YouTube, the backdrop of a scammer’s play

Nyrmah J. Reina 20 May 2024

The video sharing platform has become a trendy scene for cyberattackers as of late.

You click on a cool-looking video on YouTube. It looks legit, with a well-known spokesperson and everything. It may be worth checking out. However, it just so happens it lists a link to a malicious landing page

How could this happen? The website looked good. There was no Comic Sans font to be found, nor any weird misspellings or images that tend to plague scam sites. There were no readily apparent red flags. This looked realeven sophisticated. 

With new technologies getting better, scam artists have been enhancing their schemes and looking for new ways to entice users. You can see this with the rise of deepfake scams.  And now, YouTube has become a popular playground for scammers to play.  

Understanding the threat landscape on YouTube 

YouTube, where billions of eyes scan through endless streams of content, is the home of new and insidious cyber threats–particularly phishing and malware. Cyberattackers exploit the platform’s massive reach and automated advertising systems. 

They bypass traditional security measures using user-generated content to convince users to engage with their own malicious content. The scams are designed with precision—made to manipulate the viewer. 

Phishing for content creators 

One of the primary tactics observed involves phishing campaigns targeting YouTube content creators. Attackers send emails posing as potential collaborators with links that, once clicked, can compromise the creator’s channel by stealing cookies or their credentials.  

These compromised accounts can then become new channels to spread more scams, malware, or misinformation to the creator’s audience. Keep your eyes peeled for strange content by the creators you follow.  

There's something suspicious about this video

Attackers may upload content along with malicious links and QR codes. These links often redirect viewers to scam sites involving fake giveaways or investment schemes, tricking them into disclosing personal information or making financial transactions that lead to losses. 

So, before you input your information anywhere online, make sure it’s coming from a reputable source. Take a close look at the URL. If you’re still not completely sure, a quick Google search may save you a lot of trouble.  

Deepfakes are getting better and better 

Adding to the complexity, the use of deepfakes on YouTube is on the rise. Scammers use this tech to create convincing fake videos that mimic real people, making fraudulent content more believable and difficult to identify as fake. 

If you see a celebrity endorsement that looks off-brand to them or a well-known person making a claim, investigate before believing it. Most endorsements will appear in the sponsored person’s socials.   

How to Protect Yourself 

  • Be skeptical. Always verify the authenticity of emails and collaborations before downloading software or clicking on unknown links.  
  • Keep an eye out for new threats. Stay informed about the latest scam tactics and cybersecurity threats circulating on social platforms like YouTube.
  • Use advanced security solutions. Install comprehensive cybersecurity software that includes features specifically designed to block malicious ads and websites. 
  • Report suspicious content. Use YouTube’s reporting tools to flag any content that seems malicious or out of place, helping to clean the platform of potential threats.

Knowledge is power 

Cybercriminals will always seek opportunities to expand their reach. YouTube is just one of the many platforms scammers use to dupe people.  

By staying vigilant and informed, users can protect themselves from falling victim to these sophisticated attacks. In the digital world, not everything is as it seems, but there are ways to make out what’s true and what’s not.  


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