A man lost $565,000 after he fell victim to an online scam, which saw cyber-criminals pretending to be tech maverick Elon Musk. On that day, Sebastian (not his real name) was browsing through social media when he got a notification from Twitter about Elon Musk’s post (this was the real Elon). The Tesla boss, who is a huge fan of cryptocurrencies tweeted about dogecoin.
Dojo 4 Doge— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 21, 2021
In the comment section, a fake Elon Musk posted a link to a website, which invited users to send between 0.1 Bitcoin to 20 Bitcoin. In exchange the fake Musk promised to double the amount of money.
What would one do in this situation? Sebastian decided to check whether this was a scam or not. He clicked on the page of the fake Elon. He saw Twitter’s verification mark – a blue tick – and thought that this was a real offer.
"'Take the maximum', I thought, this is definitely real, so I sent 10 Bitcoin," Sebastian told the BBC.
For 20 minutes he waited for the money, nervously refreshing the website. Slowly he realised that the whole issue was a scam.
"I threw my head on to the sofa cushions and my heart was beating so hard. I thought I'd just thrown away the gamechanger for my family, my early retirement fund and all the upcoming holidays with my kids. I went upstairs and sat on the edge of the bed to tell my wife. I woke her up and told her that I'd made a big mistake, a really big mistake," he said.
How Did Cyber-Criminals Manage to Trick People?
It appears that the scam involving fake Elon Musk was quite widespread. Hackers got access to several popular verified accounts to promote it. British fashion retailer Matalan, film distributor Pathe UK and US publisher Pantheon Books were among those, whose accounts were hacked by cyber-criminals. One of the scammers then renamed the account to pretend to be Elon Musk.
With Twitter’s verification mark they were able to trick users into thinking that the giveaway offer was real.
And the fact that other verified accounts praised the fake Musk’s idea made the whole issue even more attractive to netizens.
"When the Bitcoin price goes up, people go crazy and a lot of them are new to the market and they want this idea of quick money. It also does sound quite plausible that someone such as Elon Musk, a big supporter of cryptocurrencies, would give away Bitcoin", said Frank van Weert, founder of Whale Alert, a blockchain tracker.
Experts say that so far this year cyber-criminals have already stolen a record amount of money. In the first three months of 2021 they stole more than $18 million.