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Tens of thousands of viewers watched a fake Apple crypto scam on YouTube

Tens of thousands of viewers watched a fake Apple crypto scam on YouTube


To be absolutely clear: Apple is not hosting a crypto event

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Tim Cook speaks in an interview. The logos for Bitcoin and Ethereum are in the top-right corner.
A screenshot from a bogus Apple live stream that actually seems to be a crypto scam.
Screenshot by Jay Peters / The Verge

Someone on YouTube was live streaming an old interview with Tim Cook that was seemingly being used to attract attention to a crypto scam — and when it was live, tens of thousands of viewers were tuning.

If you’ve seen crypto scams on YouTube before, you would have recognized a lot of hallmarks of what was going on. The fake live stream was getting attention by filling its description with an array of Apple keywords in both the title and description. But when you actually opened it up, it was filled with odd messages linking to a shady-looking crypto site.

“Apple Crypto Event 2022”

The stream had plenty of signs of being fake. It had a strange title — “Apple Event Live. Ceo of Apple Tim Cook: Apple & Metaverse in 2022.” — and it’s was showing an old interview that CNN conducted with Cook in 2018. The streamer added the Bitcoin and Ethereum logos to the video stream, covered the CNN Money logo with the text “Apple Crypto Event 2022,” and added bold text reading “URGENT NEWS” at the bottom. And if you actually clicked into the channel’s page (which claimed to be “Apple LIVE”), the URL didn’t have anything to do with Apple. That could suggest the channel had a different purpose at one point but was hijacked by bad actors and used to host the stream.

YouTube didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Shortly after this story was published, the stream was removed for violating YouTube’s terms of service.

While the bogus live stream clearly wasn’t actually from Apple, it was happening when as a major spotlight is on the company. Apple streamed its big iPhone 14 announcement event hours ago, and CEO Tim Cook is currently being interviewed at Vox Media’s Code conference this evening. This misleading stream seemed to be an attempt to trick people who may be aware that Apple is having a big day but not know exactly what’s going on.

The stream was recommended on my YouTube homepage

I came upon this stream because it was recommended on my YouTube homepage — that might have been in part because I’ve been watching Apple videos from the event throughout the day. When I first started watching the fake stream, there were around 16K viewers, and right before first publishing this story, that count was nearly 70K.

The Verge also found a live stream on a separate (and also sketchy) channel claiming it was “Apple Inc” [sic]. The stream purported to be an event featuring Cook and Tesla CEO Elon Musk about Apple and the metaverse, but it was actually repurposing an interview about Bitcoin with Musk and Block leader Jack Dorsey. It saw stream numbers reach above 10,000 viewers, and also linked to a sketchy-looking crypto site in the chat. It has also been removed.

Update September 7th, 10:54PM ET: YouTube has removed the live streams.