Why Elon Musk is the darling of crypto scammers

Francois Manens

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February 05, 2021

The behavior of Elon Musk, who has been very talkative about cryptocurrencies for the past few days, is a boon for scammers. They cheat newbies with simple but terribly effective scams, adding to the billionaire’s popularity.

In early 2021, Elon Musk decided to publicly share his position on cryptocurrencies. As usual, his murals come through his Twitter account, his preferred communication channel, which is followed by over 45 million subscribers.

On January 29th, the businessman first added a « #bitcoin » to his account description. It didn’t take much for investors to see this as a signal of an increase in the price of cryptocurrency. Bingo: The price of Bitcoin rose + 20% to over $ 31,000 in the hours that followed before falling again.

The billionaire spoke about ClubHouse, the vocal social network popular in the technology world and with investors. The (virtual) room was seldom fully booked: all ears were tense to hear Elon Musk’s lecture on this topic.

I’m Elon Musk, give me some bitcoins

I'm Elon Musk, give me some bitcoins

Three days after this media release – and although he had again announced that he would no longer tweet but also express himself in cryptocurrencies – the founder of Tesla and SpaceX published a series of erroneous messages on DogeCoin, another cryptocurrency. With the same result: The price of DogeCoin rose by almost 50% in the hours that followed, but remained far from its all-time high, which had been reached a week earlier amid the WallStreetBets affair.

If there is one thing to take Elon Musk’s media forays, it is to have thousands of people listening to him and instantly responding to his cryptocurrency comments. This detail has not escaped the notice of scammers who use its popularity, sometimes close to that of a guru, to scam cryptocurrency newbies. Just check out the comments on his posts for examples of phishing and other traps invented by criminals.

Although his image has been heavily usurped, the billionaire renounces prevention and accustomed his community to eccentric messages on the subject.

The thugs didn’t wait for the businessman to take up the subject before stealing his identity. In 2018 the first scam campaigns appeared, especially on Twitter. The process is simple: the criminals hack a verified account (or buy an account that has already been hacked). One of these accounts is labeled as blue by the platform. Then they rename him « Elon Musk » and display the same profile picture as his account. If victims don’t pay attention to the « @ », number of followers, or post feed on the account, they may believe it is the billionaire’s real account.

Then these accounts claim that the billionaire is in a generous mood and that he will double up on any money sent to him in Bitcoin to a specific address. A kind of short-term investment that is only guaranteed by a tweet supposedly written by Elon Musk. Put this way, the scam is likely to be obvious to you: who would send money to an anonymous address with no guarantee of return? The answer: many, many people. As the Bleeping Computer reminds us, this type of campaign enabled fraudsters to raise the equivalent of $ 180,000 in 2018. In January 2021, the program worked even better than ever before: the criminals put more than $ 587,000 in a Bitcoin.

When the scammers aren’t directly imitating Elon Musk, they claim to have had a public Twitter chat with him, a (fake) screenshot to support this. Or they publish phishing links to fake portals as part of their publications in order to establish a connection to Binance or Coinbase platforms for the management of cryptocurrencies.

With that in mind, imagine the jackpot hit in July 2020 by the Twitter hacker who managed to hijack a social moderation tool to take control of several popular accounts, including that of Elon Musk . The scam worked so well that Coinbase had to take extraordinary measures to isolate the fraudulent wallet.

However, the thugs’ use of the businessman’s identity extends beyond his preferred social network. For example, when hackers take over verified YouTube accounts through fake partnerships, they also use them to spread cryptocurrency fraud. They rename the channel with a choice of words from « Space X », « Tesla », « BTC » and « Elon Musk » and then stream a video promoting the scam.

Why Elon Musk is the darling of crypto scammers
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