Hong Kong Company Loses Over $25 Million To A Deepfake of The CFO

Here’s a very 2024 question: are you sure the people you’re on a video conference call with are real and not deepfakes?

Unfortunately, this was a question an employee from the Hong Kong branch of a multinational company was not able to ask themself before making bank transfers amounting to HK$200 million (US$25.6 million) after being told to do so by who he thought was the company’s chief financial officer.

The scam, which police described as the first of its kind in Hong Kong due to its scale and the technology involved, was orchestrated using digitally altered video to impersonate the company’s chief financial officer and other employees during a video conference call. The fraudsters created convincing fake identities for all participants except the victim, utilizing publicly available footage to mimic the appearance and voices of the company’s staff.

The South China Morning Post reports that according to Hong Kong police, who did not name the company or the victim, it started when the employee who worked in the branch’s finance department received what appeared to be a phishing message in the middle of January. The message was purportedly from the UK-based CFO asking him to carry out a secret transaction.

While the employee’s initial reaction was to doubt the peculiar request, they eventually fell for it after joining the video conference call with the “CFO” and a few other people. The call led to the employee making 15 transfers to five different Hong Kong bank accounts.

Police have started an investigation but have yet to make any arrests. While no details are being shared about the company or the nature of the business, they’re using the case to raise public awareness about the swiftly evolving capabilities of scammers, particularly the use of deepfake technology to commit fraud. 

This technology, capable of generating lifelike images and sounds, recently made headlines after fake images of Taylor Swift went viral on X and other online platforms.

Information for this story was found via SCMP, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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