'Deepfake' scam in China raises concerns of AI-powered fraud

Citizens are concerned about whether implemented rules are sufficient to protect them.
Ameya Paleja
Accessible AI will lead to proliferation of deep fakes
Accessible AI will lead to proliferation of deep fakes


A recently reported scam in China that used 'deep fake' technology has raised concerns about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in conducting fraudulent activities in the country. Discussion on the social media website Weibo about the explosion in the number of AI-powered scans gained more than 120 million views in a day, Reuters reported.

Over the years, the term 'deep fakes' has mainly been associated with celebrities, but as AI tech becomes more mainstream, it has also sparked fears of affecting the commoner. Recently, an advisor at United Nations warned against the destructive use of the technology and urged nations to bring in regulations to protect the public.

Deep-fake Scam in China

Within days of the UN advisor's warning, a deep fake scam was reported in northern China, where the victim was a no celebrity. As per reports from the police in Baotou, a region in Inner Mongolia, a man received a video phone call from his friend where the latter urgently needed money to make a deposit in a bidding process.

The man immediately transferred 4.3 million yuan ($622,000). However, when contacted, his friend clarified about never having made such a request, which led to the discovery that AI-powered face-swapping technology had been used to impersonate him during the video call.

'Deepfake' scam in China raises concerns of AI-powered fraud
Advanced computing prowess is becoming commonly accessible each day

The police have already recovered most of the stolen funds, and efforts are underway to trace the rest. However, discussions on the social media site Weibo have exploded, with individuals expressing concerns about the threat to online privacy and security from powerful technology like AI.

Users on social media voiced their opinions that photos, voice, and videos were all at the disposal of scammers, and information security rules could hardly keep up with the techniques already being used today.

The users were referring to China's newer rules in January this year, focusing on tightening scrutiny of apps and more recent technologies. As per the newly implemented rules, stricter curbs exist on manipulating voice and facial data. However, this did not deter the scammers from using technology to dupe an innocent man.

Individuals and even large corporations have been at the receiving end of the ill effects of deep-fake technology. Last year, a report from the FBI's  Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) showed that individuals were using the technology to act like someone else and grab remote work positions.

This is just the beginning of the AI age, and we have not seen its ugly side yet.

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