Opinion | The convincing scam of Elon Musk

Erich Kron, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4 gives his feedback on the recent cryptocurrency scam of Elon Musk as he was hosting the popular NBC show, Saturday Night Live

Last week, twitter scammers jumped on Elon Musk’s hosting of Saturday Night Live to push cryptocurrency scams with the intention of stealing people’s Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin.

While Dogecoin investors eagerly awaited Musk’s appearance, expecting his remarks to send the meme coin to new highs, the cryptocurrency market did quite the opposite and tanked by 30% over the weekend.

The cryptocurrency scam started during the SNL telecast when viewers began to search for ‘Elon Musk SNL’ on YouTube and the livestreams that popped up, which seemed to be hosted by the NBC show, were actually run by scammers.

The livestreams publicised links to unique websites that viewers could visit to receive Dogecoin with a message on the broadcasts reading: ‘Elon Musk has devoted 500,000,000 DOGE to be distributed to all DOGE holders. Anybody can get some, just visit the website.’

This was perhaps somewhat believable, as many of Musk’s followers expected the billionaire’s “SNL” appearance to pump the digital asset.

In this case, Elon Musk has garnered a reputation of supporting cryptocurrencies, and combined with the hype around his appearing on SNL, this made for a convincing scam.

Erich Kron, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4

Users were asked to transfer dogecoin to a blockchain address with the assurance that they would receive double the amount they sent. New reports indicate that fraudsters managed to manipulate Musk’s promotion for the digital currency and ultimately pocketed 9.7 dogecoin worth a staggering $5 million.

Commenting on the news, Erich Kron, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4 notes: “These scams rely on our own expectations in an effort to make themselves believable. In this case, Elon Musk has garnered a reputation of supporting cryptocurrencies, and combined with the hype around his appearing on SNL, made for a convincing scam.   

“To further bolster their deception, the use of verified accounts, those with the obvious white checkmark on a blue background, coupled with copied images from the actual SNL account, only serves to reinforce the legitimacy. Unfortunately for the victims, they are not taking the time to check the account name being verified.”

Kron continues: “Because Elon Musk has recently been associated with cryptocurrencies and was known to be appearing on the show, promoting a cryptocurrency giveaway was considerably more believable than without the hype. Add into the mix the limited number of items being given away, in this case 5000 BTC, and you have the sense of urgency needed to spur victims in to action.”

The digital asset recouped some losses on Tuesday by climbing by as much as 20%, to $0.55. Musk ended up tweeting a poll asking his followers whether they wanted his electric-vehicle maker to accept dogecoin as payment and by Tuesday morning, most respondents had said yes, while about 20% had said they didn’t think it was a good idea.

“As much of the value in Doge is speculative or perception driven, Elon seems to have anointed Doge as the de facto cryptocurrency with what seems to be a half-humorous, half-financial decision,” said Edozié Izegbu, the Founder and Managing Director of digital art for the crypto platform Chimera. “The real question to be wary of is how long can this joke last?”

Kron concludes: “To avoid scams like this, people should check the details, such as the Twitter handle of the account that was verified, and should check the URL bar of the browser to ensure they are on a legitimate website. It can also be helpful to use a search engine to see if others are reporting something that is too good to be true, is just that.”


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