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Here's why Twitter will lock your account if you change your display name to Elon Musk


July 25, 2018

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Here's why Twitter will lock your account if you change your display name to Elon Musk

There’s bad news if your name really is “Elon Musk”.

You’re going to jump over some additional hurdles to convince Twitter that you should be allowed to change your display name to the one you share with the boss of Tesla and SpaceX.

For months scammers have been creating Twitter profiles which pose as tech billionaire, in an attempt to defraud unwary users out of cryptocurrency.

The scam works like this.

The real Elon Musk (@elonmusk) posts a message to his 22 million followers. Some of his followers reply. Perhaps even the real Elon Musk responds to some of the comments he receives.

But what also happens is, with alarming regularity, a fake Elon Musk profile using the same avatar jumps into the threaded conversation and steers it towards a webpage under their control.

Take a look at this recent example, where the genuine Elon Musk apologised for some unpleasant online behaviour only for a bogus Elon Musk (his tweets are circled in red) to direct users to a scam webpage that attempts to steal cryptocurrency.

If you were to click on the link that the phoney Elon Musk was promoting, you would be told that Tesla is giving away 5000 bitcoins (over 30 million dollars). All you have to do, says the scam webpage, is send between 0.1 and 5 BTC and you”ll get “from 1 to 50 BTC back!”

It’s almost inevitable that some of those 22 million followers of the real Elon Musk might be tricked into thinking the tweets are from the Tesla chief.

So, what’s Twitter doing about this problem?

Well, as The Verge reports, the site is now automatically locking unverified accounts that change their display name to “Elon Musk”.

Nick Statt of The Verge shared a screenshot showing just what wannabe Elon Musks would see.

From the sound of things, if you manage to pass a CAPTCHA test and verify a phone number Twitter will then allow you to change your display name to Elon Musk. That makes me think that Twitter is trying to prevent the bots that automate the creation of lookalike accounts engaged in this scam rather than human operators.

Elon Musk is not the only individual to have had his identity abused by scammers trying to defraud Twitter users with cryptocurrency giveaway scams, but he is perhaps the one with the highest profile.

Time will tell if Twitter’s action will be enough to clean up the problem of bogus Elon Musks, or if the scammers will simply pop up using a different guise.




Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s.

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