Crypto Giveaway Scams Surge as Number of Fake Domain Names Explodes, Experts Warn
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Crypto Giveaway Scams Surge as Number of Fake Domain Names Explodes, Experts Warn

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Worryingly, fully fledged marketplaces have also been established to help "even first-time non-tech-savvy scammers carry out a crypto fraud scheme."

Crypto Giveaway Scams Surge as Number of Fake Domain Names Explodes, Experts Warn

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There's been a dramatic spike in the number of fake domain names used to direct victims to crypto giveaway scams, according to new research.

Group-IB says these websites often house fake YouTube streams that feature the likes of Vitalik Buterin, Elon Musk, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nayib Bukele — as well as prominent Bitcoiners including Cathie Wood and Michael Saylor.

A whopping 63% of these fraudulent websites were registered in Russia, but scammers primarily try to target "English and Spanish-speaking crypto investors in the U.S. and other countries."

Worryingly, the number of rogue domain registrations saw an "explosive" increase of 335% in the first half of 2022 when compared with the whole of last year.

Typically, fake crypto giveaway scams command 10,000 to 20,000 viewers — and Group-IB also uncovered the 10 keywords that are most commonly used by fraudsters.

ETH, Ark, Elon Musk, Shiba, XRP, Tesla, SpaceX, Micro, Ripple and ADA top the list, with experts claiming that cybercriminals pay close attention to news headlines and adjust their strategies accordingly. Explaining how their scams work, Group-IB wrote:

"The scammers used the footage of famous entrepreneurs and crypto enthusiasts to encourage users to visit a promotional website to double their crypto investment — by transferring crypto to the specified address or disclosing the seed phrase of their crypto wallet to receive even better terms."

High-profile YouTube accounts are also regularly hijacked to host these fraudulent schemes, with some channels commanding hundreds of thousands of subscribers. As an example, three accounts belonging to South Korean government agencies were targeted.

"After gaining access to a legitimate account, a fake crypto streamer renames the channel, deletes all the previously uploaded videos from the playlist, changes the user pic, adds new design features, and uploads relevant crypto-related content. When fraudsters start a stream, they use viewer-boosting tools to make it to the recommendations of their target audience. On average, attracting 1,000 viewers would cost scammers $100, while 5,000 are priced at $200."

Worryingly, fully fledged marketplaces have also been established to help "even first-time non-tech-savvy scammers carry out a crypto fraud scheme."

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