June 21, 2021

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Hacked Verified Twitter Accounts Are Spamming Musk Fans With Bitcoin Scams Ahead of SNL Debut

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Photo: Britta Pedersen (Getty Images)

Several verified Twitter accounts strangely started flooding the replies of Elon Musk and his followers with bitcoin spam on Saturday. The apparent hacks come just hours before the Tesla CEO’s much-discussed hosting gig on Saturday Night Live.

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Fraud tracker Malware Hunter Team shared a series of screenshots of verified Twitter accounts that appeared to be hijacked in an attempt to scam Musk fanboys. These included official accounts for an Argentine politician, a Korean civil rights group, and a Paralympic athlete, among others.

In each case, the account changed its name to “SNL” and switched its profile picture to match that of the official Saturday Night Live account. These altered accounts replied to Musk’s tweets with prompts for users to “join” a virtual event by clicking a link to receive 5,000 bitcoin, worth a little over $295 million at the time.

The link leads to a post on Medium, which you can see a screenshot of below, from a user named Elon Musk that claims to be from Tesla HQ’s marketing department. Beneath a picture of Musk, which advertises a “5000 BTC giveaway,” are links to a “competition” website where users can supposedly earn one of three cryptocurrencies—Bitcoin, Ether, or Dogecoin—for free.

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Screenshot: SNLgives.com/Gizmodo

The links were all broken by the time we checked it out, but Business Insider seems to have had better luck. On Saturday, it reported that the “competition” website included a Tesla logo and requests for users to send “from 0.02 to 5 BTC to the address below and get from .20 to 50 BTC back!”

Scammers also replied to the official Twitter accounts of Tesla, SNL, and the show’s musical guest this week, Miley Cyrus, with similar advertisements for this cryptocurrency giveaway scam. Among the list of hacked verified accounts included Argentine politician Jorge Taiana, The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission of Korea (ACRC), jewelry and watchmaker Mouawad, professional wheelchair racer and Paralympic medalist Shelly Woods, and the nonprofit organization Hockey Saves.

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When reached for comment on Saturday, a Twitter spokesperson said the company is looking into the matter. We’ve also reached out to Malware Hunter Team and Tesla, though it should be noted that the latter hasn’t said much to the press since it dissolved its PR department last October. Still, we’ll update this blog if we hear back.

By Saturday afternoon, many of the hijacked accounts appeared to be back to normal, though some were slower than others to change their profiles back and scrub their post history. As of Saturday afternoon, Woods’ profile picture is still the SNL logo, and the ACRC’s reply history shows several bitcoin spam posts. We’ve screenshotted one below, which includes a claim that users can earn 100 million Dogecoin by clicking the link.

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Screenshot: Twitter/Gizmodo

Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency token that started out as a meme and has since become incredibly popular. Its value has shot up nearly 25,000% in the last six months according to CNBC, no doubt fueled in part by the WallStreetBets drama and its Reddit-led investment spree. Musk, being the internet troll that he is, has tweeted several shout-outs to Dogecoin in recent weeks, generating even more hype and sending its value soaring.

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However, even as these hijacked accounts return to normal, more continue to pop up by the hour, according to Malware Hunter Team. Whoever these hackers are, they seem determined to milk the hype around Musk’s SNL debut for as long as they can.

Musk will host SNL tonight at 11:30 p.m. ET. You can watch it on NBC’s website if you have a cable login. For those of us who cut the cord, NBC is livestreaming the show internationally via YouTube here.

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