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Web Summit/Flickr (CC-BY)
The tweet was promoted from a hacked verified account.
If you were on Twitter early this morning, chances are you stumbled across a promoted tweet from a verified Twitter account posing as Elon Musk. The account “capgemini_aust” claimed it was Musk’s “official promo account” and shared a post stating that he “left the post of director of Tesla” and “decided to make the biggest crypto-giveaway in the world, for all my readers who use Bitcoin.”
Suffice to say, Musk didn’t actually step down from Tesla, nor did he start a Bitcoin giveaway for his followers. But the tweet quickly went viral as users began seeing it in their timelines as a promoted tweet, causing more confusion over whether the scam was legitimate or not.
(Go to all this trouble and still misspell “support”? 419 scam self-selection) pic.twitter.com/fBDYCGqCy9
— James Lloyd 勞瞻斯 (@jamesplloyd) November 12, 2018
IT consulting company Capgemini Australia’s Twitter account was supposedly hacked and transformed into a fake Elon Musk account early this morning. The account retweeted posts from Tesla and Musk’s personal Twitter account, acting as if Musk actually tweeted from the Capgemini account. Afterward, the account shared the giveaway, which promised 5 BTC to every Twitter user that sent 0.5 BTC over to a mysterious payment address. For the record, that’s approximately $31,904.05 worth in Bitcoin for every $3,190.41 sent over, based on today’s opening price for Bitcoin.
Of course, you won’t receive a cent in return. In fact, this tactic isn’t anything new. Last week, Pantheon Books’ verified Twitter account was also hacked, turned into a Musk lookalike, and posted a similar message promising free Bitcoins to users who donate 0.1 BTC to a payment address, the Independent reports. That tweet was also promoted, with over 400 people losing money to the scammer.
Like last week’s incident, today’s truly went viral after Twitter users started seeing the fake tweet pop up in their timeline as a promoted tweet. Promoted tweets are special tweets purchased by advertisers, which are then shown to specific users based on whether its content “is likely to be interesting and relevant to that user.” It’s easy to see how Twitter users would fall for it—with the verified check mark, Musk’s profile picture, and a promotion broadcasted by Twitter, it looks like the real Musk created the “giveaway.”
— Michelle Geoghegan (@McRicey) November 12, 2018
why is still happening? verified accounts getting hacked, changing the name and profile photo to elon musk's name and profile photo, changing the bio, and posting a promoted fake/scam tweet? pic.twitter.com/BKqMXy0wyG
— Ziad ❖ (@Ziadey) November 12, 2018
— Roland (@bleifertas) November 12, 2018
In the beginning the name and dp were exactly like Elon Musk twitter user then suddenly it changed to this… you can see below it still says promoted by Elon Musk pic.twitter.com/QHO7JHqjTO
— Haebx (@Haebx0) November 12, 2018
— Supreme Productions (@Supreme_MediaCo) November 12, 2018
— Do🐽 (@Andodomeda) November 12, 2018
Other verified Twitter accounts were supposedly hacked, too, and tweeting at Musk as if they had received Bitcoins from him.
— Lloyd 👍 (@lloydleefrancis) November 12, 2018
other verified accounts get hacked to reply to the promoted tweet. pic.twitter.com/EbzMR7ruhQ
— Ziad ❖ (@Ziadey) November 12, 2018
Users also wonder why Twitter continues to have this problem with Bitcoin scammers taking over verified Twitter accounts. If the website keeps promoting phishing attempts, it will only decrease the credibility behind promoted tweets and verified accounts.
— James Barisic 🇪🇺 🇫🇷 🇭🇷 #FBPE (@jamesmb) November 12, 2018
@Twitter @TwitterSupport @jack how come you guys suspend random people who don't do anything wrong but promote scams from people like this? they're literally verified and they're impersonating @ElonMusk and you guys don't even care. pic.twitter.com/sv9S64D3t7
— xenada (@mrxenada) November 12, 2018
I can't believe people have sent their real Bitcoin to fake account. This account did this before as well. After sometime, this account will turn into nothing and then after some time he do this again. Seriously Twitter @verified You should be punished. pic.twitter.com/VTr7iivUxH
— Muhammad Hamza Ali (@HamzaAli000001) November 12, 2018
— Dennis (@Dennis57455912) November 12, 2018
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Cryptocurrency scammers have posed as Musk for quite some time, with the problem going as far back as this past February. After fake Musk accounts posted scams promising Ethereum, Musk publicly called them out, suggesting the scammers have “mad skillz.”
I want to know who is running the Etherium scambots! Mad skillz …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
Musk even joked about the scams late last month after he went on an anime-inspired Twitter spree.
Wanna buy some Bitcoin? 😉😉 pic.twitter.com/9ZbBJ5fuVq
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 22, 2018
The Daily Dot reached out to Musk, Twitter, and Capgemini, but did not receive a response.
Update 6:14pm CT, Nov. 12: When reached for comment, a Twitter spokesperson told the Daily Dot that impersonating another person in order to deceive users is “a clear violation of the Twitter Rules.” The spokesperson explained that Twitter is constantly monitoring scammers’ behavior in order to “stay one step ahead.”
“We’ve substantially improved how we tackle cryptocurrency scams on the platform, and in recent weeks, impressions have fallen by a multiple of 10 as we continue to invest in more proactive tools to detect spammy and malicious activity,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Daily Dot. “This is a significant improvement on previous action rates.”
Ana Valens is an LGBTQ reporter and essayist for the Daily Dot. Her work has previously appeared in Bitch, the Establishment, Vice's Waypoint, Rolling Stone's Glixel, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.