Scammers impersonate Elon Musk on Twitter, hack Target in bitcoin fraud


Hackers are perpetuating a scam in which they promise to compensate people with Bitcoin if the victims first send along payments of the cryptocurrency.

In the latest version of a classic cybersecurity breach, the hackers apparently briefly gained control of big-box chain Target’s Twitter account on Tuesday morning.

Although Target said it regained control of the account within half an hour, the hackers were able to post a tweet promising to give out 5,000 Bitcoin in “the biggest crypto-giveaway in the world!”

“We present cryptocurrency payments for your purchases in our store, and want to celebrate this event with all users!” the scammers said on Target’s Twitter account.

Bitcoin is a digital currency that is extremely hard to trace.

The hackers have also hacked other high-profile accounts and made similar pledges.

In multiple cases, they have impersonated Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, and made a similar Bitcoin pledge. To do so, they have installed Musk’s Twitter photo on the verified Twitter accounts they hacked and changed the accounts’ display name to his. Musk’s genuine Twitter account has not been compromised.

In this incident, the scammers direct unsuspecting Twitter users to click on a giveaway link and to send Bitcoin payments to them. By sending a certain amount, users are dubiously promised more Bitcoin in return. Victims are also promised a chance at winning more.

In some cases, the hackers have apparently paid Twitter to promote the ads. It was not immediately clear why Twitter was not able to stop those promotions from occurring.

“We’re in close contact with Twitter, have deleted the tweet and have locked the account while we investigate further,” Target said in a statement, acknowledging that its account was “inappropriately accessed” for half an hour. 

Twitter and Tesla were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Contributing: Mike Snider

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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