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Elon Musk Bitcoin vanity addresses used to scam users out of $2 million

Bitcoin giveaway scams have been around for more than two years, but a new twist in tactics has helped scammers make more than $2 million over the past two months from Elon Musk's name.

The new trick involves the use of Bitcoin vanity addresses in order to give the scam more credibility in the eyes of a suspicious user.

Vanity addresses are Bitcoin addresses that incorporate a custom word in the address itself -- such as "1MuskPsV7BnuvMuHGWmmXUyXKjxp3vLZX6" or "1ELonMUsKZzpVr5Xok8abiXhhqGbdrnK5C."

Over the past month, Justin Lister, CEO of cyber-security firm Adaptiv, has been tracking the use of Bitcoin vanity addresses abusing Elon Musk's name in giveaway scams.

Lister has been collecting the addresses with the help of BitcoinAbuse, a website where users can report Bitcoin addresses abused in ransomware, extortions, cybercrime, and online scams.

In a spreadsheet shared with ZDNet earlier this week, the Adaptiv CEO said he tracked down 66 addresses that have been reported by scammed users on BitcoinAbuse.

Lister said the 66 addresses received more than 201 in Bitcoin since being created in late April 2020.

Since receiving the spreadsheet from Lister earlier this week, a 67th Elon Musk vanity address was also submitted to the BitcoinAbuse website. This vanity address held an additional 13.9 Bitcoin, which brought the total to 214 Bitcoin, a sum that now stands over $2 million at today's exchange rate.

Image: ZDNet, via Justin Lister

The $2 million sum is enormous if we take into consideration the low effort required to run one of these scams.

Because BitcoinAbuse also requires users to add a short description of where they encountered the Bitcoin address, this made investigati...

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