Saturday, 10 February 2024 04:40

Employee transfers $25m to scammers after Deepfake video call with fake CFO

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A Hong Kong finance worker at a multinational company was tricked into transferring $25 million to scammers after attending a video conference with deepfake CFO and several colleagues.

Hong Kong police recently reported that it is investigating an elaborate scam that saw a group of bad actors defraud a multinational firm of $200 million Hong Kong dollars ($25.6 million) using deepfake technology to impersonate company management during a video call.

Fraudsters initially targeted one of the unnamed company’s finance workers with an email from the company’s UK-based chief financial officer (CFO). Seeing that the message involved a ‘secret transaction’ to the tune of $200 million Hong Kong dollars, the man suspected it was a phishing email, but those doubts were put to rest when he was invited to a video conference with the CFO and several other colleagues he recognized.

What the man didn’t know was that all the familiar faces and voices in the video call were actually deepfake filters designed to make total strangers look and sound like company staff. Relieved that he was acting at the request of his CFO, the finance worker transferred over $25.6 million into the scammers’ account and went about his business.

“They used deepfake technology to imitate the voice of their targets reading from a script,” senior superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching said, adding that his department was highlighting this case because it was the first one in Honk Kong where the victim was tricked during a “multi-person video conference”.

The tricked employee said that company employees in the call looked and sounded like real people, but that in hindsight, the people he was on the call with mainly gave him instructions before ending the conference abruptly, and didn’t really interact with him. The scam was only discovered when the employee checked with the head office about the transaction, only to learn that no one knew anything about it.

Deepfake and voice cloning scams have become very frequent in the last few years as the technology has reached a level where most people cannot discern between real people and digital clones.


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