Every social network is host to its share of scams and Twitter is no exception. After all, social networks provide a fast and easy way for scammers to target large audiences. In many cases, real social network users do the bulk of the work for scammers. As Twitter grows in popularity and people start to use it in their daily activities, e.g. as a news source, so does the rise of Twitter scams.
In fact, cryptocurrency scams on Twitter are extremely profitable, despite being annoyingly obvious. According to this interview, one “giveaway scam” ring can earn up to $100,000 per day.
Some social media scams are obvious and are easily avoided, but others aren’t. Scammers put time into finding out what works and how to target people’s weaknesses. In this list, we’re taking a look at the current scams sweeping Twitter, along with what you can do to protect yourself and your account.
1. Cryptocurrency Scams
These scams have become particularly prevalent on Twitter recently. In them, scammers create fake accounts impersonating famous people in cryptocurrency circles, including Elon Mush and Vitalik Buterin.
The scams often ask Twitter followers to send a small amount of cryptocurrency, claiming that anyone who does so will get more in return. This pattern happened earlier in 2018 with scammers taking advantage of a joke message from Vitalik Buterin. He eventually responded on Twitter himself, making it clear that he was not giving away any cryptocurrency.
2. Fake Verification Marks
Verification marks are the main way to know that an account is legitimate. Twitter’s verification process provides legitimate high-profile accounts with a blue check mark, allowing users to know that the account is what it seems to be.
The process is an important one, but the verification marks aren’t as reliable as they may appear. There have been some cases where scammers have the verified mark next to their name, even though the account was entirely fake. This can sometimes happen when the original account is hacked.
Twitter is actively working on their process to ensure that the verification marks are only awarded to the correct accounts. Even so, there will always be some risk of error. This means that it is important to carefully consider what any account claims, even if they do have the verification mark.
3. Lavish Lifestyle And Fake Programs
Social media platforms, including Twitter, are increasingly being used to promote programs that sound amazing. A particularly common scheme targeting cropping up on social media is binary options trading. Scammers claim to have made amazing amounts of money overnight through such schemes and trick people into getting involved.
The promotion hides that fact that binary options (and similar schemes) are highly risky. Most users will lose far more than they ever earn and none make the high amounts of income that marketers promote.
Such scams are often promoted by people claiming that they have earned significant amounts of money, then linking to a program. Those programs, like many that I have reviewed on this site, tend to rely on an exceptional amount of hype and misleading marketing. You typically need to spend money to get involved and there are often multiple upsells to try and get you to spend more.
4. Spam Bots
Many Twitter scammers use bots to interact with users. A common example is bots that pose as single women looking to chat. The bot uses a script that eventually sends users to a site. The site will often be asking for personal information and credit card details.
There are countless variations on the scam. In some cases, the website you’re sent to will ask for information that seems harmless, but don’t be fooled. If a scam artist goes to lengths to get you to visit a site, they’re seeing some benefit from the process. It’s best to avoid giving away any personal information, even if you don’t know how the scammer would benefit.
The prevalence of spam bots means that you shouldn’t ever rely on an account’s follower base as an indication of authenticity. Many of those followers will be bots.
Scammers even use entire botnets to develop coordinated scams and convince people that an account is legitimate. For example, a cryptocurrency scam may have multiple followers that leave comments saying that they received free cryptocurrency. No users received anything in practice, but the process can be enough to convince some people to try the idea out.
5. Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are one of the most common ways that scammers operate. This type of scam directs users to a link that tries to get them to log onto a website.
In this case, the links often go to a mock Twitter login page. The page will often look legitimate – but don’t be fooled. If you enter your details, you won’t be logging onto Twitter at all. Instead, you’ll be providing scammers with the details needed to access your account.
To make matters worse, scammers are tailoring their approaches to target Twitter users. Some of these operate through Twitter’s direct messaging. One example told users that there was a bad blog post about them online. Clicking on the link took users to a fake Twitter login page. Another claimed to have found a funny video featuring the user.
6. Programs That Want Twitter Login Details
Some scams don’t even bother to pretend that you’re logging into Twitter. Instead, they ask you for your login details directly. Scams like this often play into our desire for information.
For example, one version promised to provide users with details about who was viewing their Twitter profile. To find out the information, users had to visit a website and then provide their login information.
