Latest YouTube Scams Involve Extortion, Phishing Tricks

Whether you post videos or comments, watch out for these YouTube scams: Internet Scambusters #861

YouTube, the world’s leading video sharing site, is a persistent scam target.

In the latest tricks, crooks try to extort money by threatening to complain about video posters and channel operators.

They also impersonate posters to try to steal information from people who comment on others’ videos, as we report in this week’s issue.

Let’s get started…

Latest YouTube Scams Involve Extortion, Phishing Tricks

Supposing you post an item on the video sharing site, YouTube. More and more of us are doing just that.

In some cases, people post so many; they set up their own channels, which enables viewers to “follow” the channel just like following a person or organization on any other social media service.

Time for the scammers to step in. They make a claim that a victim’s video is breaking a rule, perhaps a copyright infringement or some form of unacceptable content.

YouTube operates a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy for anyone who breaks their rules.

Now, the scammers have a choice. Usually, they will go straight to the poster and threaten to complain to YouTube unless this person pays them. It’s straightforward extortion or blackmail.

Alternatively, there might be something genuinely wrong with the video, in which the scammers actually do complain to YouTube — twice. That means the poster has only one more chance before being struck off by the site.

Again, the aim is to threaten the poster that they’ll be reported for a third infringement if they don’t pay up.

The scam was first reported by the tech site, which says the crooks usually seek around $100-$300 via PayPal or a virtual currency like Bitcoin. The actual amount usually depends on how many followers the channel has.

When victims have complained to YouTube, the company, which is owned by Google, has usually removed any strikes against the victims. And, if anything like this happens to you, you can contact YouTube via Twitter on @teamyoutube.

Commenters Under Attack

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again — and it’s not the only scam currently plaguing the video service.

We’ve reported on some of these previously (see Your Guide to YouTube Scams and Tricks). But there are more.

Among the latest tricks is a particularly cunning scam that targets viewers who post comments on videos.

Philip DeFranco, who runs a YouTube channel with a daily show about the video sharing service, says the scammer poses as the original poster and responds to the comment with a fake offer or a free gift.

The crook claims the victim has been selected at random and the message includes a link to a site laden with what seems to be fantastic gifts and prizes.

But, guess what. Before the victim can collect his or her prize, they have to provide lots of personal information. And, of course, after doing this, they discover there’s no gift after all.

You can see DeFranco’s full video here: Massive YouTube Scams…

Another YouTube expert, Jack Turner, who is content manager for the site, reports that hundreds of people have fallen for the scam.

YouTube has picked up on this phishing trick and has been removing some of the offending accounts, while recommending users to block anyone they suspect of being fraudulent.


Turner advises using the following steps to avoid falling victim to phishing tricksters.

  • Be wary of unsolicited contact, he says. “Ask yourself why somebody would be contacting you out of the blue, especially if they are offering you a prize or financial gift.”
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links. Watch out especially for site names that look very similar to well-known, reputable ones.
  • Don’t provide confidential information on the promise of a gift or prize.
  • Don’t yield to pressure to “act now.” A favorite trick of scammers is to set a deadline for you to collect your prize or gift.
  • Look for spelling mistakes or poor grammar in the wording of any message. Most of these scams originate abroad where crooks’ command of English often is not too good.

YouTube does have an extremely helpful page highlighting what they call “deceptive practices.” In particular, it warns against posting video spam or misleading information that suggests a video is something it’s not.

(This latter point is already becoming an issue in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential elections — something we’ll be addressing in a forthcoming issue of Scambusters.)

On Google’s Reporting Inappropriate Content page you’ll find information on how to report inappropriate content that you spot on YouTube, such as infringement of its community guidelines and age-restricted material.

Alert of the Week

What’s up with WhatsApp? Nothing (as far as we know), provided you keep the messaging app up to date.

Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, recently issued a security advisory warning users of a potential security breach and urging its 1.5 billion users to update to the latest version.

The vulnerability apparently applies to both Apple (iOS) and Android devices.

If you haven’t already done so, update now!

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!