Hong Kong Finance Worker Pays Out $25 Million Invoice to Fake CFO

Artificial intelligence “deep fake” leads to huge invoice errors.

Another so-called AI-based “Deepfake” fraud incident is on the record this week. Add it to the list of Deepfake financial frauds that are popping up all over the world these days.

Deepfake technologies basically create talking avatars of real people who are remarkably similar in speech, physical looks, and even human characteristics and mannerisms.

“The A.I. software is sometimes used to distort public figures, like a video that circulated on social media last year falsely showing Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, announcing a surrender,” The New York Times reports. “But the software can also create characters out of whole cloth, going beyond traditional editing software and expensive special effects tools used by Hollywood, blurring the line between fact and fiction to an extraordinary degree.”

The deepfakes are so good that people talking with an AI avatar on the phone or via a video exchange believe they’re talking to a real human being when they’re not. A recent study by the U.S. Library of Medicine reveals that “People cannot detect AI deep fakes but think they can.”

The deepfake trend took an ominous turn last week when Hong Kong police reported a global finance company employee paid $25 million to deepfake fraudsters, thinking it was his chief financial officer who was calling for the payment.

The worker was tricked into a video call with what he viewed as real co-workers and managers, including the fake CFO.

“(In the) multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone [he saw] was fake,” senior superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching told Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK.

Suspicious at First

Originally, the worker deemed the call for a $25 million “business” payment as suspicious when he first saw the request in an email days before a video call meeting with his firm’s UK-based CFO.

On the call, the worker described the participants as his company’s CFO and some co-workers, according to Hong Kong police.

With the belief that the call was legitimate, the finance department team member agreed to remit $25.6 million ($200 million in Hong Kong dollars) to a bank deposit number provided by the fraudsters.

Reportedly, the fraudulent CFO made the request for the money transfers, which were paid out in 15 installments to five different banks. The actual conference call was set up with WhatsApp and emails, and the meeting took place on a one-to-one video conference call with firm workers.

“I believe the fraudster downloaded videos in advance and then used artificial intelligence to add fake voices to use in the video conference,” Shun-ching added.

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