7. Scams That Direct You To A Link
Many scams can seem safer because they don’t ever ask for login information. Instead, they’ll often get you to click on a link. The approach works particularly well on Twitter. After all, Tweets have to be short, so members often include links in their posts to provide more details. Twitter is also used for legitimate website promotion and that process includes links too.
Despite this, many of the links shared on Twitter aren’t legitimate at all. Some of them will direct you to a site that tries to trick you into providing details or downloading a program. You might end up with malware on your computer, which could lead to other problems further down the line.
In other cases, the site might try to sell you shady software that doesn’t work. Sometimes the link goes to a site offering discount luxury goods. If you actually buy any of them, you just get a cheap knockoff or nothing at all.
Another common version is websites that ask for your phone number, often as part of a survey or a sign up form. If you provide it, you may get spammed with texts, including some that cost you. Other times the site might ask for your email address, which leaves you open for spam once again.
8. Giveaway Scam
One common type of link-based scam is where accounts claim to be offering a giveaway of some description. In many cases, the accounts will be fake as well, pretending to be a famous person or a recognizable brand.
Such scams are effective, as people click on the link just in case the giveaway is real. To avoid scams like this, pay close attention to the account that makes the claim. Think about the giveaway itself too. Companies do sometimes give away products, but not very often. A close reading of the tweet should tell you whether or not the claims are realistic.
9. Romance Scams
Romantic scams exist on every social network in some shape or form. They’re particularly effective because lonely people are often vulnerable. The scams also strongly play on a person’s emotions. Victims often find it difficult to view the situation rationally, which gives the scammers an advantage.
The scams can start in many different ways, but one clear pattern is that the scammer will go to lengths to establish an apparently loving relationship. They may even send gifts or images. One of the best indications is that the relationship develops quickly, often appearing to become intense within a couple of months. Of course, this pattern can occur with real relationships too, which is one reason that the scam works so well.
Once the scammer has gained enough trust, they’ll start to ask for money. A common ruse is that they want the money for a ticket in order to come and see you. Alternatively, they may claim that there has been a sudden crisis.
There may be other requests instead of money. For example, the scammer may ship items to victims and ask them to send the item on. While this may seem safe, the items are often illicitly obtained and you may be breaking the law by resending them.
With all the emotions involved, spotting a romance scam can sometimes be difficult. Asking for money is the most noticeable warning sign, along with how fast the relationship progresses. If you’re at all uncertain, ask someone else for their point of view. A person on the outside will able to see clearer and give you the answers that you need.
10. Impersonation Scams
There are also many cases where scammers will impersonate someone famous, a company or even someone that you know personally. We mentioned some cases like this already, such as in the cryptocurrency scams. There are countless different scams that can be implemented with this approach, including phishing scams and information gathering scams.
Cases where people impersonate someone that you know can be particularly convincing. It may seem like no one would go to the effort to target you on such an individual basis, so you might simply assume that the message did come from your friend.
In practice, scammers often get the login information from users using some of the techniques already discussed and then try to scam people that they are connected with. Much of the process is automated and the amount of effort on the part of the scammer is very low. This means that you should always be cautious with any links that you are sent and any claims that people make – even if you trust the person.
Don’t trust an account simply because they call out scammers either. There are some amusing cases where scam accounts highlight other scams, in a bid to make themselves appear more authentic.
Avoiding The Scams
Scams aren't limited to Twitter of course, and Facebook as well as Instagram are rife with them. With so many different scams out there, protecting yourself can seem difficult. It isn’t enough to simply know what the scams are, as these get changed regularly, with scammers always looking for ways to maximize their victim pool.
One of the most important techniques is to think critically. Pay close attention to the accounts that tweets come from. Watch out for new accounts with a large number of followers and ones that use slight variations of a brand name or the name of a celebrity. Legitimate celebrity and brand accounts should have a blue verification check mark that shows they are the real deal. Fake accounts will be missing that check mark. Even if the check mark is present, be wary and make sure the account is real.
Even if you trust the account, carefully weigh up any page that you’re sent to. Be cautious when dealing with any page that asks for personal information, even if all they want is an email address. The same is true for pages that try to sell you something. The pages may be legitimate some of the time, but many sites won't ever provide what they claim to.
Have you been scammed on Twitter? Tell us your story in the comments.