Internet scammers are using Twitter bots to trick users into making PayPal and Venmo payments to accounts under their possession. Venmo and PayPal are the popular online payment services for users to pay for things such as charity donations or for goods such as the resale of event tickets. This latest campaign, however, is a stark warning against making or revealing any sort of transaction on a public platform.
How fraudsters operate?
The fraud campaign begins when a well-meaning friend asks the person in need for a specific money transferring account — PayPal or Venmo. Then the Twitter bot springs into action, presumably identifying these tweets via a search for keywords such as ‘PayPal’ or ‘Venmo’.
Twitter bot impersonates the original poster by scraping the profile picture and adopting a similar username within minutes in order to substitute their own payment account for that of the person who really deserves the money.
Twitter user ‘Skye’ (@stimmyskye) posted a screenshot online detailing how she was targeted by a Twitter bot. Skye noted that the bot blocks the account that it is mimicking, and scraps the whole profile.
“Because you’re blocked, you’ll see that there’s one reply to that question but the reply tweet won’t show up. If you see a ghost reply to a comment like that, it’s almost always a scam bot. They delete as fast as they clone your account. You won’t even know it happened,” Skye wrote.
“They will delete the reply tweet, but the account itself will usually not be deleted, just change the username. So, the accounts are usually not brand new, they even have followers. You need to check closely,” she warned.
“Given that the mechanism is automated, I’m willing to bet that the attack is fairly successful. A Twitter user would need to pay close attention to what is going on in order to notice what’s happened. Don’t publicly link to your PayPal (or similar) account – deal with payments via direct message instead. By doing this, the scam bot won't be triggered, and wouldn't be able to show up in the same chain of direct messages even if it was,” Andy Patel, researcher with F-Secure’s Artificial Intelligence Center of Excellence, advised users.