You can buy anything on the black market – including Twitter handles
The perfect @ identity is a must-have accessory for big companies and brand-conscious celebrities at any cost
Everything has a price, even the top Twitter handles, and if somebody does not want to sell then they may be forced to relinquish their account.
“We have a marketplace which allows the sale of Twitter handles,” says Philly, a subversive marketer who founded ForumKorner, an online gaming forum. “Unlike some websites, however, we do not allow the sales of stolen accounts that some people phish, or hack, to obtain before reselling them.”
It’s the same across the whole of social media. Last month a teenage boy was given a £5,000 cruise in exchange for his Snapchat username while accounts on Instagram are sold openly on online marketplaces.
Shady brokers stalk the web searching for the most potentially lucrative handles, convincing their owners to part with them before reselling at a significantly higher price.
“It’s funny some people don’t know the true value of a handle,” says another trader on condition of anonymity. “For example, I used to look for three-letter acronyms. The handle would generally go for around $30 but little do they know people look for specific @’s correlating with their business. I’ve flipped $20-$40 to $700 on multiple occasions.”
Elsewhere, people allege their accounts have been phished, and their handles stolen and sold, yet Twitter has apparently not implemented robust systems to prevent the practice.
“Twitter has yet to go after the hackers or phishers, let alone the legitimate account sellers, like myself,” says Philly. “Phishing an account is as easy as downloading an infected program, ticking a couple options and hitting run.”
“They used social engineering strategies with multiple other services and sites (like Amazon),” says Josh Bryant, a designer at a digital product firm, who documented how he almost lost his handle in a blog post.
“The why is just money. I own both @jb on Twitter and Instagram and there’s a huge economy for desirable usernames right now. If a hacker can get them, list and sell them before the site responds they stand to make a pretty healthy profit.”