In the same way that scammers use phishing emails to try and snag your banking details, they also use direct messages as bait to try and catch your Twitter account login details. If they are successful, they will use your Twitter account to send the next batch of malicious direct messages to all your followers and so the cycle perpetuates...
I have almost 7000 followers on Twitter (@mobidk) at the time of writing and my DM inbox is overflowing with these scam messages to the point that I flat out ignore direct message notifications, in fact I wish I could disable my DM inbox entirely. Short of that I'm hoping that if people get educated, then fewer will need to learn about Twitter phishing the hard way.
Here's a snapshot of my Twitter DM inbox for you to get a feel of what one of these scam/phishing direct messages look like (I've concealed hacked users' identities)
How to identify a spam / scam / phishing direct message on Twitter
- It will contain a link
- It may contain poor grammar or spelling (whos versus who's)
- It will most likely be arbitrary and seem to come out of the blue (from someone who doesn't often direct message you)
- Typical themes center around gossip related to you (people saying nasty things about you, or a funny picture of you, or who's been viewing your profile etc)
If you really are dying to click the link or you aren't 100% sure that it is a safe message, then message your friend back and ask them if they sent you the message intentionally before you click! It's not a bad idea to reply to the sender anyway and let them know that their account has been compromised, though Twitter will most probably reset their password for them. Otherwise, you can send them to this link that explains what to do if your Twitter account is compromised.
For what it's worth, I have also seen similar messages used to spread malware on the Skype IM network and Facebook, so be aware! These tactics are used across many social media channels.
This public security announcement was sponsored by mobidick :)
p.s. I used the handy tool over at www.dmcleaner.com to delete all the DMs in my inbox in one foul swoop... (Though technically it was a few swoops as it deletes in batches of about 150 DMs per batch).