A fraudulent TikTok account going by the handle of @elonmuskdad fooled a fan into thinking that he could get a free Tesla if he ate pizza every day for 420 days or until he reached 420 pounds, whichever came first. The fake account somehow had a “Verified” tick mark, indicating that some social media platforms still have a ridiculously low bar for “verifying” an account.
The Elon Musk fan, named Kyle Young, managed to reach a streak of 99 days of eating pizza from the crust first, often seen as the “wrong” way to eat a pizza, before the @elonmuskdad account was deleted from TikTok. It is unclear whether the account was banned or its owner deleted it. Young goes by the handle of @foodthewrongway on TikTok. Followers had expressed concern about the effects that taking the @elonmuskdad account up on its dare was going to have on his health.
Young’s reaction to @elonmuskdad’s disappearance? A TikTok video which he captioned, “Damn, I really thought it was him because he was verified 🙁 Welp, I guess I’ll keep going.”
For being a fake account, @elonmuskdad’s actions were relatively harmless. Twitter had been having a bad run of fake Twitter accounts which offered “Bitcoin giveaways” to people who sent Bitcoin to a specific address. Some of them even impersonated Elon Musk, and at least one of the scammers even hacked Musk’s Twitter account to promote the scam. At least some of the scams were tracked down to a 17-year-old Tampa, Florida, resident who was accused of hacking the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians and businessmen like Musk, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama in order to conduct his scam.
Authorities estimated that he had obtained $100,000 in Bitcoin through his actions and also filed charges against two adults related to the same streak of scams. Twitter publicly thanked law enforcement officials for their swift action on what it called a “phone spear phishing attack” in which hackers use social engineering to gain access to a company’s internal IT infrastructure to gain additional information that can be used in an attack.
Besides the need for stronger enforcement of laws related to fraud, social media platforms could also stand to shore up their process for verifying an account. Twitter recently switched to simply requiring that users follow the @verified account and tweet at the account to follow back, to requiring additional steps like providing a photo ID or official website. More details on verifying a Twitter account can be found here.
TikTok does not seem to have those strong protections, which could make users more vulnerable to exposure from fake “verified” accounts like @elonmuskdad. Many members of TikTok’s audience may not know how to recognize and avoid a sophisticated enough scam. Publicly available information on Musk includes his fondness of the number 420, a reference to the use of marijuana, which became highlighted by an image of him smoking some pot while making an appearance on a podcast. This fake TikTok account seems to simply amount to a harmless prank.