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BBB Alert: Deepfake Technology

Get-rich-quick scheme uses “Deepfake” technology to impersonate celebrities, politicians, business leaders

Rockford, IL – July 20, 2022 – New technology makes it nearly impossible to tell fake video or audio clips from real ones. The Deepfake technology creates fake videos and photos and can even edit verbal messages. As the software used to create these “deepfakes” becomes more widespread, scammers will use it to their advantage to steal money and sensitive information.

Fake ads and endorsements are common on the internet, but now scammers with the proper technology can create an altered message making a video endorsement look real.

“Seeing is no longer believing when it comes to what you may be viewing or hearing on the internet,“ says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “For impostor scams, the old rule was never to believe an endorsement unless you see the celebrity’s lips moving. Now that’s no longer a certainty, and consumers should elevate their awareness to be skeptical of this type of high-tech scam. As the technology improves and becomes easier to use, we’ll likely see scammers using deepfakes to target individuals and small businesses, too.”

What is a deepfake?
Deepfake technology takes video clips and photos of a person and uses the imagery to create new videos and audio clips. Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to create a seemingly real video or audio clip that mimics a person’s face, voice, or both. This synthetic content is often used to spread misinformation by impersonating politicians and celebrities on social media.

How the scam works
You come across a video of Elon Musk while scrolling through social media. Or perhaps a trusted friend sent you the video. Elon Musk talks about ways to invest in cryptocurrency and how you can make a large amount of money in no time. This sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme, but the video looks so real! Musk is a famous business leader, so his advice must be credible, right?

Think again! The video is fake. Scammers used deepfake technology to create it from existing footage of Musk. If you follow the links and “invest,” you’ll lose everything.

BBB Tips to protect yourself from deepfake scams
  • Know that celebrities are often impersonated. Politicians, actors, business leaders, and other celebrities are often “recreated” in deepfakes. That’s because plenty of public video clips and photos of them are available. Don’t assume a celebrity video is legitimate unless you can verify it came from an official source.
  • Take a closer look at that video. Poor-quality deepfakes are easy to identify. Look for isolated blurry spots in the video, double edges to the face, changes in video quality during the video, unnatural blinking or no blinking, and changes in the background or lighting. If you notice any of these telltale signs, you’re probably looking at a deepfake video.
  • Listen closely to the audio. Fake audio might include choppy sentences, unnatural or out-of-place inflection, odd phrasing, or background sounds that don’t match the speaker’s location. These are all signs of fake audio.
  • Be careful what you post online. The only way a scammer can make a deepfake video of you is if they have access to a selection of photos and videos featuring your face. Stay alert to the possibility of impersonation. Make certain your family knows about deepfakes, and use caution when posting things publicly.
  • Don’t believe everything you see online. Scammers count on you to take them at their word without verifying their identity. Be skeptical when a person or company contacts you if you can’t validate who they really are. Never make financial decisions based on viral videos on social media. Before investing in something or donating to a charity, do plenty of research to ensure you do so through a legitimate channel.
  • Make sure you know who you are talking to. As deepfake technology progresses, you’ll need to confirm the identity of who you are speaking with – even if you think you know and trust them. You might not send money to a stranger who calls you out of the blue, but if scammers start using deepfakes to impersonate your loved ones, falling victim could be easier. Pay attention if a friend or family member makes an out-of-character request and be sure to confirm their identity before sending money or giving up sensitive personal information. Scammers would love to get their hands on your cash by impersonating someone you trust.
  • Don’t “act immediately.” Most scams involve an element of urgency. Claims that you can get rich quickly, but only if you act now, are a red flag. Never give in to pressure to invest, wire funds, or give up your personal information to receive a gift, money, or an investment opportunity.

For more information
If you spot a deepfake scam on social media or anywhere else, file a report on BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help protect other consumers by exposing scammers’ tactics. Visit BBB.org or follow us @ChicagoBBB on social media. Check BBB.org for business reviews and ratings and look for the BBB Seal, The Sign of a Better Business. Sign up for BBB’s free consumer newsletter, BBB Edge, at BBB.org/ChicagoBuzz.
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About BBB:
BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois is a nonprofit organization that has served both consumers and trustworthy businesses for 96 years and is a part of the IABBB. We help protect consumers from scams and provide a free database for consumers to see business ratings and reviews to find businesses they can trust. We connect customers to businesses they can trust. BBB is the sign of a better business.

The International Association of Better Business Bureaus (IABBB) is the network hub for BBBs in the US, Canada and Mexico. Like BBBs, IABBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers -- instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all. Please visit BBB.org for more information.
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