Man Scammed Out of $564,000 in Bitcoin by Fake Elon Musk Twitter Account

Scammers posing as Elon Musk on Twitter are attempting to fraud people out of their Bitcoin, and in some cases are succeeding.

In February, one user lost 10 Bitcoin—the equivalent of $564,000—after being caught out by one of the scams.

The scam was even tracked by blockchain analysis company Whale Alert, which said it was the most it had ever recorded being lost in one transaction. The company said there had been over 10,000 "giveaway" scam victims in 2020.

The user, who spoke to the BBC under the pseudonym Sebastian, came across the scammer in the reply section of a tweet by the real Elon Musk.

The scammer posed as Musk, used a similar account title, and even had a blue check mark that Twitter uses to verify users. They had posted a link to an event that would allegedly involve users sending Bitcoin over to a team at Elon Musk's electric car firm Tesla, and the team would then respond by sending double that amount back. There was also a timer counting down.

Sebastian told the BBC they had been persuaded by the blue check mark next to the scammer's name. He said: "I thought, this is definitely real, so I sent 10 Bitcoin."

Sebastian waited as the timer went down, but never received any money back. He said: "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."

The scammer's method is one that is sometimes used in the reply section of Elon Musk's tweets. Other scams are also present on other platforms such as YouTube.

Scammers may have an account name that looks similar to Elon Musk's, except there will be small differences such as letters that have underscores and accents from different keyboard languages, or odd spacing between them. The names of other celebrities have also been used in the past.

Another key difference to look for is that although the account title may be "Elon Musk," the account username, which is marked by the "@" symbol, will often be completely different. This is because no two users can have the same "@" name.

In the case of one February scam, a user posing as Elon Musk attempted to scam people out of Bitcoin even though their @ name was clearly something different. However, the account had a blue check mark because the Bitcoin scammers had managed to hack into it, and it had already been verified.

This shows that Twitter's verification system is not a foolproof way of determining whether someone is a scammer or not.

The account later posted: "I was in LA and my account was hacked. Took me two days to get it back."

Whale Alert founder Frank van Weert told the BBC: "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."

hacker using phone
A stock photo shows a hacker using a phone wearing a dark hooded jacket. Thousands of people have been caught out by crypto scams, according to Whale Alert. BrianAJackson/iStock