Crypto villains target iPhone 13 launch with the ol' Runescape money gambit and score a nice $69K

EU Bitcoin and Ethereum regulations
(Image credit: ParallelVision - Pixabay)

As ever, the release of a new iPhone has certain folks struggling to contain their gadget lust. The hype is always something else with Apple products and, even though I use several and love the things, there's a reason that the extremes of its fanbase are so easy to caricature. Apple can do anything! Perhaps: but one thing it definitely won't do is double your Bitcoin.

Several years ago there was a spate of scams on YouTube based around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, tricking users onto authentic-looking websites through adverts, basically. This tactic seemed to have been quashed but returned in a new form during the Apple iPhone 13 reveal. As reported by online security firm ZScaler, a channel set up to look like the official Apple livestream ran alongside the real launch and attracted some 16,000 viewers. The channel was set up in a reasonably sophisticated manner with appropriate logos and wording, to the extent it had 1.3 million subscribers.


(Image credit: Thianchai Sitthikongsak/Getty)

The channel linked a website repeatedly during the event, which again was designed to look like Apple's official website (including having "apple" in the URL) except—and it's amazing people fell for this, isn't it—this bizarroland Apple was apparently offering to give away 1,000 Bitcoin (there was also an Ethereum option). That's roughly $42 million or £31 million worth of crypto.

Runescape and EVE players will enjoy the next part, whereby the mechanism for the giveaway is that users have to send bitcoin to a wallet address, with the promise it would be doubled and returned. The 'doubling money' scam has been around in Runescape forever, and is as simple as it sounds: you promise to double any money given to you, then just... walk off with it instead.

Guess what? Any crypto sent to the fake Apple wallet was not, in fact, returned. According to ZScaler the account received 1.48299884 bitcoin, which is worth about $69k. As the fraudsters would no doubt say: nice. Here's some live footage of it happening.

(Image credit: Jagex)

In all seriousness this is just another reminder of the pre-internet rule that, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

And while it may be easy to chortle at the idea of folk falling for these scams, we all do daft things and are all potential victims. The whole reason this one worked is it used Apple's own strengths, the blinding excitement generated around a new product launch and the company's capacity for surprise announcements, and coordinated the attack with live footage of Tim Cook and others talking. It may be scummy, but it is certainly not dumb.

Now, I would like to announce the launch of the new PC Gamer dollar-doubling service, to be administered by myself.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."