Fake YouTube accounts showing streaming videos of billionaire Elon Musk casually talking about cryptos are doing the rounds using what is known as a “giveaway” scam, it was reported Friday (June 10).
The cyber criminals employ a rather simple ruse: dangling bogus cryptocurrency “giveaways” as a bait, and using videos of the world’s most famous tech entrepreneur predicting Bitcoin prices or sharing his views on cryptocurrencies to lure victims.
What we know so far:
What’s the hack all about?
The fraudsters are reportedly cracking or hijacking YouTube accounts and then uploading fake streaming videos to promote bogus cryptocurrency giveaway offers.
The BBC reported Friday (June 10) that the cybercriminals have changed the name and picture of dozens of YouTube channels — included those of dead YouTubers — to make them look like official channels of Tesla — which is headed by Musk.
Note: If you ever come across such video, which then led you to a discussion or a page on cryptos, then it’s possible you’ve been the target of cybercriminals.
How are the victims roped in?
The videos tempt people with offers such as “double-your-money”, and asking them to send Bitcoin or Ethereum to certain digital wallets.
It’s known as “giveaway wallet” scam. With the fake accounts hacked from YouTubers, thousands of people have been tricked — for months — into sending cryptocurrency to criminals, on the promise they will receive a prize from the billionaire.
Who's behind this racket?
A “network" of suspected cyber criminals is seen behind the ruse, the BBC stated.
The scammers are thought to buy pairs of emails and passwords hacked from previous data breaches online — or simply try common passwords with known email addresses.
How much money was siphoned off from victims?
Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies had been pulled from unsuspecting victims, according to one report.
Whale Alert, is one of the largest and fastest-growing crypto communities, estimates that the “giveaway scammer wallets” they track show the following “profits”:
> 2021: $98 million
> 2022: $30 million (January to June)
Among those hacked include a Latino music artists’ channel. The artist had told BBC that his followers were puzzled why was he streaming Tesla's content.
“My followers on other social networks started asking me what is going on with the name of my channel and were very confused about why I was streaming Tesla content,” he was quoted as saying.
“It is very frustrating that your YouTube channel is hacked after dedicating so many years of work to it,” the artist was quoted as saying.
In 2021, a man hoping to double his money reportedly sent scammers $400,000 worth of Bitcoin, after seeing a fake advertisement on social media.
This year, the scammers made off with $243,000 in a week — “23 transfers of Bitcoin totalling 7.68923261 coins worth $234,000, 18 transfers of Ethereum totalling 5.016 coins worth $9,000,” the report added.
What did Musk and other victims say?
Elon Musk has dissed YouTube for "nonstop scam ads”, even after he threatened to walk away from Twitter purchase over fake bots-driven accounts.
Another victim also assailed YouTube for “not doing enough” on security issues to prevent hacker attacks.
What did YouTube say or do?
YouTube, owned by Google (Alphabet), said it had removed one of the channels BBC News had alerted it to, adding: "We have strict Community Guidelines prohibiting scams, including Impersonation and hacking."
What's the main motive behind this giveaway scam?
It's mainly money, in the form of cryptos, which are harder to track. Scammers had been less successful this year, said Whale Alert founder Frank van Weert, but still making millions.
A spike in Bitcoin’s price also boosts the hackers’ loot.