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Hackers posing as former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Tesla founder Elon Musk and others posted tweets on Wednesday from the victims' respective accounts saying they were doubling all bitcoin donations for coronavirus relief, along with a link to donate.
The relatively small-scale monetary outcome of the hack "is not a sign that the scam was shut down quickly," according to Muneeb Ali, founder of decentralized computing platform Blockstack.
"Sure, some hacked celebrity and corporate accounts were fixed rapidly, but many weren’t," Ali said. "Additionally, thousands of other, smaller accounts were hacked as well and those tweets stayed up for quite some time."
The more likely reason only $110,000 worth of bitcoin was collected is because users and cryptocurrency experts alike were aware that the posts were fraudulent, Ali explained.
"In the cryptocurrency space, this type of scam is actually pretty well known, to the point where people have parodied it in the past," he said." When Twitter accounts of crypto exchanges were hacked first, the crypto community reacted rather quickly, calling out the scam and sharing warning posts."
He added that "the number of 'bitcoiners' who would have been willing to fall for this scheme was incredibly small."
But for those who did fall for the scheme, however, funds will be next-to-impossible to recover.
"While the movement of bitcoin funds can be traced on the public ledger, it will be next to impossible to recover the funds," Ali told FOX Business. "The bitcoin blockchain is permissionless, meaning that money can be sent to anyone in a way that cannot be clawed back. It's the digital version of physically reaching into your pocket, taking out cash, and handing it to another person."
Despite this, hackers' ability to actually cash out on their operations will be "limited," Ali said, "as exchanges that trade crypto for fiat currencies like dollars or euros are monitoring the situation and will likely freeze the funds if they are moved to the top exchanges."
He added that it's "entirely possible" hackers may have contributed to some of the "originally donated bitcoin" themselves "in an attempt to convince others to donate, as well."