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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak sues YouTube over crypto giveaway scams that use his likeness

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is suing YouTube for allegedly allowing would-be scammers to use his identity to defraud individuals of their crypto holdings.

According to the lawsuit filed on July 21 in the Superior Court of the State of California, scammers allegedly tricked YouTube users into sending them BTC, claiming that Wozniak would in return send twice those amounts. Bloomberg first covered the suit.

“The scam uses images and video of Steve Wozniak to convince YouTube users that he is hosting a live “BTC” or “Bitcoin Giveaway” event and that, for a limited time, any user who sends in their bitcoin will receive twice as much back,” Wozniak said in the filing. 

During the first six months of 2020, YouTube’s platform has been used to facilitate roughly $24 million in cryptocurrency theft, per the complaint. The lawsuit includes photos of the YouTube videos publicizing “5000-BTC” and “10,000-BTC” giveaways in its captions and titles, using Wozniak’s face and name. 

Wozniak is one of a group of notable technology entrepreneurs whose identities has been used to carry out YouTube-based scams. Other celebrities include Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, according to the suit. 

In total, 18 plaintiffs, including Wozniak, have come together to file a lawsuit alleging that despite YouTube’s complete knowledge of the scam activities, the social media giant has not taken any action. The plaintiffs are also seeking punitive and compensatory damages.

“Defendants’ outrageous failures to protect YouTube users have allowed this bitcoin giveaway scam to thrive and emboldened the criminal enterprises behind them to expand beyond their base in YouTube,” the complaint reads.

The suit has echoes of one filed earlier this year by Ripple. YouTube responded to Ripple's suit this week, filing a motion to dismiss the allegations. 

 

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