A multinational company’s Hong Kong office was the victim of an elaborate scam using deepfake video technology to impersonate executives and scam the company out of HK$200 million ($25.6 million), local police reported on Sunday (Jan 4).
In what police described as the first scam of its kind in Hong Kong, scammers used deepfake technology to digitally recreate company executives and impersonate them on a video conference call. The technology allowed the scammers to generate fake but convincing representations of targeted individuals that replicated their voices and appearances.
The scam began in mid-January when an employee in the Hong Kong branch’s finance department received a phishing message, seemingly from the company’s UK-based chief financial officer, reports the South China Moring Post. The message claimed a secret transaction had to be conducted. Although initially doubtful, the employee was convinced after being invited to a video call in which the CFO and other familiar employees appeared to be present.
Except, of course, it wasn’t actually the CFO on the call.
‘Everyone is fake’
According to Acting Senior Superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching, not only did the virtual recreations of each participant look and sound like their real-life counterparts, they were even able to interact to some degree on the call by giving orders. However, if questioned more deeply, it’s believed their impersonations would have faltered.
“This time, in a multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone you see is fake.” said Chan
He added: “They used deepfake technology to imitate the voice of their targets reading from a script”
The scam proceeded for about a week before the employee grew suspicious and checked with company headquarters. Police investigation revealed the meeting participants were digitally faked by scammers harvesting public footage of the executives and using deepfake technology to imitate their voices and likenesses reading from a script.
Local authorities did not reveal the name of the company caught in this scam.
To avoid falling victim to similar scams using deepfake technology, Supt. Chan advised asking the person to move their head or pose questions to check their authenticity. One should also immediately suspect foul play if money is requested during a call.
The sophistication of this nefarious technology is developing rapidly. Last week X was forced to block searches for popstar Taylor Swift after explicit AI-generated deepfake images of the pop star went viral.
Featured Image: Dall-E