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The curious case of the fake Steve Ballmer

Owen Williams

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On Twitter today, a fake Steve Ballmer quickly gained a lot of followers as people discovered the account. The account tweeted a few times, with a bunch of convincing pictures that hadn’t been posted anywhere else online, so many were lead to believe it was real.

The account quickly gained steam, with Anil Dash, Steve Sinofsky and others (including myself) tweeting the account, falling for the trick. Something seemed fishy about the account but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I was almost convinced that the account was real (even Gizmodo wrote something about “Ballmer’s” first tweets from his iPhone!) then it tweeted this:

That’s when I realized this account was doing the exact same thing that I’d seen a handful of other accounts that followed me over the last few days do.

This account is trying to scam Twitter into verifying it.

Backstory

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A few days ago, Asher Langton reached out to me about an account I was interacting with personally, @dailyexec, to let me know that the account belongs to a serial fake account creator.

I’m fairly sure that the the man behind the account is named Arturas Rosenbacher, who constantly creates fake accounts for the purpose of fooling people into thinking he is someone he is not. Here’s some of the accounts he’s created in recent times:

TheChicagoPress, Arturas, Arturas_, rturas, ArturasAKR, OldAKR, dailyexec, OliviaOnReddit (posting someone else’s selfies to r/gonewild), BlacklistSocial, ChicagoAdmirers, iuparties, iuconfessions, anoncentral, IOCapital, rosenbaa, rosenbaa29, Arturas312, ArturasR, allanons, ArturasCEO, Anti_Sec, AnonIRC_, Antis3c, Anon_Ops, AnonDaily, OfficialAntisec, AnonOpsWorld, anonymouSabu, aajkr29, arturasr29, StartupIU, AKGroup, TetraKai Development, MarketVest, ArrowAdvisory, AK Holdings, DevelopNation, iInvestSmart, ArturasBiz, IU_Live, iArturas, GoogleStartups, CNNStartups, JimCNN, ChiTribTech, ChristianAntkow, WhiteHouseSMC, CNNNewsFeed, MrArmisen, GoogleChicago, BankOfChicago, VerifiedCNN

The list goes on and on. Many of them are convincing, and fool employees of the companies he purportedly says he works for into believing him, adding to the ‘credibility’ he is trying to create.

A simple look at cached versions of his Twitter bio expose the scam. He’s essentially claiming he’s done every notable thing ever.

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The same guy was busted for saying he would pay for an evasi0n jailbreak and then never did. He’s been trying to scam people literally for years.

A day or two before I realized Arturas was behind all of this, he started tweeting from his @dailyexec account that he had been DM’d by Twitter about verification but “the link wouldn’t work” and started aggressively tweeting any Twitter employee he could find about his “problem.”

He DM’d me personally to try and ask me who to talk to as well as many others. Here’s an example of him trying to convince people that he’d been DM’d a link for getting a verified tick:

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The link in question is this one: https://twitter.com/vit_onboard/onboarding?dm=1 (and no, it won’t work for you).

When you’re invited by Twitter to be verified, you’ll get an email or DM from the company with that link, which leads you to a survey which “verifies your identity” before granting you a little blue tick.

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Arturas actually tried the same social engineering technique to get Google Glass previously, by retweeting a tweet about being invited to the join Glass Explorer program but just adding his own username in.

Assumably Twitter has caught on, as his accounts are all now suspended (except this new one), but his scams continue in often convincing ways.

I hope that this post makes others aware of this shady character’s actions and is a reminder not to trust everything you see online.

If you find this interesting, make sure to have a look at all the different ways Arturas has tried to scam people. It’s incredible.

When I interacted with @dailyexec before I knew, he seemed nice enough and even invited me for a beer in Chicago. The sad thing is, Arturas has even admitted to scamming people and continues to do so.

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P.S - A huge thanks goes out to Asher Langton for pointing this out to me. I’m happy to talk with Arturas directly if he can explain why all his accounts keep disappearing.

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Update: I discovered late today that the selfie the account tweeted was actually one Guillaume Faou who works at Microsoft and took the picture himself, meaning it had to be lifted from his profile since the real Steve Ballmer wouldn’t have ever had the photo.


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The State of Photo Apps

Derrick Ko

Ever since mobile phones have become our de facto camera, the cost of taking a photo has plummeted. We are now taking more photos of the world around us than ever before.

Photos have become such a crucial piece in the consumer app space that companies are basing entire strategies around them. And thus far, our love of nostalgia and our need for validation have been the guiding motivations behind the current state of photo apps.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia drives us to keep our old photos – whether in a shoebox or the cloud. We know that as our memories become more distant, we will value the photos of them even more. And with our hoarding instincts, not only do we want to keep all our photos, we want a reliable place to do so.

Companies have realized this. It’s no coincidence that in a span of two weeks, we have seen a renewed emphasis on mobile photo storage. Dropbox launched Carousel and acquired Loom, Eyefi is now cloud-backed, and both Amazon and Flickr have revamped their photo apps.

Validation

Our desire to preserve our memories is paralleled by our excitement to share them, ever since the days of cave drawings.

By sharing, we implicitly seek validation. We expect a reaction in return. It’s this sharing-validation symbiosis that led to the explosion of photo sharing apps. Sharing is now easier and more creative than ever before. And each time we get a response to our photos – likes, hearts, or even a simple “awesome!!” – we get that little addictive hit of adrenaline.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and messaging apps ultimately play to our desire of validation. They continually optimize our ability to showcase as many of our photos to as wide an audience as possible.

What’s Next

The recent incarnations of photo apps have focused on how we produce photos, and how others consume our photos. There has been little development on how we consume our own photos meaningfully.

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We still consume our photos in a very time-linear fashion, whether it’s through our camera roll or new apps like Carousel. This becomes ineffective as we amass tens of thousands of photos spanning decades of our lives.

Our relationship with our photos has to improve, and the next wave of photo apps will focus on meaningfully developing this bond.

The sense of warmth, the sounds, and the conversations evoked by looking at the right photos at the right time is a powerful hook. Using the ever increasing amount of both personal and meta data available, these apps will tap deeper into our sense of nostalgia and become an indispensable part of our lives.

The photo space is far from complete. We have just scratched the surface.

Catch me on Twitter over here.


More by Derrick →

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