Crypto scams on Twitter led to $872k in losses a year, new study finds


  • A study finds crypto scams on Twitter made $872K through fake giveaways.
  • Researchers built a system to automatically detect 95K+ scam Twitter lists.
  • Findings show the need for better protection against social media crypto fraud.

A new study has revealed that crypto scams made off with over $800,000 in one year by taking advantage of Twitter’s list feature to promote fake cryptocurrency giveaways.

Crypto scams on Twitter led to over $872,000 in losses, according to the study conducted by researchers at San Diego State University. The researchers developed a system to automatically detect these crypto scams on Twitter. By analyzing user lists from June 2022 to June 2023, the system identified over 95,000 scam lists created by nearly 90,000 accounts and containing links to over 300 fraudulent crypto giveaway websites.

The researchers built a scam detection system called GiveawayScamHunter to find free cryptocurrency giveaway scams promoted on Twitter. The system has three main parts:

  • A data collector that retrieves Twitter lists and information like titles and descriptions.
  • A natural language processing model that analyzes list titles and descriptions to detect keywords associated with giveaway scams.
  • An address extractor that visits linked websites and extracts cryptocurrency wallet addresses promoted in the scams.

By continuously running this system, the researchers compiled a large dataset of Twitter lists and linked websites promoting fake cryptocurrency giveaways. Crypto scams have become rampant in recent years. Although the yearly revenue from scams declined last year, it still continues to have a significant impact on the digital assets space.

The scale of the crypto scam

Analysis of the data revealed the massive scale of these crypto scams on Twitter. Over 95,000 scam lists were created from 87,617 Twitter accounts, targeting over 3.7 million users.

Scam activity surged in months when crypto prices spiked, indicating scammers take advantage of market hype.

Most scams were focused on major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Numerous compromised and bot accounts were used to create scam lists and avoid detection. The study also uncovered 121 unique cryptocurrency wallet addresses associated with the fake giveaways. By tracing transactions, the researchers determined these crypto scams generated over $872,000 in victim losses across multiple blockchains.

What do the findings tell us? 

The research shows how truly dangerous social media platforms like Twitter can be, as they are increasingly being used as threat channels for crypto scams and fraud. Though giveaway scams are not new, utilizing Twitter lists gave scammers a powerful mechanism to promote crypto scams to many users.

On the other sight, it also demonstrates the value of automated scam detection systems in combating or investigating such scams. Also, it implies that going forward, independent organizations and regulators will analyze social media more strictly to identify new fraud tactics and quantify financial losses from crypto scams.

The researchers from San Diego State University also suggested several practical strategies to combat crypto scams on social media. The most effective way is to educate users to be skeptical of giveaways and other crypto promotions on social platforms. Social media platforms should also have some level of due diligence, and improve scam detection with NLP and machine learning techniques.

Even though the study focused specifically on Twitter, the implications apply more broadly to blockchain security and preventing social engineering in crypto communities. As cryptocurrencies see increased adoption, developing more robust protections for users against crypto scams will only grow in importance.

The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Mohammad Shahid

An IT and Cybersecurity graduate with specialized knowledge of cryptocurrency and blockchain, Mohammad joins the Repo elite team. He has worked on several blockchain development projects and is an enthusiastic crypto trader.

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