Crypto-Scammers Move From Twitter to Instagram

Photo Credit: Simon Belcher / imageBROKER/Shutterstock
August 9, 2018
Updated 3mo ago

By Tanaya Macheel

Twitter’s crypto scammers and bandits are coming to Instagram.

“Just a warning the vinny_lingham account you followed after it followed you is a fake one,” the real Vinny Lingham, crypto angel investor and CEO of the identity startup Civic, said in a recent Instagram direct message.

It was easy to be fooled; the difference between the real and fake accounts is an underscore in the handle separating Lingham’s first name from his last. His impersonator saved the real Lingham’s photos and uploaded them to the fake account. Since Instagram doesn’t host the same conversation Twitter does, it's less obvious that a fake account isn't genuine.

Twitter scams have been rampant this year. Typically, impersonators of trusted industry figures privately message their followers and convince them to send cryptocurrency as part of a giveaway that could double their returns. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey respond in March to a plea by Cornell University professor and IC3 director Emin Gün Sirer to clean up the platform, saying “We are on it.” In late July, Twitter banned copycat accounts of Elon Musk, John McAfee, Bill Gates and the Bitcoin evangelist Roger Ver.

The impersonators have since migrated to Instagram, targeting followers of big influencers and engaging them in private messages. The scammers ask for money or talk up a new Bitcoin investment scheme or mining opportunity.

“Instagram is a lot more personal,” Lingham said in an interview with Cheddar. “With Twitter it’s more public as you’re replying to tweets. On Instagram its more invisible.”

On Twitter, users were sending up to $100,000 a day, said Charlie Shrem, CEO of CryptoIQ and a founding member of the Bitcoin Foundation.

Shrem and Lingham agreed the social platforms have a responsibility to purge impersonators and figure out a more proactive way to stop the spread of these scams. Twitter and Facebook, which owns Instagram, could create controls that prevent people from uploading the same profile photo as another user, Shrem said. Twitter might also consider making it easier for genuine users to get Verified status.

“Charles Hoskinson,” the CEO of Cardano and a co-founder of Ethereum, “still can’t get [Verified status] and is one of the most widely impersonated people on Twitter right now,” Shrem said.

For full interview, click here.