Cryptocurrency vs Social media – Keeping safe from scams

How confident are you that what you’re seeing on social media is ‘real’? Much has been made in the media about the rise of ‘fake news’ and the proliferation of bots that appear to have been deployed to try to sew discord or distort the political agenda.

Yet, while the debate about this – and the influence this sort of behaviour has had – rages on among politicians and commentators, it’s important to realise that this isn’t the only threat posed on social media.

Indeed, recent months have seen a spate of cryptocurrency scams on Twitter which should raise alarm bells for investors.

This scam has involved Twitter users posing as the likes of Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, Elon Musk, or John McAfee. Typically, these scammers have taken the profile picture of the real person in question and then set up an account using a slightly altered spelling of their name.

From then, they’ve sent out messages to ask followers to send them a small amount of money in order to get a return on their investment. In some instances, however, such accounts have tried to influence the price of a cryptocurrency through a false endorsement, aiming to sell once the price goes up (and before people have had a chance to unmask them).

It’s a perhaps little surprise that such scammers have latched onto cryptocurrency. Last year was marked by the meteoric rise in the interest in – and value of – assets such as Bitcoin. Seasoned investors who are used to tracking live commodity prices and other market indicators were taken aback about the scale of the rises and, at times, falls in value of this asset.

Unlike those seasoned investors, it’s also fair to say that many people attracted to putting their money into cryptocurrency were new to investment full stop, attracted to the new, fresh and dramatic nature of this – a digital asset for a digitally-driven generation. However, that merely opened up an opportunity for scammers, cashing in on novice investors putting their money into a new type of asset using a new type of platform.

Twitter, for its part, has acknowledged this scam and vowed to act to clamp down on this. It stated: “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.”

The burgeoning cryptocurrency community hasn’t taken this lying down. In fact, as you’d expect from a group with a keen interest in technology, it has developed a tech-centred solution.

Harry Denley has developed EtherSecurityLookup, a Google Chrome extension that flags up accounts that are set up with names that look suspiciously like those of key Twitter users or companies.

Denley was directly inspired by a scam against Buterin and his extension simply adds a red banner above any account that might be deemed as suspicious to cause users to question what they’re looking at. Buterin himself had highlighted that there are 827 different ways to tweak his name by a single character, giving an opportunity to scammers to make multiple attempts at the same trick.

Whether they se the extension or rely on their own gut felling, it’s vital that cryptocurrency investors are on their guard while browsing social media. It’s clear that ‘fake news’ is not confined to the world of politics – and this strain could seriously hit you in the pocket.

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