New Scam Holds YouTube Channels for Ransom
Written by Lawrence Abrams / Courtesy of Bleeping Computer
Scammers are abusing the YouTube policy violation system by filing fake copyright infringements against content creators until their channel is close to being suspended. These scammers then hold the channel ransom by telling YouTubers to send them a payment or they will file another copyright infringement to have the channel suspended.
YouTube has a policy infringement system where users can report a video that they feel breaks policies such as sexual content or nudity, hateful content, violent or graphic content, or copyright infringement. When a video receives a policy violation report, it will be reviewed if it’s deemed to be a violation, YouTube will issue a strike against the video owner’s account and remove the video.
If a YouTube account receives three strikes in a period of three months, their account will be terminated. Unfortunately, with these violations it is common for YouTube to treat the channel owners as guilty until proved innocent.
Scammers know this and are now utilizing this system in order to extort money from content creators on YouTube, which is what a content creator named Logan, or ObbyRaidz, recently discovered.
In a video, Logan has stated that his YouTube channel had been striked twice for fake copyright infringement violations and that a scammer is trying to extort him by saying that they will issue a third strike if Logan does not send them money via PayPal or Bitcoin. The scammer goes on to say that if Logan makes the payment, they will contact YouTube and remove the previous strikes they had placed on the channel.
The message that Logan received was from someone named VengefulFlame who stated that Logan needs to send them $150 via PayPal or $75 in bitcoin or the scammer will issue a third strike.
After repeatedly trying to get YouTube to respond and help him and unsuccessful appeals to remove the strikes, Logan went to Twitter where he asked other YouTubers and his followers to try and spread the word. It turns out, that this scammer was monitoring him on Twitter as well because Logan received another message from VengefulFlame stating that they saw Logan’s tweet and that the deal with off.
VengefulFlame further stated that they would now try and get his Twitter account suspended as well.
It turns out, that Logan was not the only person VengefulFlame was extorting. Another YouTuber named Kenzo was also striked by the same person as shown below.
When Kenzo received his extortion message, though, his ransom payments were at a higher amounts of $200 in bitcoin or $300 in Paypal. This increase in price could be because Kenzo has substantially more subscribers than Logan.
VengefulFlame found on Twitter
Some of Kenzo’s followers have stated that a Twitter account named VengefulFlame, who also uses the same avatar as the one who contacted Logan and Kenzo, is behind these extortion attempts.
— Connor – iMakeMcVids (@iMakeMcVidz) January 30, 2019
BleepingComputer had contacted this account via Twitter and when questioned about his familiarity with Kenzo he told us he was only familiar with Logan, or ObbyRaidz.
“We are only familiar with the YouTuber ObbyRaidz. By familiar, we mean we have HAD contact with him in the past at length.”
When we attempted to further question them regarding the messages they sent to Logan and these extortion attempts, they refused to respond further.
YouTube removes strikes
In the end, YouTube removed the strikes for these fake violations from both Logan’s and Kenzo’s account and terminated the account of the user who submitted them.
Appreciate you bringing this to our attention – both strikes are resolved and the videos reinstated. Upon review, these takedown notices were abusive, we have zero tolerance for the submission of fraudulent legal requests, so we also terminated the channels that submitted these.
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) January 30, 2019
Ultimately, this shows that YouTube’s violation system is broken. It is far to easy to file a violation and Google typically takes the side of the reporter rather than the content creator, which is why this system is ripe for abuse.
When we contacted YouTube regarding how content creators can receive help in situations like this and what they plan on doing to prevent this type of abuse, we were provided this statement:
“We have zero tolerance for fraudulent actors who try to abuse copyright systems. We responded to reports of these issues and resolved fraudulent strikes well before media ever reached out to us. You can refer to our tweets here and here for a statement on this matter. Creators can always reach out to us on Twitter through @teamyoutube for support. “
Read the original article over at BleepingComputer.com.