A Hong Kong-based finance worker was scammed into paying $200 million Hong Kong dollars ($25.6 million) to criminals after a virtual meeting with deepfakes.
The worker at the undisclosed company attended a video call with what they thought was the chief financial officer of the UK’s branch and other real employees — but they were all deepfakes.
The scammers reached out to the victim who was initially skeptical after receiving an email that requested secret transactions. But after meeting with the deepfakes, they were instructed to make 15 transfers making up a total of $25.6 million to five different bank accounts.
It wasn’t until a week later when the employee followed up on the transactions that they realized they had been duped.
“(In the) multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone [he saw] was fake,” Hong Kong police said at a briefing on Friday.
Senior Superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching said that the worker put his initial doubts aside after the people at the meeting looked and sounded just like his colleagues. The scammers must have had access to real-life photos, videos, and audio of the people they were impersonating.
“[The fraudster] invited the informant [clerk] to a video conference that would have many participants. Because the people in the video conference looked like the real people, the informant … made 15 transactions as instructed to five local bank accounts, which came to a total of HK$200m,” he said.
“I believe the fraudster downloaded videos in advance and then used artificial intelligence to add fake voices to use in the video conference.”
The Rise of Deepfakes
Back in June, the FBI issued a warning about the rise of AI-generated deepfakes to harass or blackmail people with fake sexually explicit photos or videos of them.
And recently, the technology came to the fore after a series of sexually explicit AI-generated photos of Taylor Swift went viral on X (formerly Twitter).
The threat is particularly concerning as scammers often exploit the benign photographs and videos people post on their public social media accounts.
After the Swift controversy, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators have now introduced a bill to give victims of sexually explicit deepfake images a way to hold their creators and distributors responsible.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.