I Had My YouTube Channel Stolen

I Had My YouTube Channel Stolen

I have spent the last four months working on a YouTube channel. Despite two-step authentication, I had my channel stolen. Here is what has happened and how it has been dealt with by Google.

First off, thanks to everyone who emailed me, DM’d me, Facebooked me, instagram-commented, and used all of the other means of communication about this debacle. I didn’t get back to everyone; although I only have a very modest following, it seems that everyone of you got in touch, which I am very grateful for.

I started a YouTube channel a while back when I was starting to become a bit bored of the daily grind. As a commercial photographer, I don’t have an overly creative job. I am more of a problem-solver and a technician who creates concepts that are given to me. But the videos, especially the vlog, allowed me to flex my creative muscles, learn about audio and video-making, as well as trying to offload some of the information in my head that I couldn’t seem to find elsewhere on the internet.

All was going swimmingly well, most of the videos were well received, and I was getting better at making them. I also noted that my main work was getting better too, as I was far happier with the addition of my new creative outlet. Life was good.

The Channel Hack

However, one afternoon, while checking in on the comments, I was suddenly kicked out of my channel. The icon to log in had also vanished, which seemed a bit strange. I logged into my Google account and noted that I wasn’t prompted to use the app to authenticate my log-in, and when looking at the past activity, I could see a new location for a log-in had been made, which was obviously the hackers who had come in and moved the channel to their own Google account. After the initial panic, I tried to contact Google or YouTube. This task was seemingly impossible. There are no numbers, no email addresses, or really any means of contacting them. A bit of googling (ironic, I know) told me to post about it in the Google chat forums and that someone would be in touch. I did, but they weren't

A day or so later, I decided to report my channel and in doing so, I made a copyright claim. This suddenly made a live chat come up with a chap called Bryan, who quickly asked for some details and continued to email me a reference number. Bryan was a particularly polite and calming person from over at Google, and although he wasn’t the chap with the answers, he did make me feel like things were being taken care of. After three weeks of chasing him and being ignored on questions as to how two-step was broken, if my Ad Sense account and money were safe, and if the link from Ad Sense to my bank was safe, I received an email to confirm that I had been hacked and that they would transfer my channel back to me. It all seemed very simple. No mention of the security of my bank details or the two-step authentication.

I am still waiting for the final channel transfer so that I can remove all of the films that the hackers uploaded, but hopefully, I will be back to uploading sometime next week. 

So, What Did I Learn From All of This?

Nothing. I did everything I should have, and something bad happened. It felt bad, it’s fixed now, and I feel better. I doubt it was a personal attack, merely a gang of people taking masses of channels to make a few dollars.

I read a lot about phishing emails, and I assumed that this must have been how they got in. Between social media and email, I receive about 100-200 messages a day. Since then, I realized that it was all set up through an account that I haven’t opened an email from in five years, so I am not doubtful that it was a phishing scam that I fell for. Either way, I will certainly be more vigilant, and I have since had someone look at all of my IT systems and add VPNs to all of my machines and phones. Although losing a small YouTube channel is only a personal blow, had anything else been hacked, it would have been extremely distressing.

If This Happens to You, Do the Following.

  1. Report a video on your channel for copyright infringement or explicit content.
  2. Click on the live chat button, and send over as many details as you can.
  3. Sit and wait. It took three weeks for mine to be secured.
  4. Don’t panic. It seems to be happening to a lot of people, and Google seems to have a good system to fix it.
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52 Comments

Previous comments
Just me's picture

A link in a email is a no go.
DO NOT OPEN LINKS FROM EMAILS, period
Try to go to the website and log directly from there.

Scott Choucino's picture

Generally speaking I don't. Unless it is part of an email conversation where I know the person and it is not the first email in the conversation.

Currently I am assuming human error on my part, but the email account in question hasn't had an email opened in several years, so I am a bit concerned about how this has happened.

That's crazy. I'm glad you're going to be getting your channel back.

I wonder how common it is for channels to be hacked.

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks,

It seems that there has been a wave of hacks recently .

Dan Marchant's picture

Wait, your channel will be going back to the way it was before? But I learned so much about erectile dysfunction medication from "your" latest videos :(

Scott Choucino's picture

haha, I think a lot of people will be disappointed.

Rayann Elzein's picture

If "Google seems to have a good system to fix it", it wouldn't take 3 weeks to get the account back, and there would be a clear way to make the claim instead of reporting your own video on your own (stolen) account.

Simon Patterson's picture

I agree. This looks like a very poor system to deal with it! A system to report such a problem should exist, rather than this "copyright claim" work around. And 3 weeks (and counting) is way too long. A company the size of Google should fix such problems within a day or two.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah I was perhaps being a bit kind here. Although I also acknowledge that they have no incentive to fix this for someone like myself who is just using it for a hobby.

Andy Day's picture

Man, what a saga. So glad this got resolved!

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks Andy, me too!

Gerald Bertram's picture

On the plus side you should be well versed in how to shoot for Hallmark now!

Fristen Lasten's picture

The Sickie Sisters don't give a rats ass about anyone but themselves. Good luck!

Gutted to read this, I love your channel and your IG. Just gone on my youtube account and you are now "Studio TV" with a bunch of Hallmark movies on it. Hope this gets sorted soon for you.

Glad you got it back! I was relieved to heard that you made some progress from your instagram reply. I wasn't sure if you had sold your account (some ASMR people are doing that now) or were indeed hacked. Can't wait to see some new NORMAL content soon!!

I'm not an IT guy, but work for a Canadian cell co..
A popular fraud is to port a cell # to another carrier, and use the 2-factor to clear out bank accounts.

Jerry Norman's picture

Perry, that is very scarey. Any recommendations how to protect against that?

EDIT: Here is an article on how Port-Out Fraud is done, and a few tips for minimizing risk: https://www.fcc.gov/port-out-fraud-targets-your-private-accounts

Scott, just found this info on Forbes and sounds similar to what might have happed to you....it is reported that some of those affected were using 2 factor authentication.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2019/09/23/youtube-security-war...

This video takes you through the steps to recover your channel
https://youtu.be/5rkkamhZTPw

It looks like it must not be an easy fix. I hope you get the channel back soon!

Daniel Bayer's picture

I think they didn't resolve anything. You channel became "Studio TV" on my feed with a lot of crap uploaded to it, and is still up six days after you published this article.

I was getting Gmail notifications from Studio Tv , which now if I click on the link Google has removed the link and says
... This video has been removed for violating YouTube's Terms of Service.