Twitter is failing to crack down on impersonators on the platform, some of which are scamming other users by pretending to be billionaire SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, according to Bloomberg.
In an article for Bloomberg, Thursday, columnist Tim Culpan revealed that he had found a number of accounts impersonating him which he had only discovered after a friend sent the profiles to him.
“Early Wednesday afternoon, Jon Russell of the technology news outlet TechCrunch sent me the link to a Twitter account. Russell has written about a rise in fake accounts and bot farms in Asia. The profile was an exact copy of my own, which starts with a reference to my job — Technology Columnist: Bloomberg Opinion Asia — and includes other details specific to me (Ironman athlete, vegetarian, novice coder),” Culpan claimed. “A quick Google search found another account had done the same. Both had been created in October 2018, were purportedly based in Seoul, and had Korean-looking names. Each was following around 1,000 accounts and had around 200 followers of its own. At this point two things occurred to me: I’d not have come across this if it hadn’t been flagged to me; and Twitter’s search function is so poor that I had to use Google.”
Culpan also reported that despite him reporting the impersonators, one was merely forced to change the account’s description and was not suspended, while another account remained unchanged.
Culpan is not the only user to have been impersonated, with accounts impersonating Elon Musk and President Trump managing to scam users out of tens of thousands of dollars.
The scams, which have become common across the social network, involve the fake account impersonating Musk or Trump and then asking users to send them cryptocurrency, with the promise that an even greater sum of money will be returned.
Some users have reportedly been scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars due to these accounts, which “looked as similar to the real ones as possible and posted the scam below tweets from the actual individuals.”
Even verified accounts have been used, further creating the illusion that the account is genuine.
Interesting: Somebody hacked a verified account for a German insurance app, immediately started impersonating Elon Musk, and then bought ads for a Bitcoin scam in his name.
The first two parts aren't new, but the third part shows basically zero oversight in Twitter ad buys. https://t.co/AMrWXC1kXx
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) October 21, 2018
“These posts can appear legitimate on first sight. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, and Vitalik Buterin, the principal inventor of cryptocurrency ethereum, have been among the most commonly impersonated accounts,” reported Sky News, adding that Buterin even had to “change his display name to note that he is not giving away any of the ethereum cryptocurrency.”
Hundreds, or even thousands of likes and retweets from other fake accounts create a sense of further credibility to the scams.
According to the BBC, other figures which have been impersonated for Twitter scams have included Microsoft founder Bill Gates, billionaire Warren Buffet, and McAfee security software creator and libertarian politician John McAfee.
Despite the fact that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claimed to be working on the problem as early as March, the problem still persists.
This has just popped up as 'promoted' in my Twitter feed. Another new tactic for the crypto-scams posing as @elonmusk claiming to give away Bitcoin. Uses a (hijacked?) account that is verified. @TwitterSafety pic.twitter.com/sTjq6CW42B
— Jason Murdock (@Jason_A_Murdock) October 21, 2018