It has been a widely-known problem on Twitter for more than a year: bots promoting cryptocurrency “giveaways” by replying to authentic tweets from major influencers with huge followings. The scammers promise free bitcoin or ether. Unfortunately, a significant number of people fall for it.
The scam accounts reply to real tweets from someone like Apple CEO Tim Cook or Tesla CEO Elon Musk, saying something like, “As a thank you to my followers, I’m giving away 500 ETH! Click here!” The scam accounts have the same photo and display name as the real person, and the replies nest right beneath the real tweet, so it appears as though the real person replied to their own tweet.
And now they’re doing it to President Trump.
On Wednesday, Twitter users took notice of numerous replies to Trump tweets coming from the verified account of a British rugby player named Joe Joyce (@JoeJoyce2). The account had changed its photo and display name to match Trump’s, and it was replying to Trump tweets with crypto giveaway links. Joyce has since regained control of his account.
Separately, many noticed another Trump-related Twitter crypto scam happening on Wednesday, slightly different from the usual crypto scam format: replies to Trump tweets coming from verified accounts, including the band Bad Religion (@badreligion), the singer Cupid (@NEWCUPID), and even the official account of the Fed Cup women’s tennis tournament (@FedCup). All of the accounts were clearly hacked. One week earlier, the same thing happened to NBA player Monte Morris (@MonteMorris11).
These crypto scams on Twitter have become so prevalent and recognizable that scores of cryptocurrency enthusiasts have added “not giving away ETH” to their Twitter display names as an inside joke.
The scammers have targeted the accounts of tech leaders like Cook and Musk, cryptocurrency entrepreneurs like Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, and even reporters who cover cryptocurrency, as two Bloomberg reporters noted in a Businessweek story in May. (Yes, it has happened to me, and it is extremely aggravating.)
In March, Cornell professor Emin Gun Sirer tweeted that the scams were “getting out of hand” and looped in Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Dorsey replied, “We are on it.” But the problem continued.
In July, Musk himself tweeted for the first time about the scams, misspelling Ethereum and saying that the scammers have “mad skillz.”
I want to know who is running the Etherium scambots! Mad skillz …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
But apart from helping Musk, Twitter has been criticized for not doing enough to rid its platform of these scams.
In a statement on Wednesday sent to Yahoo Finance, a Twitter spokesperson said, “We’re aware of this form of manipulation and are proactively implementing a number of signals to prevent these types of accounts from engaging with others in a deceptive manner. As part of our continuing efforts to combat spam and malicious activity on our service, we’re testing new measures to challenge accounts that use terms commonly associated with spam campaigns. We are continually refining these detections based on changes in spammy activity.”
If the scammers continue to hit President Trump’s tweets, and he notices and tweets something about it, you can expect the controversy to get much louder.