Bitcoin doubling scam seizes dead streamer’s YouTube channel

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Crypto scammers took over the YouTube account of a deceased esports player and made $3,000 from unsuspecting subscribers, reports BBC.

Byron Bernstein (aka Reckful) committed suicide in December 2020. On Monday, the 310,000 subscribers his channel still had were met with a Bitcoin giveaway scam sporting Elon Musk’s face and stolen video content.

Rebranded as the official Tesla channel, it reportedly promised to double Bitcoin sent to a wallet address.

News of the Reckful channel hack was first shared on Reddit with fans appalled by the scammers’ attempts to profit from a dead content creator.

Reckful’s channel was re-named Tesla [Live] before an editor stepped in.

“It takes a special type of scum to do something like this,” said a Reddit user (via BBC).

One of Bernstein’s editors managed to regain control of the account and advised visitors to the YouTube profile to not click any links.

Scammers infiltrating YouTube channels has become more frequent of late, notes the BBC. A page’s banner, profile image, and display name get switched to Tesla branding often — when searching for the electronic vehicle maker on YouTube, several fakes appear using the “Tesla [Live]” display name.

We spoke to a YouTube Bitcoin scammer

Bitcoin giveaway scams have proliferated on social media with bad actors pretending to be celebrities promising to double any crypto sent to their wallets.

A similar scam stream that had been live for more than six hours at press time used the faces of Ark Invest’s Cathy Wood, Tesla’s Elon Musk, and Block’s Jack Dorsey — all big names in the crypto space.

A looped recording of an Ark Invest discussion between Musk, Wood, Dorsey, and a moderator plays while information on-screen attempts to convince viewers into offering up their crypto.

Text alongside the repurposed content promises that for a contribution of 1 and 500 ETH and 0.1 BTC and 250 BTC, double the amount will be returned.

Faked transactions attempt to lure in marks.

Read more: Elon Musk isn’t giving away Bitcoin! ‘Motherload’ scam earned $2M last week

The website purportedly logs contributions and the doubled figure paid back. However, a check of the scammer’s wallet address revealed no transactions and zero balance, which didn’t corroborate their alleged 5,000 BTC giveaway stash.

The website featured a live chat box in which Protos was able to communicate with the scammer, who claimed to be a Tesla representative.

When Protos asked why the wallet address showed no activity, we were told “it doesn’t work like you think,” (sic).

When pushed to provide proof of the giveaway, they offered up this Bitcoin wallet address that has made hundreds of thousands of transactions worth around $20 million. The supplied address currently holds more than $52 million worth of BTC.

“Can you show me the correct address to prove liquidity?” Protos asked.

“From this purse are automatically sent to you, you need to send to the purse that is listed on our site,” they responded.

The scammer then claimed to be operating 10 Bitcoin wallet addresses. When Protos asked for proof, the representative left the chat

Protos was unable to confirm the second wallet’s ownership and was likely an attempt by the scammer to feign trust in the scam’s liquidity.

Last year, Protos tracked a con dubbed the Motherload which had received more than $10 million in Bitcoin contributions through similar Tesla trickery.

Today, social media firms are playing whack-a-mole with giveaway scams. YouTube told the BBC that it had removed 12 channels for violating terms of service regarding scams.

The platform said that between January and March 2020 it removed 2.2 million videos and 1.7 million accounts for flouting spam and scam rules.

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Out now: the first four episodes of our ongoing investigative podcast series Innovated: Blockchain City.