The intention behind implementing verification features on social media platforms is to prevent scammers from impersonating legitimate organizations. However, in the case of X, this seemingly straightforward objective has led to the creation of a new and thriving black market. According to cybersecurity researcher ZachXBT, the introduction of blue checkmarks to indicate verified accounts has inadvertently fueled the impersonation scams it aimed to combat.
Traditionally, all verified accounts were adorned with blue checkmarks, signifying their legitimacy. However, X has introduced a tiered verification system. Blue checkmarks now indicate that the account owner possesses an X Premium subscription and fulfills the necessary requirements for verification. Government officials, multilateral organizations, and individuals acting as government representatives now qualify for a grey checkmark, while business organizations can obtain a gold checkmark along with a square profile picture.
To maintain a gold checkmark, organizations must pay a substantial monthly fee of $1,000. X CEO Elon Musk defended this steep price, believing it would deter most scammers. However, this hypothesis has proven to be flawed. Impersonators targeting crypto projects have capitalized on the verification system by masquerading as legitimate businesses with the coveted gold checkmarks. These scammers employ various tactics, such as promoting fake token airdrops and investment opportunities, to deceive unsuspecting users.
The severity of the problem is underscored by cybersecurity researcher ZachXBT, who was able to identify 12 fraudulent accounts within just two days. All of these accounts were successfully impersonating genuine businesses by leveraging the gold checkmark verification. The implications are deeply troubling, as these scammers can exploit users’ wallets, extract sensitive information, and ultimately inflict significant financial harm.
ZachXBT and other users have observed a disturbing trend where these fraudulent accounts are often traded on Telegram channels before being launched on crypto Twitter. The profitability of these schemes is staggering, with illicit profits often reaching five figures. The relatively trivial cost of creating these accounts pales in comparison to the potential gains scammers can achieve.
While some individuals within the X community offered their assistance in reporting and banning the impersonating accounts, the consensus is clear: this reactive approach is merely a temporary solution. To maintain its standing as the leading platform for businesses to connect with their customers, X’s moderation team must take immediate and decisive action to restore confidence in the verification process. Failure to do so will undermine the platform’s credibility and give scammers further impetus to exploit unsuspecting users.
X’s attempt to thwart impersonation scammers through a tiered verification system has backfired. Instead of deterring fraudulent activities, the introduction of checkmarks has inadvertently created a thriving black market. Impersonators now target businesses with gold checkmarks, promoting fake airdrops and investments to deceive users. It is imperative that X addresses this issue promptly to preserve its reputation as a secure and trusted platform.