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AI scammer stole $25 million with deepfake conference call

Published Feb 5th, 2024 5:03PM EST
People participating in a Zoom meeting.
Image: Zoom

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While artificial intelligence becoming sentient and taking over the world is an increasingly valid concern, the technology is already incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. Over the weekend, the South China Morning Post (via Ars Technica) reported on a thief who drained a multinational company’s Hong Kong branch of HK$200 million ($25.6 million USD) by using clever deepfake technology to stage a fake video conference call.

According to the report, an employee in the company’s finance department received a phishing message claiming to be from the chief financial officer (CFO) in the UK. The message instructed the employee to execute a secret transaction, but the employee was not convinced. That’s when AI took center stage to bring the scam home.

Using deepfake technology, the scammer hosted a conference call featuring videos of the CFO and other employees to convince the victim to transfer the money. Seeing co-workers on video was enough to convince the victim to initiate the transaction.

The victim made 15 transfers to five different Hong Kong bank accounts. A week later, company officials were made aware of the scam and called the police.

The report notes that the scammer was able to forge believable digital recreations of the victim’s co-workers by using publicly available audio and video footage found online. The investigation is currently ongoing, and no arrests have been made yet.

Fears of AI rising up to overthrow humankind are valid, but the robots aren’t coming for us quite yet. Criminals are, though, and they have a knack for making use of the latest and greatest tools to scam us out of our money. These are the issues that will actually impact us, so we need to be more cautious than ever when receiving suspicious texts and emails.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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