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News » Deepfakes drain Hong Kong firm of $25 million

Deepfakes drain Hong Kong firm of $25 million

Acting Senior Superintendent Baron Chan during a press conference on a deepfake scam amounting to $25 million. Photo from Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK)

HONG KONG, CHINA — A finance worker at a multinational firm has fallen victim to a deepfake scam, paying out a staggering $25 million to fraudsters who impersonated the company’s chief financial officer (CFO) during a video conference call, as reported by Hong Kong police.

The employee received messages purportedly from the company’s United Kingdom-based CFO about a confidential transaction. Although initially suspicious, the worker’s doubts faded after joining a video conference with convincing deepfakes of the CFO and other colleagues giving instructions.

Believing the fake executives were real, the worker followed their directions and made 15 transactions totaling $200 million Hong Kong dollars ($25.6 million) to five Hong Kong bank accounts. The fraud was uncovered when the employee later double-checked with headquarters.

“I believe the fraudster downloaded videos in advance and then used artificial intelligence to add fake voices to use in the video conference,” said Hong Kong police official Baron Chan in a press conference.

“We can see from this case that fraudsters are able to use AI technology in online meetings, so people must be vigilant even in meetings with lots of participants.” 

Although the police did not disclose the company or worker’s identity, this incident is part of a growing trend where fraudsters exploit deepfake technology to manipulate publicly available content and deceive individuals into financial losses.

Hong Kong police announced six arrests related to such scams, uncovering the misuse of eight stolen Hong Kong identity cards reported as lost. These fake IDs facilitated 90 loan applications and 54 bank account registrations between July and September of the previous year, with AI deepfakes used on multiple occasions to outsmart facial recognition systems.

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