Dogecoin Holders Duped During Musk’s SNL Performance

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In Brief
  • Using Elon Musk’s image and likeness, fraudsters scammed Dogecoin holders with fake giveaway schemes.

  • These schemes occurred during Musk’s performance on SNL on May 8.

  • Dogecoin dropped significantly leading up to and during Musk's performance.

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The Trust Project is an international consortium of news organizations building standards of transparency.

During Elon Musk’s May 8 performance on Saturday Night Live (SNL), fraudsters used his image and likeness to promote Dogecoin giveaways.

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Dogecoin holders were lured into sending the cryptocurrency to unknown accounts with the assurance of receiving back a higher return. The losses of those who sent money could amount to more than $5 million.

Leveraging Dogecoin FOMO

A report from blockchain intelligence provider TRM Labs detailed how the scheme played out over the course of the broadcast. Viewers who watched unofficial streams of Musk’s performance on SNL on YouTube saw several advertisements making claims on his behalf. For instance, one ad said, “Elon Musk has devoted 500,000,000 DOGE to be distributed to all DOGE holders. Anybody can get some, just visit the website.”

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In order to receive their “claims,” the giveaways instructed users to send coins to an affiliated account. The prompt claimed that they would receive their initial deposit plus an amount equal to what they sent. These scams targeted fans of Musk, who believed he might use his appearance to make further promotions for Dogecoin.

Dogecoin saw a boost in price when Musk previously tweeted, “The Dogefather SNL May 8.” However, hours after hitting an all-time high, Dogecoin’s price began to tumble leading up to and during Musk’s SNL appearance. 

The same old schemes

According to the report, almost 10 million DOGE were sent to the affiliated cryptocurrency wallets, as of May 9. However, the wallets’ creators could have sent many of those coins, according to a preliminary analysis. They may have done this in an attempt to appear legitimate.

“Giveaway scams are not new,” TRM wrote in its report. “According to the FBI, Mass Marketing Fraud — like crypto giveaway scams — ‘victimize millions of Americans each year and generate losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.’”

Indeed, due to the relative anonymity of wallet addresses, fraudulent giveaway scams have always been part and parcel of cryptocurrencies. For example, last year a teenager managed to hack into the Twitter accounts of several celebrities and politicians. Using their personas, he then solicited their followers to send thousands of dollars in bitcoin to addresses he controlled. Authorities apprehended him soon after and sentenced him to three years in prison.

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Nick is a data scientist who teaches economics and communication in Budapest, Hungary, where he received a BA in Political Science and Economics and an MSc in Business Analytics from CEU. He has been writing about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology since 2018, and is intrigued by its potential economic and political usage. He can best be described as an optimistic center-left skeptic.

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