New Crypto Scam Uses Elon Musk, YouTube Advertising to Look Legit

A new, particularly convincing crypto scam using Elon Musk’s name is now using YouTube advertising, the MetaMask web browser extension that serves as a functional Ethereum wallet, and the decentralized exchange UniSwap to look legitimate. The scam has already raked in $430,000 in cryptocurrency and could top $1 million if users are not cautious.

The scam makes use of a convincing-looking fake tweet by Elon Musk saying that he is launching a new crypto-based token called $SpaceX and a 3- to 5-minute-long video ad promoting the fake coin. It plays off both Elon Musk’s ambitions of establishing a large and growing Martian settlement and his recent plugging of cryptocurrencies on Twitter and during his guest hosting stint on SNL. The fraudulent ad promises that Elon Musk will donate a portion of each transaction using $SpaceX to “space-research companies” in order to “help Elon’s mission.”

The scammers also reportedly seeded $SpaceX’s Etherscan page with fraudulent comments in an attempt to make it look legitimate and active. Etherscan is a popular block explorer for Ethereum, which makes it easy to create a new token on its blockchain.

The advertising was legitimately purchased through YouTube, which has not responded to requests for comment from sites like ThreatPost. The websites that the ads direct to include instructions for installing the surprisingly legitimate Metamask extension. When dealing with anything involving crypto, it’s usually a good idea to not install anything based on instructions from an unknown site because it could lead to the installation of malware and fraudulent apps and extensions.

Uniswap is one of a few decentralized exchanges that are popular with crypto enthusiasts who worry that “centralized” exchanges like Gemini might be vulnerable to adverse actions taken by regulators. Some exchanges have been forced to implement KYC/AML procedures that can be difficult for people who have issues uploading a good photo of their ID, may not have a valid photo ID to begin with, or like the relative anonymity of using pure cryptocurrency.

On the flip side, decentralized exchanges are especially vulnerable to scam tokens, especially when anyone can add a token of their own with little to no confirmation that it’s from a legitimate source. Wary crypto insiders may have remembered all the fake Elon Musk Twitter accounts promising to send back 2X, 5X, or 10X the coins sent to a specific address – which should have been an obvious Ponzi scheme even if it wasn’t an outright scam – and law enforcement officials have arrested a Tampa teenager and a couple of adults on charges related to hacking high-profile Twitter accounts, including Elon Musk’s, in order to carry out their scam.

What makes this one new is that the brains behind this particular scheme found a way to get past whatever checks YouTube has to prevent fraudulent advertising, and they made use of legitimate names in the crypto space like MetaMask and UniSwap. Experts recommend making sure to confirm any news of a token being issued with legitimate sources before getting one’s feet wet with any token and, even then, waiting a bit to make sure that a Twitter account hasn’t been hacked to spread bogus news.

The $SpaceX scam was a particularly convincing scam due to the YouTube advertising and additional steps taken by the scammers. However, it is not officially associated with Elon Musk or SpaceX. Worried that you might fall for a convincing scam like this? The below video should help you avoid them.