your timeline. A closer look at the user’s Twitter handle will reveal the account doesn’t belong to Elon Musk, it’s an imposter looking to capitalize on the crypto craze.
The scam itself is pretty simple: the scammer hacks a Twitter-verified account, changes the name to “Elon Musk” or something similar, changes the profile picture to Musk’s current photo, and then begins tweeting as if they were the Tesla CEO. The scammers showed up frequently in Musk’s mentions, often acting like they’re continuing a thought that Musk left off in a real tweet. Then, they link out to a cryptocurrency scam, usually claiming Musk is doing a giveaway that requires users to send some of their own cryptocurrency to the scammer.
Recently, however, these scams have ventured outside of Musk’s mentions and into timelines. After hacking a verified account, the scammers have successfully “promoted” their tweets using Twitter’s ad service, effectively forcing their way into timelines of everyday users.
Twitter has attempted to combat these scams by blocking accounts without mobile verification from adding “Elon Musk” into their display name. But the scammers have circumnavigated these restrictions, sometimes by using different characters but still maintaining a display name that appears to be “Elon Musk” at first glance.
On Monday, the film studio Pathe UK’s Twitter account was hacked and used for fake Elon Musk cryptocurrency scams. The scammer subtly changed the “l” in “Elon” to a different character, presumably so the account name wouldn’t get automatically flagged by Twitter.