Elon Musk's name used to make $2 million in Bitcoin scams

elon musk
(Image credit: Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images)

Online fraudsters have netted over $2 million in illegal funds after using Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s name in a range of Bitcoin scams, according to a report from ZDNet

Over the past few months, cybersecurity firm Adaptiv has discovered 66 Bitcoin vanity addresses that are using the tech billionaire’s name in fake giveaways.

Bitcoin vanity addresses can be customised with different words, which allows cybercriminals to use these addresses to make their scams look legitimate.

In the case of Elon Musk, ZDNet says that perpetrators have been creating addresses such as “1MuskPsV7BnuvMuHGWmmXUyXKjxp3vLZX6" and "1ELonMUsKZzpVr5Xok8abiXhhqGbdrnK5C."

Adaptiv CEO Justin Lister worked with BitcoinAbuse -- a website that tracks bitcoin addresses leveraged for ransomware, blackmail and fraud -- over two months to investigate Bitcoin vanity addresses that use Musk’s name as part of scams.  

It found that fraudsters began creating these addresses at the end of April and have made an estimated 214 bitcoin (roughly $2 million) through online giveaway scams.

Legitimate-looking scams 

To circulate these scams, cybercriminals hacked YouTube accounts with large followings, created new account names, and added branding so that they appeared to be used by prominent figures.

The hackers then held live streams via the breached accounts, convincing users to part ways with their bitcoin in return for making a profit. To take part in the fake giveaways, users had to transfer bitcoin via addresses in the live stream that would be accessed via QR codes or by heading to a malicious website. 

As per the ZDNet report, the live streams would coincide with real celebrity events. And the hackers used YouTube account names related to Elon Musk, his companies and news channels to make the competitions seem legitimate. 

It’s likely that fraudsters have been using Musk’s name and businesses as he regularly appears in the news. More recently, his company SpaceX hit headlines right around the world when it sent a rocket with NASA astronauts aboard to space

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Nicholas Fearn is a freelance technology journalist and copywriter from the Welsh valleys. His work has appeared in publications such as the FT, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, The Next Web, T3, Android Central, Computer Weekly, and many others. He also happens to be a diehard Mariah Carey fan!