Dead YouTuber hacked by bitcoin scammers

Bitcoin scammers have hacked the YouTube channel of a professional esports player and video-games streamer who killed himself in 2020, aged 31.

The profile picture, banner and videos on the account of Byron Bernstein, known as Reckful, was replaced by Tesla content and old clips of boss Elon Musk talking about the crypto-currency.

The scam falsely claims viewers sending bitcoin will have the amount doubled.

It has provoked outrage from fans angry Reckful’s account has been abused.

‘Destroying tombstones’

News of the hack trended on Reddit, with commenters calling it “very disrespectful” and “shameful”.

“It takes a special type of scum to do something like this,” one said.

“This makes me sick,” another said.

“It’s like destroying tombstones on a cemetery.”

These types of scams have been commonplace on other social-media sites – with British fashion retailer Matalan and film distributor Pathe UK having their Twitter accounts hacked as far back as 2018 – but recently it is becoming an issue on YouTube as well.

At the time of writing, a simple YouTube search for “Tesla [live]” returns at least six livestreams, each with between 4,000 and 7,000 viewers, currently running the scam.

And because crypto-currency wallets are publicly visible, it can be seen two people have transferred $3,000 (£2,300) worth to the scammers since Monday.

The same YouTube search reveals a vast number of YouTube channels named “Tesla live”.

So many the official Tesla channel ranks 60th in the search results among the scammers.

BBC News contacted Google, which owns YouTube, with links to these videos, as well as to six other channels taken over by scammers.

A YouTube representative told BBC News: “We have strict community guidelines prohibiting scams, including impersonation and hacking.

“Upon review, we have removed all 12 channels for violating our policies.”

A still taken from YouTube. It features exactly the same videos and branding as the real Tesla page.
Image caption,How Reckful’s YouTube page appeared on Monday

A person’s YouTube handle is prominently featured in the page’s web address only, so if users are not looking at that – or are viewing the channel on the YouTube app – there is nothing immediately obvious to show it is a fake.

Users can create playlists of other people’s videos and host them on their own page, so a scammer can populate a fake YouTube channel with all of the official, real Tesla videos.

Then, the scammer “goes live” with a YouTube video featuring old clips of Mr Musk and others talking about crypto-currency.

Text on the page promises to give people a massive payout – but it is fake.

‘Don’t click’

In Reckful’s case, one of his former editors with access to the channel was able to intervene and restore things to how they used to be.

They said: “One of the editors here – Reckful’s YouTube got hacked.

“I’m working on restoring it.

“Don’t click any links.”

According to YouTube, the risk of this type of hacking can be reduced by enabling two-factor authentication.

It also has teams that investigate whether a person’s account has been compromised and in January to March 2020 removed 2.2 million videos and 1.7 million accounts for violating its policies on scams, spam and other forms of deception.

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