YouTube fans warned of heart-wrenching video that's tricked people out of hundreds of thousands | The Sun

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YOUTUBE viewers have been urged to not donate to a video advert for sick children because it has been hijacked by cyber crooks to steal cash, experts have warned.

The organisation behind the video claims to be collecting money for sick children, but it's actually a scam, an investigation by cyber security giant Avast has discovered.

Fraudsters have preyed on the generosity of viewers to steal an eyewatering €181,000 (£155,000) via the new video crowdfunding campaign so far, according to Avast.

The video, which has also circulated Instagram, shows a child who allegedly has cancer, with a plea for help with treatment as his family are unable to afford it.

The child, who goes by Semion, adds that if he doesn’t receive this treatment within the next two weeks it will be too late to save him.

YouTube viewers who click on the link are then directed to a page where they can donate in increments up to €10,000 (£8,600) in categories with heart-tugging titles, such as "We will not abandon Semion" and "We will end Semion's suffering".


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The organisers of the fundraising page claim to be from World Champions EU and be linked to an Israeli organisation called World Champions.

It's unclear whether this is a legitimate organisation, however, World Champions doesn't have its own website which suggests it is not.

The Sun has contacted World Champions for comment.

Cybercriminals have a knack for manipulation and faux-emergency, according to experts at Avast, and often deliberately exploit the desire to help others.

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“As cyber security researchers, we constantly see how criminals exploit human nature to make money," said Luis Corrons, security evangelist and researcher for Avast.

"One of the most heart wrenching examples, though, is when people prey on the human desire to help others, especially when it comes to exploiting sick children."

It's not the first time a campaign like this has emerged on YouTube.

In 2022, Avast researchers uncovered a similar campaign, that they believe is run by the same crooks, which fleeced people out of more than $650,000 (£511,000).

Web users who are interested in donating money to charitable causes online must check the organisation is legitimate before doing so, Corrons explained.

“When it comes to donating, it’s important to verify the authenticity of the organisation before you transfer money to ensure you’re helping who you think you are," he said.

"To be safest, directly visit the official websites of trusted organisations to donate instead of responding to calls for donations via emails, videos or social media ads.”

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