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Crypto Scam Accounts Still Plague X Despite Elon Musk’s Promises

3 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • When Elon Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion, he promised much less spam and more free speech.
  • Musk vowed to eliminate Twitter spam bots, but they have become more prevalent since his takeover.
  • The problem is particularly bad in crypto, endangering traders and investors who may fall for scams.
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Elon Musk has failed to address the problem of bot and scam accounts, despite making it one of his missions when he first took over the platform now known as X.

Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion on October 27, 2022, with the aim of introducing new features, combating spam, and promoting free speech. Following the acquisition, the South Africa-born entrepreneur changed Twitter’s legal name to X Corp in April, and renamed the platform X in July.

Musk Promised to Defeat the Spam Bots, and Failed

Since the beginning, Musk’s plan to clear the platform of scam accounts and bots was front and center. All the way back in April 2022, Musk tweeted (as it was then known), “If our twitter [sic] bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying!” 

Well, Musk appears to be alive and well, yet the problem of spam bots and scam accounts has worsened. Impersonator accounts have become emboldened by the lack of a verification feature, and spam bots that clog up your notifications have become more prevalent. Especially in crypto.

To make things worse, on August 18, Musk announced that the block feature would be deleted outside of direct messages. In the future, users will have to pay for the feature. This prompted Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, to hit back: “X should really solve the bots & spam problems before removing blocks.” A sentiment many agreed with.

Scam Accounts Are Impersonating Journalists

In a study, published in July, researchers at Indiana University uncovered over 1,100 AI-powered fake accounts on X that aim to scam users through bogus cryptocurrencies and stolen content.

According to the study, the AI accounts “post machine-generated content and steal selfies to create fake personas.” Furthermore, these accounts frequently interact with each other to make themselves appear more legitimate.

The problem of spam bots and scam accounts has always been a problem, but particularly in crypto. However, Musk made things worse by promoting revenue-sharing for content creators.

Blocking spam accounts that interact with premium users’ posts is often against their own economic interests. “That makes for a terrible UX for a user who wants to read the posts of someone being spammed,” noted laurence (@functi0nZer0), a popular crypto account, in a September 1 tweet.

Eleanor Terrett, a finance journalist at Fox Business, has counted 40 accounts currently impersonating her. Luckily, none have invested in an X premium account with a “blue tick” badge. But that still doesn’t calm her nerves. While this article was being written, a fake Terrett account started following the author. Speaking to BeInCrypto, Terrett said:

“The number of impersonator accounts seems to have grown exponentially since Musk took over the platform and the worst part is that some of them are successfully scamming unwitting people. X should make it a priority to address this issue, perhaps introducing a KYC process similar to banks and exchanges.”

A screenshot of Eleanor Terrett's impersonator accounts.
Eleanor Terrett is one of the most impersonated crypto journalists on the platform. Source: X

Another crypto journalist, Kate Irwin, also complained on Monday about the sheer number of scam accounts in her notifications. She posted: “Wake up, log onto Twitter, report 5-10 scam accounts that have spammed my notifications, log off Twitter for the rest of the day.”

Why Does Impersonating Crypto Journalists Matter?

The proliferation of scam accounts impersonating crypto journalists and opinion leaders poses a serious risk to traders and investors. These fake accounts often try to trick people into sending crypto or investing in fraudulent projects

Traders can fall victim by following advice from an account they believe belongs to a trusted source, only to lose their funds in a scam. The scammers behind the fake accounts often exploit the trust readers place in prominent voices in the crypto space. 

Learn how to protect yourself as you trade your digital assets: 15 Most Common Crypto Scams To Look Out For

Furthermore, the widespread anonymity of the crypto space only bolsters these impersonation accounts. Especially with regard to anonymous crypto influencers.

Putting your real identity out in the public eye isn’t required to join the crypto conversation, so often anonymity doesn’t raise alarm bells. Many of these scammers count on short attention spans and the frenzied nature of crypto trading to evade detection.

Investors must be vigilant in verifying account handles and double-checking any information before acting on it.

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Josh Adams
Josh is a reporter at BeInCrypto. He first worked as a journalist over a decade ago, initially covering music before moving into politics and current affairs. Josh first owned Bitcoin in 2014 and has followed the space ever since. He is particularly interested in Web3 adoption, policy and regulation, CBDCs, privacy, and the future of the metaverse.