Over the past few days, Twitter users have reported a strange new (and spammy) trend: They’re being added to dozens of odd-sounding lists.
Lists in an of themselves aren’t spammy. In fact, they’re one of the best ways to network and keep tabs on select groups of accounts. However, lists have recently become the latest hotspot for spammers, as they look for new and nefarious ways to get unsuspecting users to click their malicious links.
Typically, Twitter lists are used to group accounts together based on a common theme. I have lists for users that I interact with regularly, local businesses, social media news, current clients, competitors and more.
But as The Verge reports, lists with names like “GTA 5 Giveaway,” “Ashton Kutcher’s Phone Number,” and “Candy Crush Saga Hack” are popping up in droves.
The scheme would work like this:
The spammer uses a relatively new tool called “Twitter Keyword Tool” to scrape keywords and auto-adds Twitter users to these spammy lists if they’ve used that term in their past tweets. Then, once the user sees that she’s been added to a new list, she’ll happily and obliviously click over to the profile that added her, and click the profile’s URL. This will presumably lead to a site that phishes for personal information, forces the user to fill out a survey, or downloads malicious software onto the user’s computer.
BuzzFeed got an interview with the main spammer responsible for this latest trend.
@CelebPhoneNo, as this shady character is known, explains how the scam actually makes money for him:
“The actual monetization comes from the traffic completing surveys and other various offers and then we get paid by advertisers.”
And he goes on to say that, although this is currently his best method for getting traffic, he doesn’t foresee it lasting forever:
“This will only grow in popularity but I sense Twitter will quite obviously patch it soon which is good as this method will saturate very quickly anyway as people will learn that the lists are spam.”
The whole Twitter team is no doubt busy preparing for their upcoming IPO, but hopefully someone has an eye on this latest spam trend, and will shut it down soon.