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Report: Credit Card Fraudsters Use YouTube to Sell Your Data

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YouTube is a fantastic resource for DIY enthusiasts of all kinds, because you can find a how-to YouTube video for pretty much anything you want to learn. Knitting? Absolutely. Credit card theft? Sure.

Not only are there videos promoting the sale of stolen credit cards, but YouTube makes money off them — rather, it makes money from the advertisements placed on those pages, according to a consumer watchdog. The Digital Citizens Alliance explored the world of videos hawking credit card data and compiled a report on its threat to consumers and the economy. For example, it cites a survey that says nearly half (48%) of Americans are more reluctant to make online purchases because of the risk of credit card theft.

The Internet unifies these conflicting interests in a strange way: Companies advertise on sites like YouTube in order to drive people to their websites and earn money, but those ads are right next to videos promoting credit card fraud. And credit card fraud is something that makes people want to avoid shopping online.

The report cites a Harvard professor who estimates Google (YouTube’s parent company) earns more than $1 billion from videos promoting illegal activity, and while state attorneys general have requested Google give specific numbers, it hasn’t. Google responded to a letter from the attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska saying it makes “minimal” income from questionable videos, according to a 2013 report from the Oklahoman.

“Our Guidelines prohibit any content encouraging illegal activities, including videos promoting the sale of illegal goods,” a YouTube spokesman said in an email to Credit.com. “YouTube’s review teams respond to videos flagged for our attention around the clock, removing millions of videos each year that violate our policies. We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work to prevent ads appearing against any video, channel or page once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners.”

Not only is it a pain to deal with credit card fraud — alerting your issuer, disputing charges, getting a new card and so on — it can damage your credit standing until it’s resolved. That’s why it’s a good idea to regularly check your online statements, even reviewing transactions daily, so you can immediately spot and address suspicious activity. You can also use your credit reports and credit scores as fraud indicators. You can get your credit reports for free through AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can get your credit scores using the free tools on Credit.com.

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