Deepfakes of Elon Musk are pushing crypto giveaway scams on YouTube Live

An AI-generated Musk’s voice told viewers in a livestream today to deposit their crypto to a shady website.

Screenshot by Cheyenne MacDonald/Engadget

A YouTube Live broadcast that ran for five hours today used a deepfake of Elon Musk to push a cryptocurrency scam, in the latest of a series of similar bogus streams. The video, which has has since been taken down, showed a clip of Musk that was meant to look like a livestream from a Tesla event, with an AI-generated version of his voice instructing viewers to visit a website and deposit their bitcoin, Ethereum or Dogecoin in order to participate in a giveaway. The message, playing on a loop, promised the system would then “automatically send back double the amount of the cryptocurrency you deposited.”

Over 30,000 viewers were tuned into the stream at one point (though we can’t discount the possibility these numbers were inflated by bots), pushing it to the top of YouTube’s Live Now recommendations. The account masquerading as Tesla, @elon.teslastream, had the Official Artist Channel verification badge, so we may be looking at an account hack. Both the video and the channel were removed after Engadget reached out to Google. We’ll update this article if we hear back with any more information.

A screenshot showing an account posing as Tesla with a livestream that uses an AI generated Elon musk to push a crypto scam
Screenshot by Cheyenne MacDonald/Engadget

These Elon Musk deepfake scams seem to have surged over the past couple of months, in each instance using an account posing as one of Musk’s companies. This one was titled “Tesla's [sic] unveils a masterpiece: The Tesla that will change the car industry forever.” Earlier in June, Cointelegraph reported on similar scams run by 35 accounts pretending to be SpaceX around the time of the Starship launch. Scammers in April attempted to get in on the eclipse hype using the same tactic, as Mashable reported at the time. And there have been numerous reports of fake Musk livestreams posted on Reddit recently.

Crypto scams targeting Musk’s followers on social media have been a problem for years, as have those involving celebrities in general. Just this Friday, 50 Cent was hit by a hack that used his accounts to carry out a pump-and-dump scheme.