Scammers Flood YouTube with Deep Fake Elon Musk to Dupe Space Lovers

YouTube was once again targeted by scammers on Thursday, flooding the platform with deep fake versions of Elon Musk in an attempt to deceive space enthusiasts tuning in to watch the latest launch of SpaceX’s Starship rocket. According to cybersecurity researchers at Avast Threat Labs, over 35 YouTube channels live-streamed an artificial intelligence-generated fake voice of Musk promising to double the amount of cryptocurrency for those who deposited in the scheme.

The scammy streams coincided with SpaceX’s fourth test launch of its giant reusable Starship rocket, which successfully re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Indian Ocean as planned. However, hackers took advantage of the event to try and steal cryptocurrency through fake SpaceX YouTube channels, with one channel masquerading as an official SpaceX account and pushing three simultaneous livestreams airing the scam. The livestreams, which attracted 170,000 viewers, showed footage of Musk speaking on stage at an outdoor SpaceX event, with the face blurred just enough to make it difficult for users to spot the fake.

The AI voice with Musk’s likeness instructed viewers to send Bitcoin or Ether to an address in order to receive double the amount back, mimicking Musk’s vocal disfluencies and assuring viewers that it was a legitimate giveaway. Despite the efforts to make the scam appear real, it is unclear how many viewers were actually duped. Cointelegraph observed nine Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin wallets from what appeared to be three separate scammers, with a combined balance of around $34,000.

The fake livestreams have since been taken down, and the YouTube channel responsible has rebranded to emulate the Cardano Foundation, continuing to push the same scam through a deep fake livestream of Cardano co-founder Charles Hoskinson. This is not the first time Musk’s likeness has been used in crypto scams, as the billionaire’s support for cryptocurrencies, especially Dogecoin, has made him a target for scammers.

In April, security researchers discovered similar fake SpaceX YouTube accounts with AI-generated Musks promoting the same double-your-money scam during a solar eclipse in North America. Additionally, Hong Kong’s securities watchdog recently shut down a firm that used deep fake videos of Musk on its site and social media accounts to promote its supposed AI crypto trading service.

As the use of deep fake technology becomes more prevalent in scams, it is important for viewers to remain vigilant and verify the authenticity of online content, especially when it involves financial transactions. The incident serves as a reminder of the risks associated with online scams and the importance of staying informed and cautious in the digital age.