What is a Deepfake Scam? Tips to Spot and Protect Yourself 

Mar 26, 2024 | Crypto Scam Defense | 0 comments

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have transformed many sectors, including the world of scams. In this scenario, a deepfake scam is a high-tech form of digital fraud that has caught global attention, using easily accessible generative AI tools

These scams represent a significant threat, tricking people and stealing money or personal data. A recent example is a Hong Kong company that lost US$25.6 million in such a scam, as reported by CNN. This incident shows the urgent need for more awareness and vigilance by governments, financial entities, and the general population alike. 

In this blog post, we’ll look into the concept of deepfake scams, look into the tactics employed by scammers, and provide practical tips for spotting these types of scams and protecting yourself.

What is Deepfake?

A deepfake is a term derived from “deep learning” and “fake” referring to media that has been altered by artificial intelligence to make it appear as if a person in the media is someone else. This manipulation can involve images, audio tracks, videos, or a combination of these elements. 

Deepfake technology uses machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to:

  • Modify videos
  • Emulate impersonations of people saying or doing things they never did
  • Create convincing synthetic audio
  • Fabricate other forms of content where humans appear

These features allow the creation of highly convincing fake media, from altering facial expressions in videos to replicating the voices of well-known celebrities or even making it appear as if politicians are saying things they’ve never actually said.

Deepfake technology has been employed for both harmless and harmful purposes. It has been used for entertainment, creating memes for social media, and more illegal activities such as cybercrime and corporate espionage. The technology’s ability to create realistic replicas makes it a powerful tool for fraudsters.

Person editing audio on a computer, possibly for deepfake scam detection or creation

What is a Deepfake Scam?

A deepfake scam involves the use of deepfake technology by scammers to trick others. This type of scam allows criminals to manipulate photos, audio tracks, and videos convincingly, presenting themselves as other people. 

Such manipulation opens up potential opportunities for various fraudulent activities, including:

  • Spoofing celebrities
  • Taking over accounts
  • Executing political misinformation campaigns
  • Committing extortion and engaging in financial fraud

Deepfakes have even found their way into altering the existing formats of entertainment and art, or creating apparently innocent social media content that shows malicious intent.

How Does Deepfake Scam Work?

The creation of deepfakes is based on advanced technology, combining machine learning with large datasets from open-source image libraries, such as Google Image Search, social media platforms, stock photo databases, TensorFlow frameworks, and YouTube videos. 

This process involves using machine learning algorithms to artificially place people’s faces onto pre-existing video footage, frame by frame, creating highly convincing virtual media. Despite occasional glitches that might hint at their artificial nature, the realism of these videos is constantly improving, making detection increasingly difficult.

For example, criminals use deepfakes for creating authentic-looking IDs and manipulating videos for fraudulent purposes. By accessing a victim’s personal information and collecting enough visual or audio samples, they can produce false documents that are difficult to identify as fake. 

Woman looking at a tablet, with editing software in the backdrop, suggesting deepfake scam analysis

6 Tactics of Deepfake Scams

1-Deepfake Crypto Scam

Deepfake technology is increasingly used in the cryptocurrency sector, where scammers create fake testimonials from well-known figures or hijack YouTube channels, called “Double Your Crypto” scams. With these, criminals impersonate public figures or brands, promising quick returns on cryptocurrency investments. 

These scams often involve the theft of YouTube channel accounts and the use of livestream pop-ups, QR codes, and malicious links to defraud victims into transferring cryptocurrency to fraudulent platforms, leading to significant financial losses.

According to research led by Bitdefender, as of 2023, investigations into crypto wallets associated with deepfake scam operations have found that attackers have earned over $600,000 from their illegal activities.

2-Synthetic Identity Theft

Scammers use deepfakes to set up entirely fictitious personas, combining used legitimate identity information to create new, synthetic identities. 

These fake identities, fit with photos, voiceprints, and fabricated backstories, are used to open bank accounts, apply for credit cards, or carry out large-scale financial fraud, making it challenging for authorities to trace the activities back to real individuals.

3-New Account Opening Fraud

Criminals gather images from social networks to create deepfake visuals or audio, which are then combined with stolen identity information to create compelling fake identities. These are used to fraudulently open new accounts at banks or other financial institutions, secure loans, and then default on these debts, causing significant financial losses.

4-Phishing Scams

Modern phishing tactics have evolved to include personalized fake video messages created using deepfake technology. Scammers create video clips of trusted figures or celebrities asking users to do financial transactions or share sensitive information, enhancing the deception’s credibility.

5-Voice Phishing Calls

Deepfake audio technology allows scammers to replicate the voices of trusted people or entities, making fraudulent calls that convincingly ask for sensitive information or immediate money transfers to unauthorized accounts.

6-Impersonation Attacks

Deepfakes are also used for impersonation attacks, where scammers replicate the image or voice of corporate executives or high-ranking officials. These fraud tactics can trick employees into revealing sensitive information or transferring funds, and when government officials are impersonated, it may constitute espionage.

How to Spot a Deepfake Scam?

Deepfake videos, despite their complex nature, show certain warning signs that can alert a vigilant user to their mistakes. When examining a video, be on the lookout for:

  • Jerky movement: A lack of fluid motion or abrupt changes in movement.
  • Strange blinking: An absence of blinking or unnatural blinking patterns.
  • Shifts in skin tone: Unnatural changes in skin color throughout the video.
  • Shifts in lighting: Inconsistencies in lighting from one frame to the next.
  • Digital artifacts: Unusual or glitchy patterns in the image that don’t belong.
  • Lips poorly synced with speech: A mismatch between the movement of lips and the spoken words.

As the technology behind deepfakes continues to improve, these visual clues may become harder to detect, underlining the importance of relying on advanced cybersecurity programs to identify them.

Computer screen displaying an 'Authentication Failed' error message, possibly related to a deepfake scam attempt

5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Deepfake Scams

To protect yourself against deepfake scams, it’s important to:

  • Implement basic security measures: Emphasize the importance of basic security practices.
  • Use automatic verification: Integrate automatic checks in financial transactions to detect frauds early.
  • Educate about deepfakes: Ensure employees and family are aware of how deepfakes work and the challenges they pose.
  • Promote media literacy: Use of reputable news sources, and educate yourself and others on identifying reliable information.
  • Adopt a skepticism approach: Maintain skepticism towards digital communications, verifying the authenticity of voicemails and videos before taking action.

These steps can help you maintain vigilance against the evolving threat of deepfake scams.

Conclusion 

While deepfake technology continues to become more advanced and accessible, due to advances in generative AI, the risk of deepfake scams is continually rising. The Onfido Report reveals deepfake scams multiplied by 31 times in 2023, representing a 3,000% increase from the previous year.

Deepfake scams are successful by exploiting vulnerabilities in people and organizations, which highlights the importance of questioning the legitimacy of all we see and hear online, even if it comes from sources that seem trustworthy.

At Cryptoscam Defense Network (CDN), our mission is to help you ensure the safety of your digital currency transactions and protect your identity against fraud scams, by informing you with knowledge about the latest scamming technologies and strategies. Stay informed, stay safe with CDN.

We Want to Hear From You!

The fight against cryptocurrency scams is a community effort, and your insights are invaluable. Have you encountered a scam, or do you have questions about navigating the complex world of digital currency? Maybe you have suggestions or want to share your story to help others. Whatever your experience, we’re here to listen and support you.

Reach out to us at hello@cryptoscamdefensenetwork.com. Share your stories, ask questions, or make comments. Your voice is crucial to building a resilient and informed community. Together, we can improve our defenses and promote a safer digital space for all.

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