Apple co-founder suing Google, YouTube over cryptocurrency scams

Steve Wozniack, 17 others claim fake ads have run on YouTube for months

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniack and 17 fraud victims are suing Google and its subsidiary YouTube for allowing a Bitcoin giveaway scam to remain on YouTube for "many months," according to Wozniack's lawyers.

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The YouTube scheme used images of Wozniack, Tesla founder Elon Musk, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other celebrity figures to convince users to take part in a fraudulent cryptocurrency giveaway.

YouTube benefitted financially from ads on the videos, according to law firm Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy, which is representing Wozniack and others.

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"If YouTube had acted quickly to stop this to a reasonable extent, we would not be here now," Wozniack said in a Wednesday statement. "YouTube, like Google, seems to rely on algorithms and no special effort requiring custom software employed quickly in these cases of criminal activity."

The Apple co-founder added that "if a crime is being committed," Google and YouTube "MUST be able to reach humans capable of stopping it."

A Google spokesperson told FOX Business that YouTube does not allow scams and removed more than 2.2 million videos and terminated over 1.7 million accounts for violating the company's policies on spam, scams and other deceptive practices.

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"We take abuse of our platform seriously, and take action quickly when we detect violations of our policies, such as scams or impersonation," a Google spokesperson said.

As of June 20, YouTube users have lost more than $2 million worth of Bitcoin solely in response to the scam using a photo of Musk, yet the scam continues, according to the complaint

YouTube app displayed on an iPhone (iStock)

"The scope of the Bitcoin Giveaway scam at YouTube is vast and it’s still going on," Brian Danitz, a partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, said. "...The Complaint alleges tens of millions of dollars in cryptocurrency have been lost in this scam which could have been prevented by YouTube."

Wozniack has repeatedly tried to get YouTube to block the scams but the social media platform has been unresponsive, according to the complaint.

TWITTER BITCOIN HACKS: LIST OF AFFECTED ACCOUNTS INCLUDES ELON MUSK, BILL GATES

The lawsuit comes a week after hackers gained access into a number of high-profile Twitter accounts belonging to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former President Barack Obama and others to post links to a Bitcoin scam from their accounts. Hackers cashed out on more than $110,000 in Bitcoin after just a couple hours.

"When Twitter was hit with a massive hack of 130 celebrity accounts, they were quick to shut down the Bitcoin scam in a day," Wozniack's attorney, Joe Cotchett, said. "In a stark contrast, the Complaint alleges that YouTube knowingly allowed the Bitcoin scam to go on for months promoted it and profited from it by selling targeted advertising."

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Researchers for blockchain tracker Whale Alert found that $24 million in Bitcoin was stolen during the first six months of 2020 alone. Whale Alert also predicts that by the end of 2020, the cryptocurrency scam market will have grown 20-fold since 2017, according to a blog post.

"YouTube has been unapologetically hosting, promoting, and directly profiting from similar scams," the suit reads. "YouTube has featured a steady stream of scam videos and promotions that falsely use images and videos of [Wozniack] and other famous tech entrepreneurs, and that have defrauded YouTube users out of millions of dollars."

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