Perhaps nowhere else within the cryptocurrency space have scammers become more frustrating than on crypto Twitter. The social media site has been overtaken with accounts impersonating notable figures and businesses promising tens of thousands of bitcoin or ether or XRP, in return for users merely sending a small amount of a cryptocurrency to their accounts in return.
While it might seem intuitive that these giveaways are suspect, the fraudsters are playing to people’s FOMO (fear of missing out), but also the language and cultural barriers that exist within the diverse, global community.
Indeed, crypto aficionados of all kinds – not just the most prominent founders, but also low-profile developers and newly announced ICO issuers and nearly everyone in between – wake up every morning, scouring their Twitter accounts and reporting the abuse to the social networking giant.
Yet, it seems there isn’t an easy way to stop the shakedowns.
It’s led many crypto visionaries to go about getting Twitter’s blue check mark, a sign that an account has been verified and so, supposedly more legitimate. But even that has proved manipulable.
Airing frustration towards the chaos that crypto Twitter has devolved into, a well-known cryptocurrency advocate known as Thomas ‘Mad Bitcoins’ Hunt tweeted:
“Your system is broken. Allowing users to choose the same name and image as other users is a mistake that leads to fraud. Change your system. End this fraud.”
But still the chaos has continued (if not gotten worse), and many crypto enthusiasts are deciding if you can’t beat ’em, you might as well laugh at ’em.
As such, they’re tweeting out the most egregious interplay between themselves and the scammers, and sometimes one con man to the next.
1. Not giving away ETH, but giving away ETH
The instances of impersonation have gotten so bad, that many crypto visionaries have added language to their profiles stating “[Not giving away ETH/BTC]” – as if it was their middle names.
But, although it could seem counterintuitive, as these fraudsters merely copy and paste the name and image onto their scam accounts, that language too has carried over.
Generally, these accounts comment their giveway images under a post from the real person they’re trying to impersonate, hoping to pray of users that aren’t looking closely at the handles, which at times are only one letter off from the originals.
And as scammers have become more sophisticated, they’ve taken to blocking the person they’re trying to impersonate, so that that person can’t see their posts, report it and get shut down by Twitter.
2. Follow Fridays
Just like the scammers above try to confuse users by putting their fake posts side-by-side the people they’re impersonating, other scammers have jumped on posts where many people are mentioned.
Recently, South African crypto exchange, iceCUBED, tweeted out a list of crypto notables for what has become known as “Follow Fridays” – whereby a user tweets out people that their followers should follow.
I was featured alongside folks like monero lead maintainer Riccardo Spagni, Lightning Labs founder Elizabeth Spark and litecoin creator Charlie Lee (I know, I’m not worthy).
Right under that post, though, another user by the same name, but with a different handle, posted about an ETH giveaway.
And in that way, some unsuspecting users could think that not only the exchange but also the people tagged in the post support the promotion.
While journalists might seem strange characters to impersonate (especially since I’ve written about not being a crypto millionaire), it has become a popular move since they typically have significant followings of users of all skill levels, including newbs to the cryptocurrency scene who might not be well-versed on the state of the industry.
3. Getting personal
Another way scammers (whose accounts generally have only a couple followers and whose only tweets are the ones about the giveaways) are trying to trick users is by creating more personal accounts.
For instance, a Twitter user names Dennis Parker was recently impersonated. The account copied and pasted his name and picture but the bio was very different.
Whereas the real Dennis Parker’s bio just says, “Bitcoin Maximalist,” the scam account (which was still active at the time of this writing) says, “Foodie, Editor, Water Protector, Wine Connoisseur, Unwashed Mass. I own 25 hoolahoops.”
As Parker tweeted:
“My scam accounts are getting personal.”
Not only that, but scammers have also gone to other lengths to try and bilk users out of their crypto. Notable venture capital investor Tim Draper, tweeted about one of his impersonators asking his followers for funds in exchange for mining bitcoin for them.
4. Scammers calling out scams
Most people in the crypto scene know Neeraj Agrawal, the communication lead at Washington D.C.-based lobbying group Coin Center and also a meme god on crypto Twitter.
Lesser-known is NeerajKAgrawal7, who recently replied to an offering of ETH with one word – “scam.”
While that might not seem particularly surprising, what’s absurd is that the response came from one of Agrawal’s imposters, not Agrawal himself.
As Agrawal tweeted, “My ether scammer is calling out other ether scammers.”
In a similar instance, an account posing as Bruce Fenton (the thought leader and investor in the cryptocurrency space who founded Satoshi Roundtable) commented with its own crypto giveaway on the giveaway post from a fake Mad Bitcoins.Speaking to the event, Mad Bitcoins tweeted:
“It’s a beautiful cycle of spam Twitter and you should make it stop!”
5. Tons of Charlie Shrem’s
As mentioned above, many of the most acclaimed people in the cryptocurrency space deal with insane amounts of scam accounts.
Case in point, Charlie Shrem, the founder of now-defunct early bitcoin exchange BitInstant and now an adviser for several blockchain projects, tweeted recently about all the scam accounts under his name.
“I do give away stuff from time to time, but will never ask you to send me something first.”
The tweet was accompanied by images which display just how rampant the scam accounts have become.
Another crypto character that gets impersonated quite a bit is John McAfee, who became famous after launching the popular anti-virus software, is now promoting ICOs on Twitter for a charge.
Yet, many crypto enthusiasts might not sympathize with McAfee since they see his new “job” as dubious.
In fact, McAfee’s latest ICO-promoting tweet featured Pink Taxi Coin, a fraudulent ICO project that featured a plagiarized white paper and website, among other red flags.
6. “I’ve made it”
While these impersonators have become a scourge on crypto Twitter, some have taken to joking about how having a scammer impersonate them is a way to display that they’re popular.
A prominent parody account in the space, Swift on Security said, after a fraudster impersonated the account, “I’ve made it. I’ve finally made it.”
As such, Kevin Pham, who became a staple of crypto Twitter this year, tweeted (after being impersonated):
“Fuck blue checks. Having a scam account is the free market signalling you’re a somebody on Crypto Twitter!”
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