Fake Elon Musk livestreams promoting crypto scams keep popping up on YouTube

Fake Elon Musk livestreams promoting crypto scams keep popping up on YouTube
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Is there any end in sight to fake Elon Musk livestream scams on YouTube?

Over the weekend, Engadget reported on a YouTube broadcast featuring Elon Musk talking at what appears to be a Tesla conference-type event. The livestream had over 30,000 viewers at one point according to Engadget.

One problem: It wasn’t real. The fake live event is part of an ongoing cryptocurrency scam on YouTube.

Fake Elon Musk livestreams on YouTube continue to flourish

The scammers that take part in this particular scheme appear to focus solely on YouTube to perpetrate their fraudulent activity.

The idea behind it is simple. Scammers broadcast a video of Elon Musk speaking at some event as a livestream. Oftentimes, these broadcasts feature real video of Musk on a loop. The audio can be either a fake AI generated voice that sounds like Musk or real audio from a Musk speech that’s generic enough that it can be just about anything.

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The on-screen graphics, however, portray the event as a live talk from Musk about cryptocurrency. These often include links or QR codes to the crypto scam, urging viewers to get in on this opportunity before the livestream ends.

There’s another crucial element to this scam. These live videos are often being streamed on hijacked YouTube channels that people are already subscribed to. These hacked channels can have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, so there’s a built-in audience that YouTube notifies because a channel that these users are subscribers to just went “live.” The scammer usually changes the name of the YouTube channel in order to make it appear like an official Musk or Tesla-related account.

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In this particular case over the weekend, the hacked channel had more than 10,000 subscribers and was also verified by YouTube. The channel was renamed “Tesla” with the YouTube handle “@elon.teslastream.”

While Engadget viewed the livestream with as much as 30,000 concurrent live viewers at one point, it’s unclear how many of those were actual real people. YouTube often promotes and recommends livestreams based on how many users are currently watching the stream. Its possible that a chunk of that viewership were bots in order to game the YouTube algorithm into pushing the video into users’ feeds.

While Musk and Tesla are most commonly utilized to push these YouTube livestream crypto scams, scammers have altered the strategy a bit at times. For example, in April, Mashable reported on a SpaceX version of this scam that weaponized the solar eclipse in order to perpetuate their crypto scheme on YouTube.

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Nearly four years ago, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak actually sued YouTube over Bitcoin scam livestreams that were using his likeness. So, this has clearly been going on for quite a while now. And, unfortunately, it looks like these fake YouTube livestream schemes are going to continue on, at least for the foreseeable future.


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