YouTube Fraudsters Steal $1.7m in Crypto 'Giveaway'

A group of online fraudsters made nearly $1.7m by promising cryptocurrency giveaways on YouTube, according to Group-IB.

The Singapore-headquartered security vendor claimed the gang ran 36 YouTube streams between February 16 and 18, attracting at least 165,000 viewers.

They used footage of tech entrepreneurs and crypto enthusiasts like Elon Musk, Brad Garlinghouse, Michael Saylor, Changpeng Zhao and Cathie Wood to add legitimacy to their efforts. The channels themselves were either hacked or purchased on the underground market, Group-IB said.

The streams they created featured links to at least 29 websites with instructions on how to double cryptocurrency investments. To participate, ‘investors’ were urged to send a small amount of virtual currency and told they would then receive twice that amount back.

Depending on the cryptocurrency and type of wallets used, some victims were asked to enter seed phrases to ‘connect’ their wallets. However, that enabled the fraudsters to gain control over their wallet and withdraw all funds.

Within just three days, the scammers received 281 transactions totaling almost $1.7m into their crypto wallets. However, the exact number of victims and total amount stolen remains unknown.

“The fake crypto giveaway scheme is not new, but apparently is still having a moment. Further analysis of the scammers’ domain infrastructure revealed that the 29 websites were part of a massive network of 583 interconnected resources all set up in the first quarter of 2022,” said Group-IB.

“Notably, there were three times as many domains registered for this scheme in less than three months of 2022 compared to the whole of last year.”

Group-IB urged crypto enthusiasts to be skeptical of free giveaways and not share confidential data online. Users were also advised to check the legitimacy of any promotions and keep any seed phrases stored securely with a password manager.

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