For its 350 million users, Twitter is a great way to stay on top of news, trends and developments in a chosen community. But given how easy it is to set up a Twitter account with just an email address, the platform is also ripe for catfishing, phishing and other scams. The problem is easy to underestimate, but be aware that around one in every hundred Tweets is malicious, and fewer than 50 percent of accounts are authentic. Before you open that DM or click on the shortened link that conceals a toxic URL, protect yourself against these eight common Twitter scams.
1. Beware of the Bots
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, research found that 82 percent of the most active Twitter accounts were, in fact, bots. These accounts can churn out Tweets to unsuspecting users, often with an invitation to access adult content or cryptocurrency offers with a free introductory pass — all you have to do is enter your credit card information. Not surprisingly, this scam doesn’t end well. There’s no free pass; instead, your credit card is charged repeatedly.
Top tip: Check the account’s Twitter feed to see what they’re tweeting and how often interactions look authentic.
2. Script Worms
3. Bogus Twitter Cash Starter Kit
When the offer drops into your feed, it seems too good to be true. (It is.) You receive an invitation to earn income by sharing or retweeting about a product or service. All you have to do is submit your credit card details to access your account Twitter Cash Starter Kit. The idea of making money from your Twitter account might be enticing, but you should never have to pay money in advance to take advantage of an authentic service. It’s a cash starter kit indeed, but not for you.
4. Pay for Followers
If you’re an up-and-coming brand or influencer, your follower numbers matter. Building your followers takes time and dedication, however. Step forward bots that offer to shower you with followers for a fee or membership. Some might even offer to give you free followers in return for sharing content or submitting your password. By now, the alarm bells should be ringing. The most likely outcome of falling for this trap is that Twitter will block your account, leaving you with significantly fewer followers than you started with.
5. Sliding into the DMs
Even users who bring a healthy dose of scepticism to what they see in the general feed can fall victim to a Direct Message (DM) that is well worded and looks authentic. In many cases, scammers use hijacked accounts that look legitimate or familiar. This phishing scam invites the user to visit a log-in page and enter personal information, their password or credit card details. Given that the average Twitter user has 707 followers, scammers rely on the fact that it’s not easy to vet and verify every single account. And it’s one of the reasons why there are growing calls for more robust account verification on Twitter.
DMs are Where Romance Scams Flourish
Many scammers treat DMs as their safe space. Because interaction is hidden and more intimate, Twitter DMs are one of the targets for common catfishing and romance scams that end in a request for money, payment of fees or emergency assistance.
Top tip: Take any conversation of this nature to at least a video call. And check the person’s number, name and background using Spokeo to expose any catfishing attempts.
6. Earning the Blue Badge
The blue badge on Twitter signifies that an account is verified, which is a big deal for brand managers, public figures or influencers. Scammers know that, so they will invite you to sign up with your password or hand over your credit card details for immediate verification. Even if the URL looks authentic, watch out for this common phishing scam. Only Twitter can hand over the coveted blue badge.
7. Boost Your Visitor Count
Most of us can’t resist posting a zinger or witty response and heading straight to the account activity tab to see our tweet go viral. But when that doesn’t happen (which is often the case), it’s easy to fall for a scam in your DMs that offers enhanced transparency for your followers and engagement activity. The numbers you’re given could well be bogus, after which you’re invited to enter your personal information or cell phone number to complete a seemingly innocuous survey. You’ll only realize it’s a scam when you start receiving paid texts or find yourself locked out of your account.
8. Restoring Your Reputation
Some scams target greed; this one targets fear. It starts with a seemingly well-intentioned message that alerts you to sensitive information or photos circulating about you online. The user has spotted it and wants to help. All you have to do is click on a link and submit your password — with predictable consequences.
Top tip: Use Google reverse photo lookup or perform a sweep of what information is posted online about you linked to your email address or phone number using Spokeo.
How to Protect Yourself
Although Twitter is a great platform for engaging with others, you should set safe boundaries to keep your account secure. Don’t answer DMs from people you don’t know, treat links with suspicion and never log onto a different site that asks you to enter your Twitter password.
Even tech-savvy Twitter users — from President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg to Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher — have fallen victim to these scams, so there’s no shame in finding yourself compromised. But if you watch out for these and stay on top of your online identity, you’ll make yourself a harder target to reckon with.
- FTC – What You Need to Know About Romance Scams
- AARP – Protect Yourself From Twitter Scammers, Networking Cons – Scam Alert
- Identity Force – 4 Twitter Scams To Avoid
- NCL – You on Twitter? So are scammers – National Consumers League – National Consumers LeagueNorton – What’s a Twitter bot and how to spot one