Tenable has today warned users to be alert to fake cryptocurrency giveaways on social media, as fake Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Cardano, Ripple, and Shiba Inu giveaways proliferate on YouTube Live. While scammers hijacking legitimate YouTube accounts to promote fake cryptocurrency giveaways are not new, individuals are still being duped, making these scams extremely lucrative. Tenable has calculated that across a subset of YouTube Live scams encountered over the last month alone, scammers have stolen at least $8.9 million dollars.
“Scammers are leveraging compromised YouTube accounts to promote fake cryptocurrency giveaways for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Cardano, Ripple, Shiba Inu, and other cryptocurrencies,” said Satnam Narang, Staff Research Engineer at Tenable. “The Bitcoin scams I monitored received $8.2 mn in stolen funds, for an average amount of $1.6 mn per scam. Ethereum scams received $413,000 in stolen funds, receiving on average $82,778 per scam. Finally, Shiba Inu scams earned $239,000 in funds, receiving on average $34,192 per scam.”
Scammers recognize that users place a lot of trust in influential voices so create fake videos featuring the founders and co-founders of cryptocurrencies as well as notable individuals associated with cryptocurrency companies or CEOs of companies who have promoted the use of and/or discussed the purchase of cryptocurrencies for their company balance sheets. Combined with the plethora of existing interview footage featuring many of these notable figures, scammers have developed a formula that adds legitimacy to their efforts and has continued to work for years. Additionally, current events featuring high-profile individuals offer the perfect fodder for scammers, as they can count on significant interest from audiences looking to watch livestream footage on YouTube.
Across a number of fake YouTube Live videos Satnam has identified, scammers were using footage of notable figures including:
- Michael Saylor, chairman and CEO of MicroStrategy and a fervent supporter of Bitcoin
- Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum co-founder
- Charles Hoskinson, Cardano founder and Ethereum co-founder
- Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple Labs
- Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX
The common thread amongst all of these fake YouTube Live streams is that users are directed to external websites that claim to double a user’s cryptocurrency, whether it be Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Cardano, Ripple, or Shiba Inu. This technique is the gold standard for cryptocurrency scams.
To help thwart the efforts of scammers, Satnam offers the following advice, “It’s really important for users to be skeptical of YouTube Live videos promising giveaways from notable figures such as the ones above and new individuals that may emerge in the future. Never send cryptocurrency to participate in a giveaway, as it’s unlikely to be genuine, and you won’t be able to recover your digital money once it has been sent. It’s also important for viewers to help play their part and report these YouTube Live videos as there’s a chance it might save someone from falling victim.”
Reporting videos on YouTube can be done by clicking on the flag icon beneath the video and selecting the “spam or misleading” category and selecting “scams or fraud” in the dropdown menu.
A blog post detailing Satnam’s latest social media scam research is available here, including details that can help YouTube users identify and avoid falling prey to these cons.
Notes: All figures are in US$, based on cryptocurrency prices as of November 19 at 12pm PST. The Bitcoin figure skews higher because the biggest scam earned $7.7 million dollars.