Cryptocurrency scams are set to explode after researchers detected a triple-digit increase in registered domains in the first half of 2022, compared to the whole of last year.
Group-IB said it had detected over 2000 domains registered to be used as fake promotion websites in the first half of this year. That’s a 335% increase on the number recorded in 2021, a five-fold increase compared to the second half of 2021 and a 53-fold rise in comparison with H1 2021.
Although most of the fake sites target English and Spanish language speakers, 63% were registered with Russian registrars, the vendor claimed.
Victims are lured to these sites via fraudulent YouTube streams featuring popular figures like Elon Musk, Brad Garlinghouse, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and even El Salvador president, Nayib Bukele.
They all have a connection to crypto. Ronaldo recently signed a partnership with Binance, while El Salvador became the first country to adopt bitcoin as its national currency.
“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,” Group-IB said.
The YouTube accounts used in the scams are either hijacked using dedicated stealer tools or bought/rented on underground forums in return for a percentage of the stolen funds.
“Scams targeting crypto-enthusiasts are becoming increasingly common, and their scope and sophistication are growing,” said Group-IB.
“Crypto-giveaway scams have evolved into a profitable illicit market segment. Small-time scammers and more advanced cyber-criminals band together, allowing them to automate and streamline operations.”
Back in April, the same security vendor revealed that one group of fraudsters managed to make nearly $1.7m in just three days after luring victims to visit fake sites via 36 YouTube streams.