If you’ve ever taken the time to read the replies on an Elon Musk tweet, you’ve probably noticed someone impersonating the SpaceX and Tesla chief to scam users out of cryptocurrency.

Now Musk has spoken out about the Twitter crypto scams that have dogged his tweets for years.

“The crypto scam level on Twitter is reaching new levels. This is not cool,” he wrote to his 31 million followers.

Elon Musk crypto scams usually see verified accounts hijacked to imitate the billionaire entrepreneur’s Twitter profile.

The scammer then uses this clone profile to reply to a Musk tweet to promote a ‘crypto giveaway’. Users are asked to send a small amount of cryptocurrency – usually bitcoin or ethereum – to “verify” their account. The scammer promises to send back up to ten times that amount, but none is returned.

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In 2018, Verdict observed a spate of these crypto scams on Twitter. In one case, a professional golf long driver had his account hacked to spread the scam on a Musk tweet in which he declared his love for ramen.

In another case, scammers hacked the Twitter account of Pathe Films to carry out the scam. Other high-profile Twitter users have also seen crypto scams appear in the replies of their tweets.

“Troll/bot networks on Twitter are a dire problem for adversely affecting public discourse & ripping people off,” added Musk.

“Just dropping their prominence as a function of probable gaming of the system would be a big improvement.”

Elon Musk crypto scams spread by bots

Such impersonation scams are against Twitter’s terms of use. Bot accounts are also deployed to help amplify the spread of the crypto scam. Twitter has taken action to reduce the number of bots, suspending more than 70 million suspicious accounts between May and June 2018 alone.

But according to Musk the crypto scam problem is getting worse, not better.

“Bots make it very easy to create fake Twitter profiles but it occurs because sadly some people still fall victim to the claims and believe what they read,” said Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at security firm ESET.

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“Simply put, these claims may look obviously fraudulent to most but being a numbers game to a huge 31 million followers, it will still attract some curiosity by a small number of people which makes the business model continue and worsen over time.”

Replying to a follower that asked what users could do, Musk said: “Report as soon as you see it.”

Moore added: “I suggest all users do background checks as far as they can including reviews and then further research into the account itself before parting with any money.

“This isn’t a case of ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is’, it’s a case of merely don’t be too quick to click.”

Verdict has contacted Twitter for comment.


Read more: Twitter Bitcoin scammers strike again, with US retailer Target hit in crypto-giveaway scam