Imagine, you receive a WhatsApp message from an unknown number. The sender is someone claiming to be your colleague or friend in dire need of financial help. What would you do? How would you respond? How would you know they are what they claim to be? Perhaps you would video call them to confirm their identity. This seems like the most logical and necessary step. After all, it’s the safest way to confirm, isn’t it? But what if we told you that this seemingly reliable method could also be a trap?
A man in Kerala learned this lesson the hard way when he lost Rs. 40,000 in a cyber-scam that used advanced deepfake AI technology.
PS Radhakrishnan from Kozhikode in Kerala fell victim to cybercriminals who scammed him using deep fake AI technology. The scammers pretended to be his former colleague in a WhatsApp video call.
Radhakrishnan got a call from someone pretending to be Venukumar, his friend from their time working together at Coal India. The scammer started by asking about Radhakrishnan’s family, sharing family photos, and discussing their common colleagues to build trust.
Then, the scammer called again, saying he was at the Dubai airport, about to take a flight to India. He claimed that his relative urgently needed surgery in Mumbai and asked for help of ₹40,000 and that he would return it as soon as he arrives home.
At first, Radhakrishnan was doubtful and hesitant about sending the money, as he was aware of online scams. But the scammer said he would do a video call to prove his authenticity and put his worries to rest.
“The call lasted only 30 seconds, and only a close-up of the face could be seen,” Radhakrishnan told media. “He looked exactly like my former colleague. His lips and eyes moved like any normal person as we talked in English. It was so perfect that I didn’t suspect anything.”
Upon seeing the person on the video call, who appeared to be his former colleague, Radhakrishnan didn’t ask any more questions and transferred the money.
That was not enough for the scammer! He called again asking for an additional Rs. 35,000. This raised alarm bells for Radhakrishnan. Radhakrishnan called the phone number of his former colleague. He was shocked to hear his friend deny that he had ever requested any money. The person Radhakrishnan saw on the video call was not actually his friend.
After realising that he had been tricked by an online scam, Radhakrishnan reported the incident to the National Cyber Cell, which forwarded it to the Kerala Police.
The Cyber Operations Department of the Kerala Police managed to seize the entire amount of ₹40,000 from the fraudsters and returned the amount to Radhakrishnan.
What is AI Deepfake Video?
Deepfake technology is an artificial intelligence-driven technique used to create manipulated or fabricated audio and video content that appears remarkably realistic and authentic. In simple terms, Deepfake uses smart computer learning to create fake videos and images that look very real.
The term “deepfake” comes from the combination of “deep learning” (a subset of AI) and “fake.”
Deepfakes have gained significant attention due to their potential to deceive and mislead people by superimposing or replacing the likeness of one person onto another.
In this case, the scammer used this technology to make Radhakrishnan believe he was talking to his friend, but it was all a trick. Deep fakes can be very convincing, making it hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.
“Even in the voice call, I found no particular reason to suspect a scam, Radhakrishnan told The News Minute. “My medium of communication with my colleague was English, and the scammer also spoke to me in English. He also mentioned the names of our other colleagues.”
Common Tricks Used Here
Scammers often use emotional manipulation, urgency, or persuasive language to lure victims into believing the authenticity of the call.
See, how the scammer pretended to be Radhakrishnan’s former colleague, Venukumar. They imitated Venukumar’s voice and facial expressions to appear authentic.
To gain Radhakrishnan’s trust, the scammer also engaged in friendly conversations, discussing personal topics like family and common colleagues. This made Radhakrishnan believe he was indeed talking to his friend.
Once gaining the trust, the scammer claimed to be in a critical situation, with a relative needing urgent surgery. They asked for immediate financial help, creating a sense of urgency and desperation.
In this case, the most cunning tactic was the use of deepfake AI technology.
The scammer used this technology to show a fake video of “Venukumar” during the video call, making Radhakrishnan think it was a real conversation with his friend.
The scammer may have collected a significant amount of images and videos of Radhakrishnan’s friend, Venukumar. This data would serve as the basis for training the deepfake AI model. The deep learning model is trained on the collected data to learn the person’s facial expressions, voice patterns, and mannerisms.
How To Protect From Deepfake Video Scam
If you receive a video call from someone asking for money or urgent help, don’t rush to respond. Take your time, and don’t feel pressured to act quickly.
Reach out to the person on a known and trusted number. Confirm if they made the video call or if they are genuinely in need of help. Scammers often use unknown numbers to deceive you. Radhakrishnan could have verified the caller’s identity through additional means before transferring money.
To ensure the caller’s authenticity, ask specific questions that only the real person would know the answers to. Radhakrishnan could have asked specific personal questions that only Venukumar would know the answers to. This could have helped confirm if the caller was indeed the real person.
Observe the person’s facial expressions and movements. Deepfakes might have subtle glitches, unnatural facial features, or lip-sync issues. To be even surer, you can ask the person to move the camera away from their face and turn around. Ask the caller to do something in real time, like waving, blinking, or holding up a specific object. A live interaction can help reveal if the video is real or deepfake.
By staying alert and using these simple techniques, you can minimize the risk of falling victim to deepfake video call scams and protect yourself from potential harm.
Title:INSIGHT: What Is Deepfake Video Call Scam on WhatsApp?
Written By: Fact Crescendo Team