Posted January 29, 2009 2:50 pm by with 15 comments

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By Danny Brown

Perhaps it’s a sign that the site is reaching more mainstream popularity levels, but Twitter is fast becoming a haven for spammers. Accounts include semi-naked girls with just one link to an affiliate site to brands that use the service for nothing more sending direct messages to other users with a sales link.

Now it seems that the “power players” of Twitter are being targeted—yet it’s not directly at them. Rather, it’s using them instead.

This latest trick sees users that have a certain authority on Twitter—i.e., thousands of followers—be the lucky target of a fake account with their details. Their image and name is used to trick unsuspecting users into thinking it’s the real person. Normally it’s a play on the person’s name—underscores, dashes, numbers, etc.

While these fakes are easy to spot if you know of the person in question, it’s a different matter if you’re either a new Twitter user or someone who doesn’t know Lee Odden, Chris Brogan or Andy Beal. These are the types of users that the scammers are targeting.

It’s also a major pain for the user whose name is used in this way—their reputation can be tarnished, for one thing. So what’s the answer?

  • As a Twitter user, it may be an idea to mention in your profile that this is your only Twitter account—all others are fake.
  • As soon as you see a spam or obviously fake account, report it to Twitter by sending a message to their spam team.
  • Block the fake account—don’t let their numbers grow any further.

While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, downright identity theft is illegal. You can report suspected spammers to Twitter, but perhaps Twitter should start identifying these fake accounts to the targeted people and bring charges against them? It wouldn’t hurt their own reputation…

Danny Brown is the owner of Press Release PR, a boutique agency specializing in social media and PR convergence. He is a blog partner of the iEntry and WebProNews business network and the founder of the 12for12k Challenge.

  • I would be flattered if somebody bothered to fake me. I would also hand the clone all of my work and head for the Mayan Riviera.

    But I think I would also be quote upset and get on the Twitter spam line ASAP.

    David Leonhardt’s last blog post..Should Social Media Be Part of Your SEO Plan?

  • Funny that I see this now because Iit happened to me tonioght for real. _leeodden_ showed up to follow me (for the second time?)

    Any mainstream social network where marketers have even a sniff at stealing traffic you’ll find this kind of stuff going on. It’s gives other legit/commercial users a bad rep as well.

    That said, check this out, it has to be the tweet of the day for sure and it’s perfectly apt: – Best Tweet Of the Day from @jonthebeef |

  • Thanks for the post. I have just been deleting the emails. Now I realize that we have more influence by blocking and reporting the spammers!

    The spammers are targeting users with high follower numbers. If you fall into that category, suggest you setup an account with your _username_ . You’ll have to get a separate email address for this, but that doesn’t address the _username or the username_ . But if you do setup your own anti-spam profile, you can put a link to your real Twitter profile in your bio.

    Andy, you bring up a good point about the illegality and how this affects Twitter’s reputation! It’s affecting the community as a whole.

    Dana Lookadoo’s last blog post..Internet Marketing Geek Speak

  • I have noticed that I’m getting a lot of follow notices lately by someone already following me with an underscore at the end of their Twitter name, Andy Beal was the first one BTW about a week ago: andybeal_ started following me. Some might think it’s flattering, but really…it’s rather annoying that we have to deal with this kind of happening. Thanks for the post and the information.

    Andrew Melchior’s last blog post..Ice Fishing at Fish Lake Utah

  • It’s been a real pain for me. Not only could these spammers hurt my name, but they also create a lot of work on my part–having to report them and let others know it’s not me. 🙁

  • Andrew M

    I am seeing a ton of new followers as well. It is real pain for anyone that uses Twitter not just the popular ones.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Great Interview with Google Search Quality Team Member: Kaspar Szymanski

  • Pingback: Fighting Twitter Spam (With a Little Help From My Friends) | NowSourcing()

  • In the real world you’d take this as compliment! But, online this can be a real drag. I wish i could do something about it… but hey.. thats life

  • I wonder how these spammers are effecting the ORM industry??

  • Have registered for twitter but never got around to using it. I guess for some one who is not selling anything, its not a big place to hang out. Specially when all the friends are available on facebook.

    Cashmere’s last blog post..Ceremonial Parade

  • Jordan McCollum

    @Jane Marie—Someone in the real world using my name and likeness to pitch their (probably crappy) products to my friends? Yeah, I’d probably be real flattered…

  • I was wondering how long it would be before people worked out how to ruin another great social media network. I must say there is too much of it on facebook nowadays with all the bars and restaurants in my town having user pages and sending friend requests to nearly everyone who lists that they come from the town.

    It does get particularly annoying when you look in your inbox and you have message after message telling you which bars have which entertainment on. Suppose it is cheap advertising though.

  • PS3

    Andy is one of the grand total of 20 people I am following since getting Twitter set up about 10 days ago. Well, I assume it is the real Andy anyway 🙂

  • I have noticed that when i try to visit the Twitter page of some of the odd followers, that the account is “suspended”…they must have some sort of filter in place.

    Dan London’s last blog post..Google Print Signals End for Printed Newspapers

  • get that twitter off my back already!