Steve Weisman is a lawyer, college professor, author, and one of the country’s leading experts in cybersecurity, identity theft, and scams. See Steve’s other Con Watch articles.
An estimated 157 million people use Twitter each day, so it isn’t surprising that scammers have used Twitter for years to perpetrate scams. The latest Twitter scam is both simple and ingenious.
The scam begins when a thief impersonates the Twitter account of a prominent person with a lot of Twitter followers. They will use an identical photo and choose a Twitter handle that looks similar to the real thing. For instance, Elon Musk’s legitimate handle, @elonmusk, was impersonated by someone using @elonlmusk (with an l). Someone glancing at the scammer’s tweet might not recognize that it is not the Twitter handle of Elon Musk.
In this case, the scammer tweeted, “I’m giving away 5,000 ETH to my followers! To pаrtiсipаte, just send 0.5-1 ETH to the address below and get 5-10 ETH back to the address you used for the transaction.” (ETH is an abbreviation of the cryptocurrency Ethereum.) Victims then send the cryptocurrency in an attempt to receive more in return. Obviously, the real Elon Musk isn’t involved and — surprise! — the victims never get their money.
Although Twitter is shutting down these scammers as soon as they become aware of them, the scams continue to proliferate because Twitter is always playing catch-up; it takes little time or effort for the scammers to start the scam again using the name of another celebrity.
Another version of this scam followed the Academy Awards. When Jordan Peele won the Oscar for best original screenplay, the real Peele tweeted, “I just won an Oscar. WTF?!” Immediately there was a response from the Twitter account @JordanPeele___ that read “Love you guys, heres a gift from me,” with a link to a gift card scam. Jordan Peele’s real Twitter account is “@JordanPeele” (without the underscores at the end), but it’s easy to see how someone not looking closely could mistake the tweet as being from the real Jordan Peele. (Although you would think that it might be a red flag that a tweet from someone who had just won a writing award would use proper punctuation and not write heres.)
Fake Elon Musk and Jordan Peele accounts are only two examples. Variations of the scam have targeted, among others, followers of cybersecurity expert John McAfee, cryptocurrency Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, Khloe Kardashian, and Ellen DeGeneres.
This scam is really just another incarnation of the Nigerian email scam. Elon Musk and other well-known people are not giving away large amounts of Bitcoin in return for paying them fewer Bitcoin, and celebrities are not handing out cash or gift cards. It is always dangerous to click on links in tweets, text messages, or emails unless you are absolutely sure that the link is legitimate. Clicking on the links may download malware, such as keystroke-logging software, that can steal all of the information from your phone, computer, or laptop and use that information to make you a victim of identity theft. Merely going to an infected website — even without clicking on anything in the tainted website — may cause you to unwittingly download malware.
How to Avoid This Twitter Scam
- Be aware that this type of scam exists. When responding to a tweet, make sure the tweet you’re responding to is actually from the real person who started the thread by carefully examining the Twitter handle.
- Understand that no one is giving you something for nothing or a lot for a little. While this seems to be common sense, too often our greed blinds us. It’s important to remember that if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
- Security software is not just for your computer and laptop. You should install security software on all your electronic devices, including your smartphone, and keep that software updated with the latest security patches. But recognize that even the most current security software is always at least 30 days behind the latest versions of malware that exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities.
This is Elon Musk to Major Tom …
Elon Musk doesn’t do things small, and that includes space exploration. This week, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX revealed at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico his plans to not only fly humans to Mars but also build a self-sustaining city there. It sounds fantastic, but a lot of people are skeptical of the plan, including Bill Nye the Science Guy. He doesn’t think anyone wants to live (and die) on the Red Planet.
Musk says that the first colony ship will be called Heart of Gold, which is the name of a ship in the Douglas Adams classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Lily Magnum, P.I.
I’ve been waiting for a Magnum, P.I. movie for a while. Years ago, Tom Selleck hinted there might be one, maybe even a big-screen adventure written by Tom Clancy; it never came to be.
But we might have a Lily Magnum coming to television. That’s the name of Thomas Magnum’s daughter, and ABC is readying a sequel that will feature her as the lead character trying to solve the mystery of what ended her military career. (The original Magnum, P.I. aired on CBS.)
At first I thought this was a terrible idea, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. It’s better than a full reboot of Magnum, P.I. because then we’d have someone else playing Magnum and the other characters from the original, and it would be updated. As approximately 400 TV show reboots have proven, it just wouldn’t be as good. But with his daughter being the focus of the new show, that means this sequel will actually take place in the same universe as Magnum, P.I., which means the events of that series did happen, and it opens the door for Selleck and his co-stars to make an appearance.
Hopefully, it will be filmed in Hawaii, or what’s the point?
Wait…I’m a Taurus Now?!?
In other space and sky news, everything you believe about astrology (you believe in astrology?) is probably wrong.
NASA freaked everyone out this week when it announced that our astrological signs aren’t the same as they were centuries ago because the constellations have changed, which means that we might not have the astrological sign we thought we had. Also, there are actually 13 zodiac signs. For some reason, we’ve been ignoring Ophiuchus all these years.
