The Twitter accounts of Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Elon Musk and many other high-profile people and companies became pawns Wednesday in one of the most visible cyberscams in the internet's history.
A tweet typical of the attack sent from the account of Bill Gates, the software mogul who is the world's second-wealthiest person, promised to double all payments sent to his Bitcoin address for the next 30 minutes.
"Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time," the tweet said. "You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000."
Similar tweets appeared on the accounts of tech executive Elon Musk, rapper Kanye West and corporations including Apple, Uber and the money transfer app Cash.
Some people were complying with the requests, according to the public register of Bitcoin transactions. The Bitcoin address linked in the tweets was quickly inundated with more than 200 instances of people sending it money, adding up to $100,000.
Other people on Twitter called out the tweets as obvious scams before the tweets were deleted after several minutes.
Some of the accounts have huge followings. Gates' has 51.1 million Twitter followers, while Musk' has 36.9 million. Apple's account has 4.5 million.
The tweets began showing up around 3 p.m. Eastern time, and the attack appeared to be continuing on scores of Twitter accounts more than two hours later.
Twitter spokeswoman Aly Pavela said the company was looking into the issue and would have more to say later.
Cryptocurrency investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who are brothers, said from their Twitter accounts that they believed all major Twitter accounts in the industry had been compromised and were tweeting about a fake partnership.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.