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A man in Germany says he lost bitcoins worth $560,000 by falling for a scammer posing as Elon Musk, the BBC reported.
The man from Cologne — who did not give the BBC his real name — described giving away his fortune in the mistaken belief that Musk would double his money.
The BBC said his loss was one of the largest single amounts to be taken in a so-called giveaway scam.
Musk caused a stir on February 21 by tweeting: “Dojo 4 Doge,” a reference to cryptocurrency Dogecoin. He often tweets his enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies — moving markets in the process.
Scammers try to profit from this enthusiasm by filling the replies to Musk’s genuine tweets with posts from accounts designed to mimic his.
The man who spoke to the BBC said he clicked on one.
The link led to a professional-looking page, the BBC reported, which described an offer whereby people could send Musk bitcoin and receive twice as much in return.
The website offered to double quantities between 0.1 bitcoin and 20 bitcoin — worth between $5,600 and $1.1 million using bitcoin’s price as of March 16, 2021.
But the page’s authors had nothing to do with Musk.
The BBC did not specify which website ran the scam, but an example can be seen here on a now-deleted page on Medium — a blogging site that allows anyone to publish professional-looking pages:
The BBC said that a ticking timer added a sense of urgency to the man’s decision. He opted to send his full holding of 10 bitcoin for the offer, the BBC reported. Exchanged for dollars, they would be worth $560,000.
The BBC reported that he thought: “This is definitely real.”
The man told the BBC that he realized his mistake when the timer counted down, and no money came.
“I went upstairs and sat on the edge of the bed to tell my wife. I woke her up and told her that I’d made a big mistake, a really big mistake,” he told the BBC.
Cryptocurrency scams have soared in recent years, with little recourse for those who are duped. In 2019 alone, scammers took $4.6 billion from crypto traders, Insider’s Sophia Ankel and Prabhjote Gill reported.
Fake cryptocurrency giveaways often target social media accounts of high-profile figures, either hacking into their account and tweeting on their behalf, or disguising another account to look official.
It’s not the first time Musk — a well-known cryptocurrency enthusiast — has been used to give cover to a scam.
In July 2020, hackers managed to take over the Twitter accounts of people including Musk, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Apple, and Kim Kardashian, posting similar giveaway scams.