The Dark Side of Cryptocurrency: One Researcher’s Journey to Expose a YouTube Scam Network

With Secure researchers have exposed a network of fraudulent YouTube videos, channels and associated web applications that are manipulating users into joining dubious cryptocurrency investment schemes. Some of these videos have millions of views, and the scammers are making a fortune.

One Researcher's Journey to Expose a YouTube Scam Network

An alleged USDT investment fraud is being promoted on social media, according to reports. The scheme, which is said to be tied to the controversial USDT stablecoin, is said to be targeting investors with promises of high returns. USDT has been criticised in the past over its lack of transparency, and has been the subject of multiple regulatory and legal probes.

The network of videos comprises well over a thousand videos, many of which are receiving inauthentic and probably automated engagement – intended to legitimise the videos – from hundreds of distinct sock puppet YouTube channels (some verified) set up to give the operation a sense of legitimacy. The whole setup seems to be run by a group of 30 scammers who use the encrypted Telegram application to coordinate their work.

Led by Andy Patel of WithSecure, the team pored over a number of the five- to 10-minute-long videos, which all follow approximately the same script and are presented in a number of languages.

“The scripts show you how to bring up an app or website where you can register with a username and password, and recharge the account with USDT cryptocurrency,” said Patel. “If you put in more money, you get a reward. [However,] putting money into the app is putting it into the scammer’s wallet.”

The team found over 700 distinct URLs masquerading as investment web apps, each of them nothing more than a cryptocurrency wallet run by the scammers. The scammers promised their victims they could earn commission and rewards if they transferred their cryptocurrency funds to their wallets. In reality, this was just a ploy to steal the victim’s money. The scammers would often provide fake evidence of their earnings to convince their victims that the scheme was legitimate.

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