Deepfake Scammers Make Off With $25 Million

( – Cybercrime is on the rise thanks in part to the emergence of deepfakes — phony images and videos generated using a specialized form of artificial intelligence (AI) called “deep” learning, hence the name “deepfake.” Scammers recently made off with millions of dollars using that emerging tech.

On February 5, media outlets reported that the Hong Kong branch of an unnamed multinational company lost roughly $25.6 million (200 million Hong Kong dollars) after a worker was fooled by online scammers using deepfake tech. Local law enforcement officials said the incident was the first time cybercriminals used digitally recreated images of multiple individuals to pull off a ruse. Here’s what happened.

The acting senior superintendent for the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), Baron Chan Shun-ching, confirmed that a group of scammers sent a message to a worker purportedly from an imposter posing as the company’s United Kingdom-based (UK-based) chief financial officer (CFO) in January. The employee said he initially dismissed the email as a phishing effort.

However, the fake CFO continued sending messages and eventually arranged a video conference call with the worker. Using a series of deepfakes, the scammers convinced the worker that the conference was real.

Media outlets reported the worker told HKPF officials they recognized some of the other attendees of the video conference. The employee indicated they even sounded like colleagues he knew.

So, the worker complied with the CFO’s request to transfer money to five bank accounts in Hong Kong. The employee made 15 transfers in a week before becoming suspicious. That individual eventually contacted officials at the company’s head office and learned they had been scammed.

Chan confirmed that law enforcement officials have arrested six people for their alleged role in the deepfake scam. He also indicated that investigators discovered several stolen Hong Kong identity cards reported used in the ruse. It remains unclear if other law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong or the UK are involved in the ongoing investigation into the incident.

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