SpaceX giveaway scam floods YouTube with deep fake Elon Musk

On April 8, YouTube saw a flood of fake Space X giveaway scams executed under the guise of live streams dedicated toward the April 8 solar eclipse.

The scams were first spotted by the research group Mysk, which pointed out that a verified YouTube account was live-streaming a solar eclipse. The stream, titled “Live: Solar Eclipse Spectacular 2024 of SpaceX,” reportedly showed a deepfake video of SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

SpaceX giveaway scam floods YouTube with deep fake Elon Musk - 1
Source: Mysk on X

In the video, the fake Musk was seen urging users to scan a QR code on the screen and deposit cryptocurrencies to have them doubled. Scanning the QR code directed users toward a website displaying the scammer’s wallet addresses, accepting Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many popular cryptocurrencies.

According to the research group, the live stream was the first search result when looking for “solar eclipse livestream.” 

At its peak, the livestream had over 95,000 viewers.

Another live stream, spotted by X user Jason Paladino, titled “2024 Total Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyers of SpaceX,” garnered over 164,000 live viewers. In the live stream chat, the scammers used a fake Elon Musk YouTube account to promote the same crypto doubling scam.

SpaceX giveaway scam floods YouTube with deep fake Elon Musk - 2
Source: Jason Paladino on X 

The scammers promoted a Russian website that was registered on the same day to receive cryptocurrencies from victims.

SpaceX giveaway scam floods YouTube with deep fake Elon Musk - 3
Source: Jason Paladino on X

These giveaway scams have been a major talking point in the cryptocurrency sector for years. Last year, a similar scheme saw scammers getting away with $165,000 in crypto from unsuspecting users. The scammers were once again utilizing live streams on YouTube and redirecting users to their fraudulent websites via a QR code scan.

The scams aren’t limited to impersonating Elon Musk or SpaceX. Several personalities from and beyond the cryptocurrency industry have seen their reputations tarnished by these bad actors.

Back in 2020, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, along with 17 other victims, sued YouTube to take down similar scams impersonating them to promote fake Bitcoin giveaways.

Unfortunately, such scams are not isolated to YouTube. In February 2024, analysts at security firm CertiK discovered scammers impersonating Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, using a deepfake video to promote a wallet drainer phishing site.

Meanwhile, the social media platform TikTok has also become a playground for such scams, as was highlighted in a 2023 report. Scammers followed a similar pattern and were seen promoting cryptocurrency scams under the guise of reputed firms, most commonly Elon Musk and SpaceX, due to close ties with the crypto realm.

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