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750,000 fake Twitter accounts used in diet scam

Fraudster sought to flog pills through affiliate programmes.

By Jimmy Nicholls

A scammer looking to hawk diet pills has put together a massive spam operation on Twitter involving 750,000 fake accounts, according to the security vendor Symantec.

The lone criminal was said to be hoping to gain commissions on sales of Green Coffee Bean Extract, and had set up fake women’s lifestyle websites to try and flog the product.

Satnam Narang, senior security response manager at Symantec, wrote on his firm’s blog: "Over the years, we have seen a number of spam campaigns circulating through various social networking applications and services.

"Whether it is on Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, or Tumblr, spammers are trying to capitalise on the weight loss dietary supplement industry, which nets $2bn annually. We expect these types of spam operations to continue as a result."

As part of the scam the crook also set up accounts that mimicked legitimate news services such as CNN, ABC, and MTV, and impersonated reality TV stars that had made the news for their weight loss efforts.

The criminal divided the phoney accounts into several groups, using some to imitate brands, some to tweet stolen content and photos of women purporting to be using the pills, and dummy accounts that were used to boost the other accounts’ follower count.

"Despite using clever tactics to maintain persistence, the spam operator left clues about his identity in domain registrations, short URL accounts, and even made the mistake of converting one of his Parrot accounts into a personal account for himself," Narang said.

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He added that Symantec had informed Twitter ahead of publishing the findings, as well as other services such as Bitly, Google and GoDaddy that had been abused in the scheme.

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