A scammer in China used artificial intelligence to pose as a businessman’s trusted friend and persuade him to hand over millions of yuan, authorities said.
The victim, surnamed Guo, received a video call last month from what looked and sounded like a close friend.
In reality, however, the caller was a scammer who used “intelligent AI technology to alter his face” and voice, according to an article published Monday by a government-affiliated media portal in the southern City of Fuzhou was released.
The scammer “impersonated (Guo’s) good friend and committed fraud,” the article said.
Guo was persuaded to transfer 4.3 million yuan ($609,000) after the scammer claimed another friend needed the money from a company bank account to pay the guarantee for a public tender.
The scammer asked for Guo’s personal bank account number and then claimed that a matching amount had been transferred to that account and sent him a screenshot of a fraudulent payment record.
Without checking whether he received the money, Guo sent two payments from his company account for the requested amount.
“At the time, I checked the face and voice of the person who video-called me, so I reacted carelessly,” Guo is quoted as saying in the article.
He only realized his mistake after sending a message to the friend whose identity had been stolen and who was unaware of the transaction.
Guo alerted the police, who notified a bank in another city not to proceed with the transfers and managed to get 3.4 million yuan back, the article said.
It added that efforts to recover the remaining funds were ongoing but the perpetrators of the plan have not been identified.
The potential pitfalls of breakthrough AI technology have received increased attention since US-based company OpenAI launched ChatGPT, a chatbot that mimics human speech, in November.
China has announced ambitious plans to become the world leader in AI by 2030, and a number of tech companies including Alibaba, JD.com, NetEase and TikTok parent ByteDance have rushed to develop similar products.
ChatGPT is not available in China, but the American software is gaining a base of Chinese users who use virtual private networks to access it to write essays and prepare for exams.
But it is also used for more nefarious purposes.
This month, police in northwestern Gansu province said they had “forced action” on a man who used ChatGPT to create a fake news article about a fatal bus accident that was shared widely on social media.
A law regulating deepfakes, which went into effect in January, prohibits the use of the technology to produce, publish or transmit false news.
And a bill proposed by Beijing’s internet regulator last month would require all new AI products to undergo a “safety assessment” before they’re released to the public.