Over the weekend, @bestmemes, a massive Instagram meme account that boasts nearly 14 million followers, posted images of fraudulent tweets from President Donald Trump and Barack Obama. The images directed their followers to a scam campaign promising a PayPal payment that mirrors the stimulus payments the government is giving to Americans.
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The memes featured doctored tweets designed to look like they came from the 44th and 45th presidents, which read “due to the CoronaVirus, if your state is currently under lockdown, you are eligible for $1000 via @PayPal by completing the #StayAtHome survey. Stay strong everyone.”
The image also featured a Paypal balance of $1,448.71.
Followers were directed to a link in the account’s bio that opened to a three-question survey that asked for an email address.
The doctored images disappeared from @bestmemes on Sunday evening and a spokesperson for Facebook told the Daily Dot that the fake tweets were removed for violating the platform’s rules on coronavirus misinformation.
On Sunday night, the fake Obama tweet reappeared after it had already been removed once.
Within ten minutes, it had thousands of likes. Later on Sunday night, it disappeared again and the link in the account bio—which directed users to a website asking for their email address—was also gone.
On Monday morning, the entire account had been deleted.
A spokesperson for Facebook told The Daily Dot that @bestmemes was taken down because of “repeated community standards violations”
Facebook has promised to battle misinformation during the coronavirus epidemic, saying “our global network of third-party fact-checkers are continuing their work reviewing content and debunking false claims that are spreading related to the coronavirus. When they rate information as false, we limit its spread on Facebook and Instagram and show people accurate information from these partners. We also send notifications to people who already shared or are trying to share this content to alert them that it’s been fact-checked.”
In a March 6 tweet, Instagram said that they are “removing known harmful misinformation related to COVID-19.”
The Daily Dot was unable to find an authorized giveaway from PayPal relating to coronavirus. PayPal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While scammers are now pivoting to coronavirus schemes, these types of PayPal and CashApp scams have run amok on Twitter in the past few years.
The microblogging platform has also dealt with coronavirus misinformation from political figures, removing tweets from Rudy Giuliani and Charlie Kirk.
The @bestmemes account was mostly apolitical. The fake tweets did not appear on any other major accounts, but @bestmemes boasted 13.9 million followers. @fuckjerry, the powerhouse account that worked with the Michael Bloomberg 2020 campaign, has 15.2 million followers.
@bestmemes did not respond to the Daily Dot’s requests for comment.