The number of websites promoting cryptocurrency giveaway scams to lure gullible victims has increased by more than 300% in the first half of this year, targeting mostly English and Spanish speakers using celebrity deepfakes. Security researchers at cybersecurity company Group-IB have identified more than 2,000 domains registered in 2022 specifically for this purpose. A report published today notes that the number of fake giveaways involving cryptocurrency has increased five times compared to last year. Group-IB says that scammers abuse several video platforms to promote fake giveaways in live streams with deepfakes of Elon Musk, Garlinghouse, Michael J. Saylor, and Cathie Wood. YouTube is first on the list, followed by Twitch. The promotional streams come from accounts hijacked or rented from underground hackers who receive between 10% and 50% of the earnings, depending on the channel size. The more subscribers the channel has, the harder it is to block the stream, as it would take a higher number of reports to trigger YouTube’s moderation system. Additionally, the scammers have set up campaigns using the image of El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, who has declared Bitcoin a legal tender in the country, or soccer player Cristiano Rolando who signed an exclusive partnership with Binance this summer. This shows that scammers are quick to adjust to new developments in the field and take advantage of the current context to promote realistic scams. Group-IB explains that the primary reason behind the sudden surge of cryptocurrency scams this year is the significant rise in the broader availability of tools that help in their development.
Prospective investors and digital asset enthusiasts should be vigilant about cryptocurrency giveaways and thoroughly check the details behind such promotions before providing sensitive information. When a celebrity-endorsed promotion on YouTube looks too good, an easy way to figure out if it’s a scam or not is to check the channel name and history. If it’s not the official channel of the celebrity, the giveaway is most likely a scam attempt.