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A mystery box website claims you can win anything from a $250 million luxury mansion in Los Angeles to a Ferrari 812 Superfast supercar. So what’s the catch?

If something feels too good to be true, it probably is. Most adults know that. But what if you tell a young impressionable mind they could win a Ferrari 812 Superfast or a Lamborghini Veneno from a US$14.99 mystery box?

The answer is that they would probably give it a go. Even more so if a popular YouTuber they hold in high regard makes a video showing him or her winning a desirable pair of trainers, the latest iPhone or a Chanel bag. Things kids want and want a lot.

For those unfamiliar with the mystery box concept, you spend real life money (anything from tens of dollars to a hundred) on the chance to win goodies and then get a digital animation of the box being opened. Out pops a prize, which can range from a USB cable to a US$250,000,000 mansion.

Naturally, the process is very addictive. Just one more box could land you that Lamborghini Centenario or Rolex Day-Date in Rose Gold, you think to yourself. If my favourite YouTuber can win and they say it’s legitimate, then why not?

This is actually not a new problem. We saw it first with the CS Go crates scam and video games (even the likes of Forza Horizon 4) feature an element of gambling. It’s just that world-famous YouTuber PewDiePie has made a video about this latest, “oopsie,” as he calls it, and now people are talking.

Amazingly, these paid endorsements – apparently to the tune of US$100,000, according to another YouTuber who claims he was offered the same gig – are perfectly legal on YouTube. Why? Because YouTube fails to recognise these mystery box websites as a form of gambling. That makes it a grey area.

As things stand, famous YouTubers such as Jake Paul and Bryan ‘RiceGum’ Le can not just advertise Mysterybrand.net to their millions of subscribers, a large portion of which are between 8 and 15 years old (a fact Paul has acknowledged in the past), they can make serious money from doing so.

“Go to MysteryBrand.net if you want to win some Mystery Boxes,” Paul says in his video, titled: I spent $5,000 on Mystery Boxes & you won’t believe what I got (insane).

RiceGum’s video, “How I got AirPods for $4,” did largely the same thing. “Open the boxes, get something good,” he says while speaking to his 17 million predominantly young subscribers.

Is Mysterybrand.net a scam?

As with any form of gambling, the odds are against you. Yes, you can win big – blame probability – but more often than not you will end worse off than when you started. Casinos and bookmakers aren’t charities, after all.

The problem with Mysterybrand.net is that, firstly, you may never actually get your prize. There are a number of posts on Reddit and other websites that show disgruntled customers still waiting for their expensive Nike Air whatevers.

You do see some mentions of prizes being delivered, admittedly, but who is to say these are real? If the company was clever, it would attempt to appease those who make a song and dance about it and let everyone else suffer in silence.

Red flags can be found elsewhere. For starters, the website used to display the odds of winning each item in each mystery box. That pictured Ferrari 488 could be won ‘0.1131%’ of the time. These figures have now all vanished since someone publically demonstrated why the maths must be rubbish.

Then there are the terms and conditions, which basically say that anyone who is underage is ineligible for a prize. “During using the services of the website You may encounter circumstances in which Your won items will not be received,” is also stated. In other words, what you win may not be what you get.

Got a complaint? Finding who owns Mysterybrand.net has proven difficult, although the one clue is that the website’s terms of service say the company is ‘subject to the laws and jurisdiction of Poland’.

‘Look mum, I won a Ferrari!’

Doing some basic calculations and using the since removed probability figures for each major prize, a supercar worth around US$250,000 would, statistically-speaking, appear in a US$12.99 mystery box every 884th opening. So as not to lose money, the mystery box would therefore have to cost US$283 dollars.

If that doesn’t sound suspicious, bear in mind that there are at least ten other high-value items that could also be won in the same mystery box. In other words, the mystery box would have to cost a lot more to cover the prizes it would be handing out.

The same whistleblower Twitter user actually used the website’s own custom mystery box tool to replicate one of the more popular mystery box offerings. For the website to not lose money, it would have to cost US$7,600.

Then there is the LA mansion itself, which is said to be worth US$250,000,000 as previously mentioned. That’s actually a lie, or at least a gross overestimation, as a property listing has it up for US$188,000,000.

A difference of 62 million dollars, pittance you say! And yes, the house is currently up for sale, which means Mysterybrand.net doesn’t own it. So you can win a house that soon to be inhabited by someone else.

It must be said, perhaps the company is legitimate. Although if that is the case, it has a lot to answer for in terms of flat-out misrepresentation, failing to look after its customers and adjusting probabilities for YouTubers who they use for marketing. Because let’s face it, Jake Paul and RiceGum can’t be that lucky that they win so many high-value items in a row.

So why do YouTubers win Mysterybrand.net boxes?

It certainly seems as if YouTubers are given better odds, perhaps when their account is made. Or perhaps item wins can be manually issued out. It’s unclear.

There is no proof of either instance, but there are quite a few customers who have not only been waiting a very long time for their winnings to arrive, they have been given delivery tracking codes that don’t work. In fact, one was said to be from a delivery more than two years old.

So there are quite a few people with egg on their face. YouTube looks bad for allowing the promotion of gambling to minors. The YouTubers who promote these gambling websites look bad for abusing the trust of their audiences and for being greedy enough to think it was a good idea.

Then there’s Mysterybrand.net, which looks worst of all for appearing to scam people. Although I doubt they will be having too many sleepless nights given that the owners are probably rolling around in a Ferrari 812 Superfast. Which is parked outside that LA mansion.

It’s one thing for gambling to seep into gaming in the form of loot crates, but these mystery boxes really are awful things and likely to be an ongoing nightmare for YouTube if it fails to do something about them. Yet more advertising transparency, that is what’s needed.

Let me put it like this: Jf you really must get your hands on a fancy supercar, you are best off doing it the old-fashioned way. With a lot of hard work and, in some cases, a dash of luck.

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief

Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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