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Crypto Trust-Trading Scams Are Running Rampant On YouTube

January 10th, 2020

Scam videos look real and can trick you into giving up your crypto. Don’t believe their lies.


MyCrypto has kept an eye on the evolution of crypto scams for years — one could say that some of us are relatively obsessed. Yet we were perplexed when we received a link to two YouTube videos purporting to be giveaways by Coinbase and Binance. We’ve released several previous articles on how to detect deception in the space but after a brief look at the link, nothing screamed “scam!” At a glance, it isn’t until you get to the tell-tale send us 0.25 BTC and we’ll send you 25 BTC in the description that alarm bells start ringing. That’s scary.

Generally speaking, whether it’s in crypto or “real life,” scammers capitalize on human nature to disarm you and trick you into giving them what they want (usually all your bitcoin 😉).

  • Fear / Urgency: “You need to do this thing now or else the fork is going to come and kill you!” or “This service was hacked you better go grab all your money now!” or “We’re only giving away 1 more bitcoin! Get in on the giveaway in the next 5 minutes!”
  • Greed / FOMO: “Here’s this ICO address for the hottest shit since 2017! Send all your money now for the bonus!!!!1!!!111!!!!!” or “Send me 0.25 BTC and I’ll send you back 25 BTC!!!!”
  • Trust: Account compromise and takeovers (Twitter / Telegram) where a person you know and trust DMs you and asks for a favor (usually in the form of crypto) or long cons, romance schemes, business dealings, etc.

The giveaway schemes capitalize mostly on your greed and fear of missing out. They throw in a bit of urgency and rely on you being a trusting human being, just for good measure. This is one reason we often remind people not to take immediate action on scary things. Taking a moment, breathing, and looking around doesn’t take long and you need a clear head to act rationally (and not send all your crypto away!)

Version 1: The Twitter Giveaway

On Twitter, the promise of “BTC GIVEAWAY NOW!” is surrounded by a sea of red flags. If we look at them closely, we can see:

  • The Twitter accounts occasionally only have a few followers
  • They don’t ever have any common followers (e.g. “@MyCrypto, @sniko_, and 43 other people you know are following @tayvano_)
  • Sometimes the handles are completely unrelated and only the name field has been changed (see the above “Elon Musk”)
  • If you click on their recent tweets, you are bombarded with a sea of giveaway scam images.
  • Link shorteners are often used.
  • The style and design of the attached image are not consistent with Coinbase’s, Binance’s, or any company’s branding.
  • There is both a unique handle and a unique URL that you can look at. There cannot be two @Coinbase accounts, only two people named “Coinbase @Coinbase” and “Coinbase @coinbase__.”
  • They rarely have a blue checkmark BUT if they do (like above), they definitely have a random-ass username.
  • See Twitter Trust Trading research — https://medium.com/mycrypto/research-into-trust-trading-scams-on-twitter-ba6309d87a18 (including tweet dumps in this repo)

Version 2: The YouTube Live Giveaway

A bad actor uses a recording of a previous broadcast of CZ with a dishonest description and text overlays to scam users whilst using the livestream functionality on YouTube.

These YouTube scams are far harder to detect on the surface. There are some otherwise common, core “red flags” that simply don’t exist on YouTube:

  • No display of common followers
  • No unique handle or unique URL — only a name is shown, which can be “Coinbase” and a logo.
  • The additional space in the video description gives the scammers more room to lay out their pitch. This negates the need for using link shorteners, although some videos I have found since then use telegra.ph. It also leaves room for them to link to legitimate social media accounts or write more convincing messaging.
  • Only some videos/streams show subscriber counts under the account name and logo while others do not. (More on this below.) If a subscriber count is present, as this scam is relatively new, the subscriber counts are very, very high.

For example, account with subscriber count:

For example, account without subscriber count:

The terrifically disarming element of these scams is the fact they are using YouTube Live and actual video of Brian Armstrong, CZ, Vitalik, John McAfee, or Elon Musk talking to the audience.

It looks like a legitimate livestream. It sounds like a legitimate livestream. This, combined with a number of other factors add to the overall feeling of credibility:

  • If there is a follower/subscriber count displayed, it’s a large number & displayed prominently under the account name. The videos I found ranged from 10k-100k+. This lends to the legitimacy and indicates that these accounts have either been bought from previous owners or have been compromised and re-purposed.
  • The live viewer count ranged from 800 to 6,000+.
  • The “thumbs up” number is far greater than the “thumbs down” number.

Some videos had live chat turned on; some had it turned off. For those that had it turned on, we see messages like, “Thank you for the 200 ethereum bonus!” and “you’re going to miss out!!” and “WoW I just received my 123 Ethereum!”

  • It looks like a livestream, it feels like a livestream, it’s CZ or Brian Armstrong or whoever. You can see them and listen to them. This is innately disarming.

How to Protect Yourself

  1. Simply put, the best way to not fall for this scam is to remember the old adage: If it’s too good to be true, it definitely is.
  2. Repeat after me: If it is too good to be true, it definitely is.
  3. If it is too good to be true, it definitely is.
  4. If it is too good to be true, it definitely is.
  5. People aren’t giving away free BTC or ETH or any other crypto. If they somehow magically are, they will not require you to send them money first. Period. End of conversation.
  6. Repeat after me: No one is giving you free money.
  7. No one is giving me free crypto.
  8. No one is giving me free bitcoin.
  9. No one is giving me free ether.
  10. Once you click the “send” button you should assume your money is gone. The crypto world is NOT like interacting in the traditional retail world — making a purchase on Amazon is not the same as sending bitcoin to address you found in the YouTube video description. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
  11. Don’t send crypto to addresses posted online or via chat. Don’t make trades with random people via Telegram. Just don’t. Really. Just don’t. This also includes people you do know and may have even met in person. You have to verify that they haven’t been compromised. If someone asks to borrow crypto, you should respond by asking for the secret phrase, asking a question only they would know, or requiring a video or phone call to verify it’s them before sending any amount of money. As a boss, I was insanely proud when my employee called me on the phone when I asked him for some slightly sensitive info. His first reaction wasn’t to jump and give me what I requested — he verified first. #proudmama

Note: These links and references below are included for educational purposes. They may lead to active scams. I REPEAT: THESE LINKS MAY LEAD TO ACTIVE SCAMS. Click at your own risk and DON’T BELIEVE THEIR LIES.

🛑BITCOIN BINANCE Greatest 10 000 BTC Air Drop🛑 #btc #bitcoin


🔴LIVE Binance : Annоuncе BIG BTC GivеАwау

🔴 Live talk about Ethereum 2.0 and ERC20 Tokens #ethereum #eth

🔴Cryptocurrency Ethereum: Crypto ETH Giveaway🔴#crypto #eth #btc

MCAFEE LIVE: Announce BTC Airdrop bу John McAfee

🛑ELON MUSK LIVE: Airdrop Announce BTC and ETH Airdrop bу Elon Musk🛑

🔴 Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong [LIVE] 🔴 Announce BTC GIVEAWAY!

🔴 Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong [LIVE] 🔴 Announce BTC GIVEAWAY!

🔴Coinbase Live interview trading with Brian Armstrong +5000 Bitcoin BTC event🔴

Reference: Further Reading

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