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Scammers profiting from reposting stolen TikTok videos on YouTube Shorts

According to new research published by Tenable’s staff research engineer Satnam Narang, scammers are stealing existing short-form videos from TikTok and reposting these to YouTube Shorts, racking up millions of views and gaining tens of thousands of subscribers.

user icon Nastasha Tupas
Thu, 13 Jan 2022
Scammers profiting from reposting stolen TikTok videos on YouTube Shorts
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While YouTube has been around for 16 years, the YouTube Shorts product is essentially a new platform.

Discussing the scams he’s observed, Satnam Narang explained that over the last decade, he 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," Narang said.

These scams typically fall into three categories:

  • Adult dating affiliate scams
  • Promotion of dubious retail products and weight loss supplements
  • Stealing TikTok videos to increase social currency (views and subscriber counts)

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 who 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.

According to Narang, if there’s been one common thread among all of the research he's done on social media over the last decade, it’s that adult dating is at the forefront of scams on rising platforms and services.

"The introduction of YouTube Shorts, with its enormous potential reach and built-in audience, is fertile ground that will only serve to help these scams become even more widespread."

"This trend is alarming because of how successful these tactics have become so quickly on YouTube Shorts, based on the volume of video views and subscribers on these fake channels promoting stolen content," Narang added.

Scammers were also identified using stolen TikTok videos to increase the views and subscriber counts for their existing YouTube channels, in an effort to generate an income from advertisements and brand deals from their channels.

"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."

"There are also a number of YouTube channels that have been created solely as hubs for stolen TikTok content, similarly, to gain social currency," Narang said.

Based on an analysis of 50 YouTube channels that Narang encountered, he 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 three 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 two billion monthly logins.

Narang also identified scammers offering dubious products. As an example, he identified a number of scammers using stolen TikTok footage of women at the gym in order to promote gym leggings priced at $34.99. However, similar leggings were available on AliExpress for $12 less. The concern with these scam advertisements is that there is no guarantee the item being purchased will arrive, or the quality be as advertised.

In conclusion Narang noted that scammers are determined to capitalise on the massive success of platforms like YouTube Shorts and TikTok.

"Scammers won’t go away easily.

"Leveraging existing functionality within YouTube to report these channels is truly the best way for users to help clean up the platform.

"That is, until the next big social platform emerges, and scammers eventually find their way there,” Narang said.

[Related: CyberRes launches immersive cyber threat experience for security executives]

Nastasha Tupas

Nastasha Tupas

Nastasha is a Journalist at Momentum Media, she reports extensively across veterans affairs, cyber security and geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. She is a co-author of a book titled The Stories Women Journalists Tell, published by Penguin Random House. Previously, she was a Content Producer at Verizon Media, a Digital Producer for Yahoo! and Channel 7, a Digital Journalist at Sky News Australia, as well as a Website Manager and Digital Producer at SBS Australia. Nastasha started her career in media as a Video Producer and Digital News Presenter at News Corp Australia.

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