Fraudsters stage 'deepfake video call' to steal £20 million from multi-national firm

Fraudsters filled a fake video conference call with deepfakes to carry out their scam (stock image). Credit:

Fraudsters stole $25.6 million (£20.4 million) from a multi-national company using deepfake technology during a video call, according to Hong Kong police.

An employee for the firm in Hong Kong was duped into authorising a number of payments when scammers set up a fake video conference call, which appeared to be attended by the firm's chief financial officer and other staff members.

But everyone at the meeting, bar the unwitting employee, were in fact deepfake recreations - a digitally altered piece of media constructed from "deep learning" artificial intelligence (AI).

The deepfakes were created using publicly available footage, the South China Morning Post reported.

"[In the] multi-person video conference, it turns out that everyone [he saw] was fake," senior superintendent Baron Chan Shun-ching told the city's public broadcaster RTHK.

Hong Kong police did not reveal the name or details of the company or the worker.

A purported message from the firm's UK-based chief financial officer asking for a secret transaction initially drew suspicion from the employee, police said, who suspected it to be a 'phishing' email.

So-called phishing is when criminals use scam emails, text messages or phone calls to trick their victims.

But the worker was put at ease when he thought those in attendance on the conference call looked and sounded like real staff members at the company.

Police said the worker agreed to transfer $200 million Hong Kong dollars - around $25.6 million (£20.4 million).

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

The scam was only discovered when the employee later checked with the corporation’s head office.

Increasingly sophisticated uses of deepfake technology are concerning authorities around the world.

Last month, explicit fake photographs emerged of American pop star Taylor Swift, underscoring the potential dangers that AI poses if left unchecked.

Meanwhile, the emergence of AI generated models has led to warnings that such developments risk putting real life make-up artists, photographers and location scouts out of work.

AI models are becoming an increasingly popular choice for companies in order to bypass the inefficiencies of working with human models.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…