Scammer Runs Crypto Scam With Elon Musk Deepfake

It’s going to take a lot more convincing than that to fool the entire internet… but AI is advancing at high speed and it may only be a matter of time.

So far, deepfakes have yet to spark the misinformation apocalypse that some observers anticipated when the technology exploded. But some tech-savvy scammers continue to try to trick Internet users with such tricks; Recently, it was cryptocurrency enthusiasts who were targeted by a rather elaborate deepfake from Elon Musk.

As a reminder, a deepfake is media such as an audio recording, an image or a video that has been hijacked by techniques based on artificial intelligence in order to replace part of its content. The most popular example is replace features like a person’s physical appearance or voice in a video.

This technology can be quite entertaining when used within certain ethical limits. We can for example quote this memorable deepfake of Emmanuel Macron directed by the videographer French Faker on the basis of the short film “The underside of power” by Maxime Baudin. There are also bunch of smartphone apps which allow you to perform some sleight of hand such as replacing your face with that of a celebrity.

But beyond these rather good-natured examples, these deepfakes continue to cause concern. They are indeed a vector of first choice for carrying out disinformation on a very large scale or disguising extremely cunning scams. This is the case of this video recently spotted by Bleeping Computer.

An elaborate scam to steal cryptocurrencies

This is a montage made from excerpts from a real-life TED talk that Musk recently attended. But that authentic video was later altered to change Musk’s words. During this speech, the original version of which is available at this address, the billionaire had mainly discussed Tesla, SpaceX and Starlink.

But here he praises BitVex at length, an exchange he allegedly created. The video claims that Musk himself allegedly invested $50 million. It also explicitly mentions other high-profile personalities, such as the CEO of cryptocurrency titan Binance. But above all, there is mention of a mechanism that would allow anyone to generate phenomenal income (around 30%!) by moving their crypto wallet there.

Reminder: this video presented for information purposes is a deepfake and the elements presented therein are a scam attempt!

Too good to be true ? On target. The specialized site Bleeping Computer searched the source code of the site and confirmed that it was only a facade. The primary objective was simply to relieve naive Internet users of their wallets by using Elon Musk as a reel despite himself.

It must be recognized that the scammers have made great efforts. Musk’s voice is relatively well imitated; it is a model probably trained from real declarations of the person concerned. The visual trick is also sufficiently believable to deceive an observer who looks out of the corner of his eye.

Several immediately identifiable clues

However, the clues were not lacking as soon as we look more closely. From the first seconds, it is difficult not to notice the very awkward editing. He gives a really weird rhythm to conversation; anyone who’s ever been to a TED talk and knows their achievement codes will immediately sense something’s off.

The billionaire’s voice also becomes suspicious after a few minutes. We quickly notice some timbre jumps, crackles and abrupt inflections which often betray deepfakes of this kind. Same thing for the suspicious movements at the corners of the jaw and the corners of the lipsin addition to a few visual artifacts which appear during sudden head movements.

And as soon as one is interested in elocution, there is simply no longer any room for doubt. Anyone who’s ever heard of Musk knows that in technical terms, he’s not not the most talented of speakers. He speaks quite slowly, takes multiple pauses, regularly searches for his words, and tends to stutter slightly when he embarks on a dense explanation. For comparison, here is an excerpt from the original interview that is much more representative of Elon Musk’s speech.

The difference is absolutely glaring. In the first video, Musk speaks significantly faster than usual. Moreover, one does not distinguish the slightest hesitation; a fluidity that definitely does not resemble him. He also ends his sentences on much higher pitched vocalizations than in his other interviews.

The scope of deepfakes remains limited… for now.

Fortunately, this rather clumsy scam was quickly identified by most targets. In total, the perpetrators only managed to steal $1,700 in cryptocurrency according to Interesting Engineering. More fear than harm, in short; and fortunately, this is often the case for these fairly approximate deepfakes (see our article). But this situation must all the same remind that these deepfakes can constitute a prominent threat in other contexts.

We remember in particular the deepfake of Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky available at this address (beware, this is a trick!); At the start of Russia’s invasion of the country, a deepfake in which the person concerned called on Ukrainian fighters to lay down their arms had circulated. It was in fact an attempt at destabilization orchestrated by Russian partisans. Had the deception not been identified immediately, the Russian invasion might have taken a rather different trajectory.

The threat is all the more pressing. Today, the best deepfakes, made by professionals more competent than those clumsy scammers, are completely indistinguishable to an average human (see our article). There is therefore a real risk of manipulation. This is even more true in politically fragile areas where the situation is extremely unstable; in this context, a well-placed deepfake can easily ignite the powder before being debunked.

More than ever, it is therefore necessary to remain particularly vigilant with recordings circulating on the Internet. Especially when they don’t come from an official source. Because this technology is still in its infancy; but today we are entering a phase where AI research is advancing at a phenomenal rate. It is probably not only a matter of time before a really problematic deepfake throws a huge stone into the pond… in other words, it is more important than ever to mobilize your critical mind at all times.

Leave a Comment