A deepfake of deposed FTX boss Sam Bankman-Fried has been circulating on Twitter. The video promised that victims of the crypto platform’s bankruptcy could receive money in compensation.
“As you know, our FTX exchange has gone bankrupt. In the video, it is an almost playful Sam Bankman-Fried that we can see. The former boss of FTX, who is nevertheless at the heart of the scandal and whom many accuse of having precipitated the bankruptcy, continues by telling ” all users ” that they should “not panic”. “To compensate for the losses, we have prepared gifts, and you can double your cryptocurrencies,” he says.
The video, although realistic, is however not true: it is a deepfake. Spotted by Vice on November 21, 2022, the video was shared on Twitter for at least a few hours before being deleted, and it highlights the dangers facing users of the social network.
A classic crypto scam
Deepfakes are increasingly popular to mislead internet users. These are videos generated by artificial intelligence and reproducing the appearance of a personality, and sometimes their voice. These videos are mostly used for nefarious purposes: influence operations, such as the Ukrainian president’s deepfake calling on his troops to lay down their arms; or to create pornographic content from the faces of certain women.
In the case of the Sam Bankman-Fried video, the goal was to scam people and extract their money. The video linked to the site “ftxcompensation.com”, which has since been taken offline. According to Vice, who first spotted the deepfake and was able to visit the site, the latter promised visitors to double their stake in crypto.
The fake site where the deepfake led. // Source: Vice
The site’s homepage, which prominently displayed the FTX logo and a portrait of Sam Bankman-Fried, stated that he could pay out up to ” $100,000,000” in crypto. For this, users had to send the amount they wanted to a crypto address, and ” once the sum was received “, the site promised to “return double the transaction“. This is a very common crypto scam: once the money is sent to the address, users cannot get a refund, and of course, they never receive what they were promised.
Also according to Vice, which was also able to inspect the address listed on the site, the equivalent of $1,000 had been received in Ether, the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain. It would therefore seem that the scam had already claimed one or more victims before being removed.
The FTX scheme worked thanks to Twitter
The success of the scam is largely attributable to Twitter: the account that shared the deepfake video had been certified by paying a subscription to Twitter Blue. Thanks to the verification badge conferred by the subscription, the scammer had been able to impersonate Sam Bankman-Fried and was using the same Twitter profile photo as the real founder.
This is one of the main problems caused by Elon Musk’s new Twitter: since November 9, paying Twitter subscribers automatically receive a certification badge, without having to verify their identity. What used to be proof of authenticity is now being hijacked by pranksters, some of whom have caused companies to lose a lot of money. But that’s not all: the subscription also gives the right to better visibility: tweets and replies are put forward more, and therefore appear more in the feeds of Twitter users. For scammers, this is the perfect cocktail to ensure the success of their scam.
Between the technology of deepfakes and the certification available to everyone on Twitter, it is extremely likely that scams of this type will multiply: the video of Sam Bankman-Fried is surely only the first of a long list of scams using this technique.
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