Crypto fraudsters used Elon Musk’s SNL appearance ‘to fleece people of up to $10million’

Crypto traders lost an estimated $10million over the weekend Elon Musk hosted SNL after being duped by a Twitter scam, a financial expert has claimed.

The Tesla CEO, 49, hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8 and across the weekend beginning May 7.

People trading crypto currencies were tricked by the scam involving verified Twitter accounts that had been hacked and were impersonating celebrities, Business Insider reported.

These hacked accounts promoted offers to people promising crypto currency in exchange for an initial crypto investment. 

Crypto traders lost an estimated $10million over the weekend that Elon Musk made his appearance on SNL (pictured), a financial expert claims

Sarang Naram, a research engineer at cyber-exposure firm Tenable, claims that as much as $10million was harvested by scammers – with the people behind snlmusk.com taking almost $150,000 of Ethereum, Bitcoin and Dogecoin.

Celebrities who were impersonated included hockey player Troy Stecher, Miley Cyrus and Brazilian politician Luiz Fernando Pezão.

Additionally, some scammers also set up accounts pretending to be the show SNL, Tesla and Elon Musk himself, though these did not have the blue verification ticks and were simply imposter accounts.

Stecher had his account hacked, with the scammers transforming his profile into an SNL impersonation account, but because his Twitter handle stayed the same, the account retained its blue verification tick. 

These fake accounts promoted offers to people promising crypto currency in exchange for an initial crypto investment

These fake accounts promoted offers to people promising crypto currency in exchange for an initial crypto investment

With the convincing fake accounts set up, the scammers then supplied a link to websites promising quick cash – but to sign up for the prizes, users had to first send over a fraction of the promised amount to a specific crypto address.

People trading crypto currencies were tricked by a scam involving verified Twitter accounts, which had been hacked, impersonating celebrities

People trading crypto currencies were tricked by a scam involving verified Twitter accounts, which had been hacked, impersonating celebrities

The websites promised the money was purely for verification purposes and would be returned to users, but this was not the case. 

It wasn’t just Twitter that attempted to scam people though, with similar schemes also having been set up on YouTube prior to Musk’s SNL appearance.

Fake SNL YouTube accounts were set up, running archive footage of Musk – livestreaming videos to add authenticity.

Narang said: ‘I just think this was a perfect storm, because you also had Elon Musk tweeting, “Hey, for international viewers that can’t watch SNL, they’re going to be streaming it on YouTube.’ 

The expert also believes that nine tenths of the $10million dollars scammed from people came from the YouTube schemes. 

Celebrities who were impersonated included hockey player Troy Stecher, Miley Cyrus, Brazilian politician Luiz Fernando Pezão, the show SNL, Tesla and even Elon Musk himself

Celebrities who were impersonated included hockey player Troy Stecher, Miley Cyrus, Brazilian politician Luiz Fernando Pezão, the show SNL, Tesla and even Elon Musk himself

Following the scam, Troy Stecher took to his Twitter account, after gaining control once again, to apologise to fans

Following the scam, Troy Stecher took to his Twitter account, after gaining control once again, to apologise to fans

When approached, the FBI declined to comment and Twitter said that the affected accounts had been restored to their rightful owners.   

This is also not the first time that scammers have attempted to trick people by pretending to be Elon Musk.

A recent Federal Trade Commission report showed that $2million had been stolen by Musk impersonators between October 2020 and March 2021.

Co-founder and chief scientist of Elliptic, Tom Robinson, said that over the weekend of Musk’s SNL appearance, one account linked to the scam received $353,519 from 295 separate transactions. 

He said: ‘”All of this bitcoin has now been moved out of this wallet and is in the process of being laundered. Around 20% has been sent to exchanges so far — in particular exchanges based in Asia.’ 

Following the scam, Troy Stecher took to his Twitter account, after gaining control once again, to apologize to fans.

He Tweeted: ‘I’m back! I have my account restored. I apologize to all for any content posted without my consent while my account was hacked. Thank you for your understanding.’ 

A similar incident occurred in August 2020 after Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion partnered with Cash App to promote their song WAP.

CEO Musk tweeted last week to say the electric car manufacturer 'has suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin' (stock image)

CEO Musk tweeted last week to say the electric car manufacturer ‘has suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin’ (stock image)

They tweeted they were giving away $1million to lucky winners who provided their Cash App usernames and a reason they should win.

But scammers latched onto the competition and encouraged users to send between $15 and $20 to take part. 

Speaking about the incident, Narang said that Cash App usernames can be used as bait for cybercriminals.

