YouTube impersonation scam has tricked 70,000 people, study reveals
Cyber security firm RiskIQ mapped the multi-year campaign, revealing how scammers mimicked seven prominent YouTube channels in an attempt to trick their millions of followers into hading over their personal details.
YouTube stars that have been impersonated include news commentator Philip DeFranco and makeup vlogger James Charles.
The scammers use the promise of a prize to lure potential targets, often using sought-after items like Apple iPhones or Google Play gift cards.
By selecting a prize, the victims are in fact clicking on a referral link that takes them to a survey website that collects their personal information for the purpose of monetising their data.
“Once the visitors fill out the surveys, the organizations that collect this personal information give the scammers a flat-rate kick-back. Even if the kick-backs are tiny, these scammers fool enough users to finance their campaigns and then some,” RiskIQ researchers wrote in a report detailing the scams.
“The current YouTuber impersonation campaign is just one of the latest tricks they’re using to drive traffic. Over the years, they’ve employed many other tactics as well, claiming countless victims along the way.”
Some of those caught up in the campaign have recently taken to YouTube to warn their subscribers of the risks involved.
“If you have gotten a message from me or any other creator on YouTube… that is not from me, that is not from any of these other creators, that is very likely someone trying to scam you,” Mr DeFranco said in one video.
“Thanks for reporting on this spam issue! We’re in the process of implementing additional measures to prevent impersonation like this,” YouTube said. ”In the meantime, your subs can protect themselves by blocking any account that is spamming them.”
The Google-owned firm provided a link to a site that allows people to block individual user accounts.