Deep fake scam extracts a massive $25.6 million from multinational company

February 5, 2024

AI scam

AI deep fakes deceived a finance worker at a multinational corporation into transferring a staggering $25.6 million to fraudsters. 

These scammers used AI-generated fakes to mimic the appearance and voice of the employee’s senior colleagues, including the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), during a video conference call. 

First reported by CNN and relayed by senior superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching of the Hong Kong police’s cyber security division, this is probably the highest-stake AI deep fake scam we’ve seen to date. 

The scam began with a deceptive message, allegedly from the company’s UK-based CFO, inviting the employee to a video call to discuss a confidential financial transaction.

Despite some suspicions and the secretive nature of the request raising red flags, the convincing deep fakes eventually dispelled the employee’s doubts during the video call.

Following the fraudulent transactions, the employee contacted the company’s headquarters, only to realize the mistake.

AI deep fakes have been used for a string of scams, including several targeting political and public figures like Elon Musk and Mr Beast and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Studies find that humans can’t reliably tell real faces from sophisticated fakes anymore, and some 1/4 of people are tricked by AI-generated voices.

Social media influencer Eddie Cumberbatch also experienced an AI scam when his grandparents received a fraudulent call impersonating his voice. The deep fake voices claimed he suffered a car crash and urgently needed money, which has been a common theme in scams of this type.

Chan explained this recent fraud incident, noting, “The worker was lured into a video conference that was said to have many participants. The realistic appearance of the individuals on the call led the employee to execute 15 transactions to five local bank accounts, amounting to a total of HK$200 million.” 

Chan further emphasized the importance of public awareness about AI-supported deceptive tactics, stating, “We want to alert the public to these new deception tactics. Fraudsters are now leveraging AI technology in online meetings, making it crucial for individuals to remain vigilant even in large group settings.”

Last year, Steve Grobman, McAfee’s Chief Technology Officer, warned of deep fake fraud, “One of the things that’s most important to recognize with the advances in AI this year is it’s largely about bringing these technologies into reach of many more people, including really enabling the scale within the cyberactor community.”

“Cybercriminals are able to use generative AI for fake voices and deepfakes in ways that used to require a lot more sophistication.”

The Hong Kong police urge employees to verify suspicious meeting invitations through standard company communication channels and to engage in meetings to confirm the authenticity of participants.

People should also establish code words with their friends and family to protect against deep fake fraud.

If anything raises suspicion, ask them for the code word or present them with a personal question about yourself, them, your family, or similar.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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