Info@NationalCyberSecurity
Info@NationalCyberSecurity

Real-time deepfake romance scams are here … and scarily realistic: How YOU could be duped by scammers in Africa with face-swapping gear | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans


Online daters may believe they’re too smart to fall for one of the romance scammers who swindle millions from love-struck Americans each year.

They may need to think again.

Scammers have raised their game and are hitting targets with real-time deepfakes in scarily persuasive video calls.

For the victims — often an unremarkable, middle-aged homebody — it’s all-too convincing.

They meet an attractive suitor online, start chatting, and then move on to Zoom or WhatsApp video calls.

The ‘Yahoo Boys’ scammers share videos with each other about how to execute a real-time deepfake scam  

The target believes they are talking to a coiffed, buff, bearded suitor, a few years younger than herself. In reality, he looks very different and is thousands of miles away

The target believes they are talking to a coiffed, buff, bearded suitor, a few years younger than herself. In reality, he looks very different and is thousands of miles away 

The chats are flirtatious and filled with compliments. For victims, it’s the real-life romance they’d been waiting for.

But the face they are talking to is not real.

It’s been pilfered from a social media account and manipulated with readily-available tools to be a real-time deepfake.

Targets may think they’re talking to a dishy, white, professional in a neighboring state.

But beneath the face-swapping technology, it’s actually a scammer.

In reality, they’re 6,500 miles away in West Africa, likely with an accomplice manning a complicated cell phone setup.

Before long, the conversation pivots to a reason the target must part with cash.

It’s most often a needy relative in hospital or jail.

Other times, it is a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity.

Sometimes, it’s as mundane as cash for travel, or a couple of hundred bucks to help with a delivery.

The deepfake face used by scammers has most likely been scraped from a social media profile, or from a hacked account that's been traded on the dark web

The deepfake face used by scammers has most likely been scraped from a social media profile, or from a hacked account that’s been traded on the dark web  

In others, the scammer wants saucy photos, which could later be used for blackmail.

Nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission, a government watchdog.

Reported losses hit a staggering $1.3 billion.

On average, victims lost $4,400.

David Maimon, a professor at Georgia State University and the head of fraud insights at security firm SentiLink, says he knows of some victims losing ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars.’

This ‘new wave of scamming’ with real-time deepfakes is alarming, he told DailyMail.com.

But the known losses are ‘just the tip of the iceberg,’ he added, as many victims are ashamed and don’t report their losses.

A recent study from cybersecurity firm McAfee found that 31 percent of Americans had experienced online chats with a suitor who turned out to be a con artist.

The brazen scammers are not ashamed of their trickery.

They brag about it, sharing how-to videos of scams on Telegram and other networks.

David Maimon says online daters need to 'be vigilant' as crooks know how to sniff out a target

 David Maimon says online daters need to ‘be vigilant’ as crooks know how to sniff out a target

Maimon provided DailyMail.com with his archive of messages shared between scammers.

The videos are heartbreaking.

The targets, men and women, appear love-struck and sincere, but also agonized by the pressure they are under.

The scammers are cool, self-assured, and skilled at manipulating people.

Maimon says he’s impressed by the level of detail to their frauds.

The scammers often send pizza or teddy bears as gifts to build rapport with their targets.

They deep-fake photos of their alter egos in hospital beds to bolster their story.

Some trade tips with other scammers on the best software to use. 

Microsoft’s new VASA-1 program, which was released this month, is set to be popular. 

Scammers have experimented with deep-fake video clips for around two years,said Maimon. 

They’ve shifted to real-time deep-fake video calls in recent months.

They’re known as the ‘Yahoo Boys,’ a loose collective of con artists, often based in Nigeria.

Online groups of the cybercriminals can have thousands of members.

The Yahoo Boys sell tutorial videos on how to make a more convincing rom-con

The Yahoo Boys sell tutorial videos on how to make a more convincing rom-con

Rom-cons vary enormously, but the scammers have a few stock phrases they use to reel in victims

Rom-cons vary enormously, but the scammers have a few stock phrases they use to reel in victims 

They are a young generation of school drops-outs in West Africa who dabble in identity theft and romance scams on social media.

Young people who should be in classes can be found chatting with foreigners in internet cafes, hoping to extort cash.

Scamming is for some the only way to cash in a region with persistent poverty, high youth unemployment, and political and economic uncertainty.

Romance scams are lucrative and popular, but not the only con they are running.

The cyber-crooks engage in sextortion, crypto scams, and impersonation cons.

According to Maimon, real-time deep-fakes are now used to trick businesspeople into parting with cash in what they believe is a genuine commercial transaction.

The Federal Trade Commission says nearly 70,000 people were duped in a romance scam in 2022

The Federal Trade Commission says nearly 70,000 people were duped in a romance scam in 2022

‘Folks need to be vigilant,’ he said, as the scale of scamming goes up each year.

Con artists try to get targets alone, when they’re more vulnerable, said Maimon.

People who are not sure about a suitor bring get a friend or relative into the conversation.

They can offer a second opinion and possibly scare off any tricksters.

Web-users are advised to carry out basic research about those who approach them on dating sites.

Oftentimes, they use fake photos that appear elsewhere online, and can be traced through a reverse image search.

They are also urged to ask questions of their supposed suitors, and to never share any personal finance information or send any of their own funds.



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