Finance employee paid $25 million after fake call with CFO

(CNN) — A finance employee at a multinational company was tricked into paying US$25 million to fraudsters who used deepfake technology to impersonate the company's CFO in a video conference, according to Hong Kong police.

In a complex scam, the worker was tricked into attending a video call with who he thought were other employees, but all of them were actually fake re-enactments, Hong Kong police said in a press conference on Friday.

“(In) the video conference in which several people participated, it turned out that everyone who saw it was fake,” chief supervisor Baron Chan Shun Cheng told the city's public broadcaster.

Chan said the worker became suspicious after receiving a message purportedly from the UK-based company's CFO. Initially, the worker suspected it was a phishing email, as it spoke of the need for a confidential transaction.

However, Chan said the worker put his initial doubts aside after the video call because the other people present looked and talked just like the colleagues he recognized.

This aerial photo taken on December 19, 2018 shows a general view of the Hong Kong skyline.

The famous Hong Kong skyline. Del de la Rey/AFP

Believing all the other people on the call were real, the worker agreed to transfer a total of HK$200 million, or about US$25.6 million, the police officer added.

The case is one of several recent episodes in which scammers are believed to have used deepfake technology to alter publicly available videos and other images to trick people out of their money.

At a press conference on Friday, Hong Kong police said they had arrested six people in connection with such scams.

Eight stolen Hong Kong ID cards, all of which were reported missing, were used to make 90 loan applications and 54 bank account registrations between July and September last year, Chan said.

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According to police, deepfakes using artificial intelligence have been used on at least 20 occasions to fool facial recognition software by imitating people who appear on ID cards.

The fraud involving the fake CFO was discovered only after the employee later consulted with the company's headquarters.

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

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