Better Business Bureau warns about “deepfake Elon Musk” investment scam

DEDHAM, Mass. — At first glance, the man in the video looks and sounds just like billionaire businessman Elon Musk pitching a new cryptocurrency investment opportunity. But the 28-second clip that went viral last month is the latest scam involving “deepfake” technology.

“Unfortunately people have already fallen for it,” Better Business Bureau spokesperson Paula Fleming said. “It’s extremely convincing because it’s [audio] and video and it’s a short video. If you’re scrolling through your social media it looks like a legit deal and who wouldn’t follow the advice of someone like Elon Musk that has that billionaire status?”

Even Musk himself felt compelled to tweet, “Yikes, def not me,” shortly after the video surfaced online. The BBB issued an advisory in June about the danger of deepfake videos because Fleming said too many consumers are falling for the phony Musk video.

“What [the scammers are] trying to do is get your personal or financial information. Unfortunately, hundreds of people throughout New England have already fallen victim to this,” Fleming said.

Deepfake videos, when a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness, are becoming more common as technology improves. TikTok user deeptomcruise racked up millions of views in 2021 with his Tom Cruise deepfakes. The man behind the fake Cruise account, actor Miles Fischer, said it’s all in good fun. But law enforcement officials say deepfake technology is opening the door to cyberattacks and scams. The FBI’s Cyber Division issued a warning last year with a list of visual indicators, including “distortions, warping, or inconsistencies in images and video may be an indicator of synthetic images.”

“Know that celebrities, business people, politicians and actors are being impersonated online, and it does look legitimate,” Fleming said.

The BBB advises consumers to

  • Understand how deepfake technology works. Deepfake technology takes video clips and photos of a person and uses the imagery to create new videos and audio clips. See this BBB article for tips on spotting deepfakes.
  • Know that celebrities are often impersonated. Politicians, actors, business leaders, and other celebrities are often “recreated” in deepfakes. That’s because plenty of public video clips and photos of them are available. Don’t assume a celebrity video is legitimate unless you can verify it came from an official source.
  • Don’t “act immediately.” Most scams involve an element of urgency. Claims that you can get rich quickly, but only if you act now, are a red flag. Never give in to pressure to invest, wire funds, or give up your personal information to receive a gift, money, or an investment opportunity.
  • Don’t believe everything you see on social media. Never make financial decisions based on viral videos on social media. Before investing in something or donating to a charity, do plenty of research to ensure you do so through a legitimate channel.

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