He said that the username is an easy way for scammers to contact people with their fake schemes because you become an easier target. 

John Breyault, the VP at National Consumers League, said that the ease of use of apps such as Cash App, Venmo and Zoelle make it easy for scammers to rake in cash.

Breyault also suggested that increased screen-time caused by the coronavirus pandemic could be another reason why so many people are falling victim to crypto-scams. 

Creating Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies requires a lot of electricity, releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases (stock image)

Creating Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies requires a lot of electricity, releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases (stock image)

It comes after CEO Musk tweeted last week to say the electric car manufacturer ‘has suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin’.

Creating Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies requires a lot of electricity, releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

The cryptocurrency is ‘mined’ by high-powered computers that continuously solve computational math puzzles, the complexity of which means the processors require huge amounts of energy. With each solved problem, a certain amount of coin is produced.

While the machines use electricity, fossil fuel is a major category in electricity generation.

Musk wrote: ‘We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.’

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest digital currency, fell 15 per cent after the tweet. 

With the convincing fake accounts set up, the scammers then supplied a link to websites promising quick cash - but to sign up for the prizes, users had to first send over a fraction of the promised amount to a specific crypto address

With the convincing fake accounts set up, the scammers then supplied a link to websites promising quick cash – but to sign up for the prizes, users had to first send over a fraction of the promised amount to a specific crypto address

‘We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of bitcoin’s energy/transaction,’ Musk said.

Musk said in March Tesla customers can buy its electric vehicles with bitcoin, jumping up the price of the currency.

But on Wednesday he tweeted: ‘Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment.

‘Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy.’  

WHAT IS A BITCOIN? A LOOK AT THE DIGITAL CURRENCY

What is a Bitcoin?   

Bitcoin is what is referred to  as a ‘crypto-currency.’ 

It is the internet’s version of money – a unique pieces of digital property that can be transferred from one person to another.

Bitcoins are generated by using an open-source computer program to solve complex math problems. This process is known as mining.  

Each Bitcoin has it’s own unique fingerprint and is defined by a public address and a private key – or strings of numbers and letters that give each a specific identity.

They are also characterized by their position in a public database of all Bitcoin transactions known as the blockchain. 

The blockchain is maintained by a distributed network of computers around the world.

Because Bitcoins allow people to trade money without a third party getting involved, they have become popular with libertarians as well as technophiles, speculators — and criminals.

Where do Bitcoins come from?

People create Bitcoins through mining.

Mining is the process of solving complex math problems using computers running Bitcoin software.

These mining puzzles get increasingly harder as more Bitcoins enter circulation.

The rewards are cut in half at regular intervals due to a deliberate slowdown in the rate at which new Bitcoins enter circulation. 

Who’s behind the currency?

Bitcoin was launched in 2009 by a person or group of people operating under the name Satoshi Nakamoto and then adopted by a small clutch of enthusiasts.

Nakamoto dropped off the map as Bitcoin began to attract widespread attention, but proponents say that doesn’t matter: the currency obeys its own, internal logic.

Dr Craig Wright was suspected as the creator following a report by Wired last year and he has now confirmed his identity as the cryptocurrency’s founder.  

What’s a bitcoin worth?

Like any other currency, Bitcoins are only worth as much as you and your counterpart want them to be. 

Bitcoins are lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they travel from one owner to the next. Physical coin used as an illustration

Bitcoins are lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they travel from one owner to the next. Physical coin used as an illustration

In its early days, boosters swapped Bitcoins back and forth for minor favours or just as a game. 

One website even gave them away for free. 

As the market matured, the value of each Bitcoin grew.

Is the currency widely used?

That’s debatable.

Businesses ranging from blogging platform WordPress to retailer Overstock have jumped on the Bitcoin bandwagon amid a flurry of media coverage, but it’s not clear whether the currency has really taken off. 

On the one hand, leading Bitcoin payment processor BitPay works with more than 20,000 businesses – roughly five times more than it did last year. 

On the other, the total number of Bitcoin transactions has stayed roughly constant at between 60,000 and 70,000 per day over the same period, according to Bitcoin wallet site blockchain.info.

Is Bitcoin particularly vulnerable to counterfeiting?

The Bitcoin network works by harnessing individuals’ greed for the collective good. 

A network of tech-savvy users called miners keep the system honest by pouring their computing power into a blockchain, a global running tally of every bitcoin transaction. 

The blockchain prevents rogues from spending the same bitcoin twice, and the miners are rewarded for their efforts by being gifted with the occasional Bitcoin. 

As long as miners keep the blockchain secure, counterfeiting shouldn’t be an issue.

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