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Cryptocurrency scams on Twitter are so common, this guy built a tool to help detect fraudsters

Becky Peterson
Vitalik Buterin

Vitalik Buterin


  • Scam artists are using fake Twitter accounts impersonating celebrities and public figures to promote cryptocurrencies — then sell the coins at a big profit when their fake tweets pump the price higher.
  • The Ethereum community has come up with a new way to fight these scams: JavaScript browser extensions.
  • Developer Harry Denley is set to release a Twitter-specific extension on Sunday which will tell users when they are seeing Tweets sent by potentially fake accounts.
  • Denley, who wrote a similar script for tracking blacklisted domain names, said he started working on the extension after Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin complained about being impersonated.  

 

As members of the cryptocurrency community look to curb fraud and exploitation in the emerging community, Harry Denley has come up with a rather old-school solution: JavaScript.

Screen Shot 2018 02 02 at 4.45.59 PM

Harry DenleyDenley's script, EtherSecurityLookup, runs as a browser extension on Google Chrome.

The extension catches Twitter accounts that impersonate established users or companies. In the crypto community, this is usually done to plug fraudulent projects, or just straight up ask strangers to send them money.

In some cases, the fraudsters often promote a specific cryptocurrency, and then sell their personal stashes once their false endorsements send the price skyrocketing. In others, they create a fake company and raise money for a fraudulent initial coin offering (ICO), before disappearing. 

The browser extension, which Denley plans to publish here on Sunday, is related to his existing EtherAddressLookup extension, which protects users from sharing their cryptocurrency passwords and addresses with scammers and phishers by checking domain names against a blacklist of websites. This is to hedge against so-called phishing attacks, where false e-mails attempt to trick users into parting with their cryptocurrency.

Denley said that the newer EtherSecurityLookup stemmed from an episode where Vitalik Buterin, the high-profile developer behind Ethereum, complained about being impersonated.

Harry Denley extension

Harry Denley

As the face of Ethereum, one of the more successful blockchain and cryptocurrency projects, Buterin's opinion holds a lot of weight among people in the space. 

But with crypto booming (and busting), scams are on the rise, and Buterin has found that he's particularly vulnerable to impersonation.

On Wednesday, Buterin tweeted that by his math, there are 827 ways to alter his name by only changing a single character, with scammers using Twitter names like "VltalkButerin" — close enough to his already-uncommon actual name that it might fool people into believing it was real. 

A word to the wise, though: When it comes to cryptocurrencies and tech in general, it's rarely wise to trust a Twitter post with that many hashtags or exclamation points. 

Tweet Embed:
https://twitter.com/mims/statuses/958653430607704064?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
TIL that the # of ways to alter my name via a single addition, substitution, swap or deletion is 827 (753 if adjacent swap only)

Whack a mole to stop scam accts is NOT working..... we need enforcement of Levenshtein-Damerau distance b/w accounts (or a better reputation system)

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