Scammers are stealing existing short-form videos from TikTok and reposting them to YouTube Shorts, racking up millions of views and gaining tens of thousands of subscribers, said a Tenable report.
These scams typically fall into three categories which include: adult dating affiliate scams, promotion of dubious retail products and weight loss supplements and; stealing TikTok videos to increase social currency (views and subscriber counts).
While YouTube has been around for 16 years, the YouTube Shorts product is essentially a new platform but is gaining a large base in India since the ban on TikTok. After YouTube Shorts was launched in India in 2021, the platform became increasingly popular and now has 3.5 billion daily views.
“Over the last decade, I’ve watched scammers migrate from platform to platform. It is almost a rite of passage for a new service or platform when scammers deem them worthy to ply their trade. While the way these scams operate will vary based on each platform and its unique nuances, the types of scams are all very familiar,” said, Satnam Narang, Staff Research Engineer, Tenable.
Scammers are creating fake YouTube channels filled with videos stolen from TikTok, including dance challenges, to abuse affiliate marketing strategies employed by adult dating websites that offer payment based on a cost per action (CPA) or cost per lead (CPL) basis. Scammers can generate a relatively healthy income by duping users of social media websites to click links pinned at the top of the comments of their YouTube Short videos. One video alone earned 10 million views from YouTube shorts. Once the visitor of an adult dating website is converted to a registered user, the scammer is eligible to receive anywhere from $2–$4 for the successful CPL conversion.
“Scammers were also identified using stolen TikTok videos to increase the views and subscriber counts for their existing YouTube channels, to generate an income from advertisements and brand deals from their channels,” said Narang.
“One user has received over 78 million views on their channel, but if you look at a breakdown of their actual content, it’s the videos that they did not create that have the greatest engagement numbers. Many YouTube channels have been created solely as hubs for stolen TikTok content, similarly to gain social currency,” said Narang.
Based on an analysis of 50 YouTube channels, Tenable has determined that the operators of these channels have received 3.2 billion views across at least 38,293 videos. In total, the channels had at least 3 million subscribers at the time this research was conducted. Scammers are able to achieve this success by capitalising on the newness of YouTube Shorts and its existing user base of 2 billion monthly logins.