Twitter has been swamped in recent years with crypto scammers using Elon Musk’s image to swindle unsuspecting investors. These fraudsters used Twitter accounts that were free to conduct their scams. But over the past week, I’ve noticed a new tactic the scammers are using on Twitter: They’re buying paid ads. And they’re even promising that big spenders could win a trip to Mars or even a Neuralink brain chip, all thanks to Elon Musk.
I first noticed a paid ad for crypto using the Twitter CEO’s photo late last week, but assumed it was an anomaly. Surely, I thought, Twitter must have processes for making sure scam artists aren’t using the social media platform to buy ads, especially when they’re using the current owner’s photo and fake tweets in just a nakedly deceptive way.
But then I noticed another crypto scam using Musk’s photo on MondayAnd another one in the morning. One mistake is not a problem, three is the norm. Twitter profited from cryptocurrency scams, regardless of what is going on behind closed doors.
These scam advertisements and links can be quite convincing in many ways. For starters, I didn’t see any glaring spelling errors, one of the most common things I’ve come across while studying crypto scams over the years. It might seem like a low bar to clear, but honestly it’s the small things that set the successful scammers apart from the rest of the pack.
Another paid ad on Twitter looked like CoinTelegraph. This is a legitimate crypto news outlet as shown in the screenshot above. Needless to say, Musk has never tweeted “What we need is Neuralink Crypto Token.”
Also, the ads linked to an advertisement that showed a deepfake Musk talking about a Neuralink-branded Crypto coin. And while Musk has promoted Bitcoin and Dogecoin in the past, he’s never launched his own coin for Neuralink, Tesla, SpaceX or any of his other brands.
“I’m here to tell you about the Neuralink crypto token, the cryptocurrency that will change the world forever,” the fake Musk says in the video.
“With this token, you have a unique opportunity to invest in the future of brain-machine interfaces,” the fake Musk continues.
I’ve uploaded the crypto scammer’s video to YouTube so you can see it for yourself without visiting the site. I’ve also added a large text disclaimer that the video is fake, but those elements in the upper corners, including the Wall Street Journal logo and the word “live,” were there originally. A clip taken from Musk’s interview in December 2021 was used to create the deepfake video.
A user must create an account in order to attempt to buy tokens from the fraudulent sites. Another impressive feature is that it goes beyond the scope of what low-level grifters often do. Scammers have many options. They can ask potential victims to give their email addresses and create passwords. This gives them the opportunity to see if they’ve used that password in other places, such as large crypto exchanges.
The scam website also promises that anyone who purchases a large amount of these scam tokens will get to talk with Elon Musk himself, likely an opportunity for the scammers to extract more money out of anyone who thinks they’re talking to the real CEO of Twitter.
“Investors who purchase over 10,000 NEURA Tokens will receive personalized investment recommendations and assistance from Elon Musk himself via WhatsApp,” the website reads.
The scam tokens can be purchased in large quantities to enter a raffle that could give you a chance at flying to Mars. Seriously.
“Investors who purchase more than 20,000 NEURA Tokens will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win one of only 10 available tickets to travel to Mars,” the website reads.
The possibilities are endless. You might be eligible to have a Neuralink implanted into your brain if you are a high-spender.
“Investors who purchase more than 30,000 NEURA Tokens will have the chance to win a Neuralink brain chip that directly interfaces the human brain with OpenAI through a raffle,” the website reads.
It’s possible to wonder whether these ads are actually being used by people. In fact, when I filed a FOIA request with the FTC for consumer complaints filed about Tesla, I was shocked to discover people complaining they’d been ripped off by Musk impersonation ads. And it wasn’t just one or two. There were many.
The most heartbreaking story to come out of those consumer complaints was someone who knew they’d been scammed on a fake Tesla token but insisted Elon Musk really did release a token of some kind.
“They were running a token pre-sale for Tesla, I was interested. But I didn’t allow myself enough time to do my research on them before investing into what I thought was an actual pre-sale of a new Tesla token,” the complaint to the FTC read.
“Elon did in fact release a new token, but the one I purchased was not the legit token,” the complaint continued.
Musk has not yet released a new token. Twitter, which rather infamously doesn’t have a PR team anymore, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. I’ll update this article if I hear back. In the meantime I guess I’ll just be waiting here for my trip to Mars. Musk made it clear on Twitter. Twitter promised me that it would never lie to me.