5 steps to protect yourself from YouTube abuse: Internet Scambusters #471
YouTube is one of the Internet’s runaway successes, turning us
into a nation of amateur videographers.
But you also need to know how crooks use YouTube to steal
information and money from their victims, or as a gateway to
Because of its popularity, the site is also haunted by weirdos
who post obscene comments or evil types who search for videos
Being aware of these potential threats is the key to staying
safe on YouTube, as we explain in this week’s issue.
Before we begin, you may want to spend a moment looking at
this week’s most popular articles from our other sites:
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Keep an Eye Out for Unusual Credit Card Fees: Take a look at the little ways that issuers can add credit card fees on your statement.
What You Need to Know About Acne Laser Treatments: Here are all the details you need to know about acne laser treatments before you turn a laser loose on your skin.
The Best of Outdoor Christmas Decorations: Check out these new ideas for your outdoor Christmas decorations without spending thousands of dollars.
Fun Family Christmas Traditions: Find out what family Christmas traditions you just might start this year.
Christmas Card Ideas for Kids: Check out these super cute Christmas card ideas that are sure to impress!
Now, here we go…
Your Guide to YouTube Scams and Tricks
The online video site YouTube is one of the most successful
and heavily used areas of the Internet, with over 3 billion
videos viewed every day and uploads equivalent to 240,000
feature films every week.
Sadly, that popularity also makes it a lucrative target from
crime, ranging from scams and account hijackings to illegal
use of the YouTube name and abusive videos and comments.
YouTube, which is owned by Internet giant Google, has lots of
security checks in place and offers guidance on things like
phishing and hijacks, but the sheer scale of the operation
makes it virtually impossible for the organization to monitor
videos and comments as they’re posted.
So, for example, as we disclosed a few months back in our
report on Ponzi schemes, The Top 10 Ways to Avoid Being Sucked into a Ponzi Scheme, the Better Business Bureau claims
there are at least 23,000 YouTube videos promoting fraudulent
Let’s take a look at the most common types of YouTube scams
and other “red flags,” and what you can do to prevent them
catching you out.
From pyramid schemes to claims you can run your car on water
— you’ll find them all on YouTube.
The problem is that promoting an idea or product via video
somehow gives the claims extra credibility.
We’re more inclined to believe what we see, especially if the
video is disguised to look like a TV news bulletin or an
interview with a supposed happy customer.
One current investment scam to be aware of is a video
presentation inviting viewers to get in ahead of initial
public offerings (IPOs) of new technology stocks.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has more
details in their article, Pre-IPO Offerings–These Scammers Are Not Your Friends.
Link Click Tricks
There are all sorts of ways crooks use the YouTube name to
lure victims into giving away personal details or downloading
For example, they send you an email with a link supposedly to
a YouTube video.
Instead you’re taken to a page that looks exactly like the
real thing but you’re asked to sign on, thus enabling the
scammer to hijack your account.
In one common case, you’re asked to provide your cellphone
number before you can view, and you’re then charged via your
phone bill, either for a one-off viewing or some sort of
Other link click tricks they use include emails claiming to be
from YouTube itself and inviting you to get in touch (via a
link) because your video has been removed or because it’s the
most popular item on YouTube.
Alternatively, you may get a message saying your version of
the Adobe Flash video application needs to be updated before
When you click the “update and install” link, a virus is
actually installed on your PC.
Another frequent virus trick is to send victims an email or
post a message on their Facebook page claiming a revealing
video of them has been posted on YouTube.
Again, you’re taken to a spoof YouTube page that uploads
We wrote about typosquatting in an earlier report, Beware of Typosquatting and New Identity Theft Warnings.
Tricksters set up websites with very similar names to genuine
sites. They just change one letter, or swap the letters
around, to take advantage of users mistyping the sitename (a
mistake commonly referred to as a “typo”).
Depending on where you end up, you may be the victim of a scam
or just bombarded with advertisements.
A well-known typosquatting address (we’re not giving it out!)
takes you to a page that looks similar to YouTube, but it
doesn’t use the name and thus stays within the law.
You’re asked to complete a “survey,” which involves giving
personal details including your cellphone number. Again,
you’ll find a charge on your phone bill.
One of the key elements of the YouTube service is the ability
for subscribers to leave comments on videos.
This is used for a range of tricks involving bogus postings.
For example, a phony product video of the sort mentioned above
may also have favorable comments from fake customers.
In other cases, posters use the comment facility to promote
their own products or include malware links.
Abuse and Pranks
Some YouTube videos contain nasty scenes, unsuitable for most
adults, let alone children.
In other cases, individuals post abusive and offensive
comments, peppered with foul language.
In the meanwhile, unsavory characters prowl the YouTube
listings looking for videos that have innocently been uploaded
by children or teens (of themselves).
We don’t need to tell you what these nasty people are up to.
Just make sure your kids are aware of the risk.
And a word of warning to parents of tweens and younger kids:
one Scambusters team member was shocked to discover that the
#1 result when searching for a certain cable all-cartoon
channel was an adult film with an expletive laden description
of the “cartoon.” Sometimes even innocent searches can return
some nasty results. Be aware.
Sometimes, of course, people produce videos that pretend to be
of genuine events but are really spoofs.
YouTube is full of these and they are mostly harmless —
provided you realize at the outset that they’re not real.
However, a group of young pranksters were recently arrested
for faking an attack in a parking lot, which they were
recording for a YouTube video!
What You Can Do About YouTube Nasties
We’ve only just exposed the tip of an iceberg when it comes to
potential YouTube related scams.
The organization itself posts numerous warnings on its site.
The best starting point to learn more about how to protect
yourself is the YouTube Safety Center.
Beyond that, the key to staying safe is to follow these five
Be wary about clicking on links to YouTube videos. If you
do click, check the address bar carefully when you arrive to
ensure that it contains “YouTube.com.” If it contains another
word before that — like “Anotherword-YouTube.com” — it’s not
Even if you key in the address yourself, check that you
spelled it properly.
Be skeptical about the videos you watch and never take
action purely on a recommendation you see either in a video or
comments. Always take further advice.
Similarly, be skeptical about videos that seem to portray
something sensational. It may just be a clever spoof.
Be aware yourself and warn your children about the public
nature of any videos you or they post.
It is possible to post videos for private sharing only. The
option presents itself when you upload.
Be prepared to be shocked — and, again, warn your kids
If you see a video or comment you find offensive, report it to
YouTube. You can also click the “flag as inappropriate” icon
located just below the video, to the right.
The advent of YouTube has turned us into a nation of amateur
filmmakers, and it’s a great way of sharing experiences and
ideas both with friends and the public generally.
But YouTube works best only if it’s used responsibly, viewed
cautiously and considered skeptically.
That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!