A scammer posing as Elon Musk walked away with $560,000, the BBC reported.
After a man watched a series on Netflix with his wife at their home in Cologne, Germany, he sat on the sofa and was looking at his phone. Then he received a Twitter notification that appeared to be from Elon Musk, as described by the BBC.
“Musk tweeted, ‘Dojo 4 Doge?’” the man told the BBC, referring to the cryptocurrency dogecoin. “There was a link to a new event below, so I clicked on it and saw that he was giving away Bitcoin!”
Then he followed the link to a legitimate-looking website “where the Bitcoin giveaway looked to be in full swing,” according to the account.
The fake competition invited participants to send up to 20 bitcoin (well over $1 million) and they would double their money. After the man thought he verified the logo – which was actually fake – next to Musk’s name, he decided to bet the farm and sent 10 bitcoin (approximately $560,000 at the time).
And he was reassured as scammers posted replies using an almost identical profile to Elon Musk, the BBC said.
But the money never came. That’s when he realized it was a scam and he had lost his early retirement fund.
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It was the most ever lost in a single transaction, the BBC said, citing Whale Alert, which tracks cryptocurrency transactions.
Scammers have already made $18 million in the first three months of this year, eclipsing the $16 million made in all 12 months in 2020, according to Whale Alert.
“Unfortunately it’s very easy for con-artists to create social media accounts and impersonate people,” Bitcoin.org says on its website.
“Often times they lie in wait, until the person they’re trying to impersonate publishes content. The impersonator then replies to it with a follow-up message or call to action – like a free giveaway – using an account that looks almost identical to the original poster or author,” Bitcoin.org says.
And there are countless scam variations.
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Another common one is scam coins.
“Scam coins may feature a flashy website and/or boast a large community to create a fear of missing out effect on people who discover it. This helps early holders pump up the price so that they can dump and exit their positions for a profit,” Bitcoin.org says.
More and more common
It’s not the first time scammers have tried to capitalize on the Twitter profile of Elon Musk – who has almost 50 million followers and often tweets about cryptocurrency – and other famous people with large followings.
In July 2020, hackers managed to take over the Twitter accounts of famous people including Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mike Bloomberg.
“I am giving back to the community,” some of the tweets stated at the time.
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And the scam was similar: double your money.
“All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled! If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000. Only doing this for 30 minutes,” the scam said.