Earlier tonight, someone decided to change their Twitter handle and display name to impersonate a furry and solicit money to the scammer’s PayPal account.
This is the same kind of lazy technique that script kiddies use to phish people for passwords, but more targeted. The goal is to dupe someone into sending the scammer money instead of the intended recipient.
There’s very little we (as in, social media users) can do to prevent this on social media (although if you’re dealing with money, you should probably take the discussion to DM at least). That’s Twitter’s job.
It’s also difficult to detect, especially since they often block their victim so they can’t see the scam reply, thus preventing detection or at least delaying it until the victim notices an invisible reply and opens a private browsing tab.
Instead, I’d like to propose a simple technique for stopping their post-detection evasive maneuvers. To wit:
The scammer, upon being detected by the victim, did the following rapidly, several times:
- Deleted their offending tweets (although by then they had been reported to Twitter already).
- Changed their Twitter handle.
- Changed their display name.
- Changed their profile picture / biography.
They went from @DreannerHyena to @thebetteroIivia (capital I instead of lowercase L) to @lunatically to @anon45778 in the span of minutes.
Of course, I was able to track them through every account change. And I’m going to explain how to do this because stopping scammers is kind of a recurring theme of this blog. (Cough cough.)
How to Track Polymorphic Twitter Accounts in Two Easy Steps
First, Block them ASAP
No, you don’t have to do it from your main account. You just need to block them before they start dodging.
Open your Twitter Settings
On Twitter’s website, the order of operations is:
- Settings and privacy
- Privacy and safety
- Mute and block
- Blocked accounts
…Or you can just navigate to https://twitter.com/settings/blocked/all directly.
The account you most recently blocked will appear at the top of the list:
That’s all there is to it!
Questions and Answers
What About Muting Them?
This works just as well, and might even avoid tipping them off that you’re tracking them, but when you go to report someone for violating the Twitter TOS through the easy button, you’re often prompted to block them too.
What I’m saying is you should do this when Twitter prompts you to, to increase your chances of successfully capturing them in your blocked account list, then watch them shapeshift their way into a false sense of security.
What Can/Should I Do With This Information?
Ideally, this enables you to continue to point your followers and other would-be victims towards their current account so they can report it for impersonation.
Additionally, this will allow you to identify more of their targets as they morph around, so you can inform and protect them and their followers.
Do NOT use this for malicious purposes.