But if you believe in and follow astrology, NASA says not to worry. Nothing has really changed. If you’ve always been a Capricorn, well, you can continue to be a Capricorn. In fact, be the best Capricorn you can be!
This isn’t even a new story; it’s only coming around again. I remember this same exact story 5 or 10 years ago, and it caused a hubbub then, too, and everyone was talking about it. I don’t know why repetition of news stories like this irritates me, but as a Gemini, I’m not supposed to get along with Pisces, Cancers, Virgos, or Scorpios, so maybe that has something to do with it.
Here’s a side effect of global warming you might not have thought of: the disappearance of Lucky Charms.
That’s the finding of scientists who say that global warming is happening 5,000 times faster than grasses like wheat, rice, barley, and rye can adapt, and in the next 40 years or so, we could see them gone. This would affect the production of cereals. Of course, these grasses are used in a lot more foods than your breakfast cereal, so it could become a major problem worldwide.
Fortunately, it won’t happen until around 2070, so Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t have to freak out.
RIP Agnes Nixon: 1927–2016
I’ll tell you something if you promise to keep it a secret. I watched Guiding Light from 1980 until its final episode in 2009.
Agnes Nixon passed away this week at the age of 93. She wrote for Guiding Light from the late ’50s until the mid-’60s — long before I started watching it — and later went on to create both All My Children and One Life to Live (two other shows I watched because my mother watched them, but they weren’t as good as Guiding Light). She also created Loving and its spinoff The City and produced and wrote for Search for Tomorrow, Another World, and As the World Turns.
There aren’t many soaps on TV these days. They used to rule the daytime, but now only four remain: The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital, and Days of Our Lives. The networks got rid of the soaps to fit in more programs like Dr. Phil, The Talk, and those shows where people throw chairs at each other.
RIP Phone Calls
According to Slate, the phone call died in 2007. Which must mean that it’s ghosts or time travelers who keep calling me.
In a piece about what’s lost when telephone calls go away in this age of texting, email, and social media, Slate says that phone calls still live on “in roughly the same way swing dancing lives on, or Latin declension, or manual transmission.” Now, maybe I’m living in a bubble (one where I don’t know what Latin declension is), but have people really stopped making and receiving phone calls that much? (Also, there are plenty of cars with manual transmission.)
Nielsen says that in 2007, the average monthly number of texts was more than the average monthly number of phone calls. And those text numbers are probably even greater in 2016. Everyone has a mobile phone now, and many people have gotten rid of their landlines. If you’re in your 20s, there’s a very good chance you’ve never even had a landline. And if you notice, a lot of people don’t actually make phone calls anymore on these devices; they’re just texting. Texting, texting, texting, texting, texting all day long.
The Slate article is worth reading, though, especially the section where the writer talks about how phone etiquette has changed, how our expectations regarding phone calls have changed, and how these new rules affect our relationships in ways we might not even think of.
Is it weird that I don’t think I’ve ever sent or received a text and that I still love and use an answering machine? I still have my landline too, and I plan to keep it until the phone company comes and rips it out of my wall and arrests me for communication nostalgia.
This Week in History: First American Newspaper Published (September 25, 1690)
Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick — which would make for a great album title — was the first multipage newspaper published in the United States (before that, newspapers were one page). It was edited by Benjamin Harris and was launched in Boston, Massachusetts.
This Week in History: George Gershwin Born (September 26, 1898)
The writer of songs like “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris” and the opera Porgy & Bess was born in Brooklyn, New York. He was only 38 years old when he died, and it’s rather amazing what he did in such a short time.
The Arnold Palmer
In honor of golfer Arnold Palmer, who passed away this week at the age of 87, here’s the recipe for the drink he invented in 1960 while playing at the U.S. Open in Denver, Colorado. Palmer liked it this way: three parts unsweetened tea mixed with one part lemonade. A lot of people like it with half tea and half lemonade, and if you do it that way it’s called a Half & Half.
National Homemade Cookies Day
Saturday is National Homemade Cookies Day. Here’s a recipe for Cherry Oatmeal Cookies, and here’s one for Cream Cheese Cookies. Hallmark Channel has several recipes for the day, including Pumpkin Walnut Cookies.
If you just don’t have the time to make them yourself, you can always buy some Girl Scout cookies. You can even find out which one pairs best with your astrological sign — unless your sign is Ophiuchus.
Of course, it says my favorite cookie should be the Tagalong. Oh please. I’m a Samoa guy all the way.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Supreme Court term starts (October 3)
Cases the Court will be looking at this term involve Apple, service dogs, religious schools, and cheerleader outfits.
Customer Service Week (October 3–7)
Yup, this is the week we honor all those who help us, so call up a customer service rep on the phone and talk to them for 30 or 40 minutes.
Vice Presidential debate (October 4)
Governor Mike Pence and Senator Tim Kaine square off this Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. The moderator is Elaine Quijano of CBS.