Stolen Credit Card Info Relatively Easy to Find via YouTube, Group Says


Thieves routinely sell stolen credit card numbers and other personal information via videos on YouTube, a new report by a nonprofit group alleged Monday.

A new report from the Digital Citizens Alliance says Google is making revenue off display advertisements surrounding videos on YouTube posted by people who said they had credit card or bank information to sell.

Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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"Having this kind of stuff on a mainstream site like YouTube and having ads next to videos — ads for Target, MasterCard or Discover — could be very confusing to consumers," said Tom Galvin, executive director of the group and a D.C.-based public relations executive.

The group plans to start educating companies that advertise via Google about the issue, Galvin said, "raising their awareness to the problem and hopefully convincing them to urge Google to step up and take responsibility."

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The fact that people are buying stolen financial information online isn't new, although the ease with which Galvin's group was able to identify multiple alleged sellers does raise a few questions about why law enforcement isn't trolling sites like YouTube for leads (or at least flagging the videos).

A spokeswoman for YouTube said Monday that the company removes millions of videos each year that violate its policies.

"Our Guidelines prohibit any content encouraging illegal activities, including videos promoting the sale of illegal goods," she said. "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."

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The Digital Citizens Alliance has done several similar reports about sales of prescription drugs and steroids via Google ads and other illegal things advertised via YouTube videos.

It's not clear who funds the nonprofit; it is organized under IRS rules in a way that doesn't require it to report its contributors. A spokesman for the group said its members include some "associations, some industry groups," but declined to offer specifics.

CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.