YouTube Viewers Flocked to Crypto Scam Livestreams After Apple's iPhone 14 Event

Using repurposed footage from old interviews and the magic of SEO, scammers attracted tens of thousands to watch their shady videos.

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Yesterday, just hours after Apple’s “Far Out” event where the company unveiled the new iPhone 14, Tim Cook was also interviewed at Vox Media’s Code Conference. Both highly publicized events set the stage for crypto scammers to take advantage of wayward internet searchers.
Yesterday, just hours after Apple’s “Far Out” event where the company unveiled the new iPhone 14, Tim Cook was also interviewed at Vox Media’s Code Conference. Both highly publicized events set the stage for crypto scammers to take advantage of wayward internet searchers.
Photo: Jerod Harris / Stringer (Getty Images)

Apple unveiled a suite of new products yesterday, from the iPhone 14 to updated AirPods, in a livestreamed and recorded event. You could’ve tuned in on the company’s website or YouTube to learn all about the “dynamic island” and the bigger/better cameras that are soon to be available on the newest generation of iPhone.

And a few hours later, you might’ve been interested in watching Tim Cook’s interview at the ongoing Vox Media Code conference.

Or, for searches related to either Apple-adjacent event, you could’ve ended up misdirected to one of at least two scam crypto videos, first reported on by The Verge. Apple DID NOT host and IS NOT hosting any crypto-related talks, but nonetheless, tens of thousands of viewers ended up watching a livestream from a channel claiming to be “Apple LIVE” that contained multiple links to a suspicious-seeming crypto website, according to The Verge.

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Ad banners on the video read things like “Apple is buying 100,000 Bitcoins,” and directed viewers to a website promoting fake crypto giveaways, according to BTCC. Upwards of 160,000 users may have watched the stream, reported the site, and for a time it seemed to show up in the first page of results in response to searches like “Apple Event.”

Thousands more viewers ended up on another, separate livestream from a channel billing itself as “Apple Inc.” (Note: Apple’s real YouTube channel is simply named “Apple” and it’s verified.)

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Both streams have since been removed by YouTube. But, while they were live, the videos displayed content from older, publicly available tech-related footage. The first video appeared to show a 2018 CNN interview with Tim Cook. The second ran clips from an interview on the subject of Bitcoin with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, reported The Verge.

If you’re well versed in all the signs of crypto scammery, avoiding the bait in this case wouldn’t have been difficult. However, it’s a good reminder to be wary of what shows up in search results. Search engine optimization can be easily hijacked to promote nefarious end-goals.

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In this case, scammers were seemingly able to capitalize on the popularity of Tim Cook and Apple, boosted by a double-dose of spotlight attention yesterday. So, if you do buy your mom that iPhone, maybe also offer a primer on how to avoid the worst parts of the internet.