Created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams and launched in July of that year, Twitter is today one of the world’s most popular social media networks.
The micro-blogging service was one of the ten most-visited websites in 2013 and has been described as "the SMS of the Internet".
As of 2016, Twitter had more than 319 million monthly active users, with the figure expected to rise as mobile penetration deepens in previously under-served regions across the globe.
The growing popularity of the medium and the numerous revenue-generating opportunities it offers to users has seen scammers and other con artists come up with unscrupulous means to compromise the accounts of unsuspecting users and/or swindle them of their hard-earned money.
In this piece, the Research and Development Unit of Yudala, Nigeria’s fastest growing composite e-commerce sheds some light on the most common Twitter scams to avoid.
In addition to individuals caught in the vanity trap of acquiring more followers to shore up their social media image, a number of corporate organizations have also fallen prey to this particular scam.
In most cases, the perpetrators of this phoney scheme succeed in tricking the user to sign up for a service that is guaranteed to deliver loads of new followers for a fee.
Victims of this scam are often won over by the bogus promises of the scammers who claim to possess databases of millions of Twitter users with the right interests who can be targeted and converted to new followers by the subscriber.
In other cases, they claim to be able to identify other Twitter users who automatically follow anyone who follows them.
Apart from the financial losses that come from falling prey to this scam, you or your organization may also end up being accused or reported for spamming other users and eventually have your account suspended from Twitter.
With the growing popularity of the micro-blogging service, a number of new revenue-generating streams have emerged on Twitter.
Users who have managed to organically build up a huge follower base have risen to the status of influencers, often patronized by brands and other advertisers to endorse their products with targeted tweets often for an agreed fee.
Riding on this, a very common Twitter scam, offering users an opportunity to make money from home by tweeting about other people’s products, has also become popular.
Research shows that most gullible victims are often asked to part with some money as sign-up fee to get a starter kit for the service.
This involves parting with a credit card number which the fraudsters keep charging a hidden membership fee from on a monthly basis. This scam goes on until the exasperated user wises up to the game and cancels the credit card.
Twitter phishing scam
Phishing refers to the activity of tricking people by getting them to give their identity, bank account numbers and other sensitive information over the Internet or by email and then using these to steal money from them.
Ever come across a link on Twitter which re-directs you to a legitimate-looking site that requires you to supply personal information?
You may just be about to become a victim of one of the most sophisticated Twitter phishing scams.
By forging emails from legitimate sites such as banks, e-commerce sites, airline companies, educational institutions, etc., phishing scammers lure users into disclosing personal details such as name, credit card details, password, among others.
Fake Direct Messages (DMs)
Direct messages are communications or posts sent privately to another Twitter user while signed on to the platform. Scammers have been known to rely on sending fake DMs as a means of gaining access to or compromising the accounts of other users.
This occurs when scammers use a hijacked account to send out seemingly innocuous direct messages. In most reported cases, the messages include links which re-direct users to fake login pages requiring the supply of credentials or login details.
Once a user falls victim and provides the required details, the compromised account is taken over by the scammer who can then use it for a number of nefarious purposes.
Fake direct messages are also used by other fraudsters whose interests go beyond compromising users’ accounts to actually swindling them of money and other valuables often by offering phantom oil blocs and other incredible investments or preying on elderly ladies in what is popularly known in these parts as 419 scams.
Twitter viruses and spyware
This is another less popular means of hijacking the accounts of Twitter users. In most cases, the scam originates from tempting messages or erotic pictures sent by faceless accounts followed by a link.
Once a user clicks on the link, it immediately re-directs to a site from which malicious software is uploaded onto your computer or device.
A few cases have also been reported of messages that originated from a regular follower, a friend or relative whose accounts have been hijacked and used to trap their unsuspecting contacts.
Another variant of this particular scam is the sending out of messages offering access to a programme that, when installed, could let you know who has been checking out your Twitter profile or who has unfollowed you.
Once downloaded, the user inadvertently installs spyware which grants unauthorized access to his/her account.