Elon Musk Deepfakes Feature in SpaceX Giveaway Scam on YouTube

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Key Takeaways

  • Scammers capitalize on Solar Eclipse coverage to dupe victims in apparent crypto giveaway
  • Verified accounts impersonated Elon Musk’s SpaceX to give the impression it was their official channel involved
  • Deepfake imagery of Musk invited unsuspecting victims to deposit crypto for an instant double-your-money incentive

YouTube became a platform for a SpaceX giveaway scam, using a deepfake of Elon Musk to lure viewers into a cryptocurrency hoax during a solar eclipse live stream.

On April 8, YouTube unwittingly hosted several giveaway scams, including a verified account purporting to be SpaceX’s official channel.

Malicious actors took advantage of interest in the solar eclipse by creating a stream titled “Live: Solar Eclipse Spectacular 2024 of SpaceX.”

The hoax even included a deepfake video of SpaceX founder Elon Musk, adding to its apparent legitimacy with the pledge of a cryptocurrency incentive.

In the video, the deepfake of Tesla billionaire Musk invited viewers to scan a QR code on the screen to deposit crypto to double the value. The code directed participants to a website showing the wallet addresses of the scammers, with Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other popular digital currencies accepted.

Research group Mysk appeared to be the first outlet to raise the alarm on the scam, highlighting the above stream as the first result when searching for “solar eclipse livestream.”

The high watermark for the live stream came with 95,000 viewers tuned into the YouTube broadcast, whilst another one which promoted a Russian website to receive the cryptocurrency deposits from victims tallied over 164,000.

Impersonators Target Musk and Other Tech Celebs

Musk isn’t the first prominent figure to be impersonated in this way, and he won’t be the last. He is likely to be aggrieved at this latest incident, after the same method was used last month during SpaceX’s Starship Flight 3 rocket launch from Brownsville, Texas. Another copycat scam featured Musk’s image on YouTube last year when the perpetrators gathered $165,000 from unsuspecting viewers.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak faced a similar predicament in 2020, which resulted in a lawsuit against YouTube, ordering the Alphabet-owned platform to remove scams claiming to promote Bitcoin giveaways.