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Deepfake video call scam cons company out of $25 million

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A Hong Kong office of a multinational corporation fell victim to a sophisticated scam utilizing deepfake video technology, resulting in a loss of HK$200 million ($25.6 million), as per local police reports released on Sunday (Jan 4).

This marked the first known instance of such an elaborate scam in Hong Kong where scammers utilized deepfake technology to create digital replicas of company executives and impersonate them during a video conference call. The advanced technology enabled the scammers to produce authentic-looking representations of the targeted individuals, mimicking their voices and appearances.

The scam commenced in mid-January when a finance department employee in the Hong Kong branch received a phishing message purportedly from the company’s chief financial officer based in the UK. The message stated the need for a confidential transaction. Despite initial doubts, the employee was persuaded after being included in a video call where the CFO and other familiar faces seemed to be in attendance.

However, unbeknownst to the employee, the CFO was not actually present on the call.

‘All participants were digitally created’

Acting Senior Superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching disclosed that the virtual replicas of the participants not only resembled and sounded like the real individuals but were also capable of some interaction during the call, including issuing commands. Nonetheless, deeper scrutiny would likely have exposed the fakery.

“In this case, in a multi-person video call, all the individuals you see are fabricated,” Chan stated.

He elaborated, “The scammers utilized deepfake technology to mimic the voices of their targets by following a prepared script.”

The scam persisted for around a week until the employee grew suspicious and contacted company headquarters. A subsequent police inquiry uncovered that the meeting participants had been artificially generated by scammers who leveraged publicly available footage of the executives and employed deepfake technology to imitate their voices and appearances as they read from a script.

The identity of the impacted company was not disclosed by local authorities.

To prevent falling prey to similar schemes utilizing deepfake technology, Supt. Chan recommended prompting the individual to move or asking probing questions to verify their authenticity. Additionally, any requests for money during a call should raise immediate suspicions.

The sophistication of this deceitful technology is advancing rapidly. Recently, X had to restrict searches for singer Taylor Swift following the circulation of explicit AI-manipulated deepfake images of the artist.

Featured Image: Dall-E

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