Deepfake danger: Beware of these Musk and Ramaphosa scams

Deepfake scams using the likeness of prominent figures like Elon Musk and Cyril Ramaphosa are doing the rounds in SA.

In a concerning surge of online scams, fraudsters are leveraging the identities of influential South African figures, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and President Cyril Ramaphosa. The scams employ sophisticated techniques, including deep-fake videos, to deceive individuals and pilfer money or personal information.

Speaking to News24, Jean le Roux, a research associate at the Digital Forensic Research Lab, highlighted “the double-edged sword scammers face when using the likeness of well-known personalities”.

While leveraging prominent figures adds credibility to their schemes, it also raises the difficulty of making these scams believable.

However, scammers are playing a numbers game, relying on even a small percentage of individuals falling victim to make the endeavor profitable.

Elon Musk deepfake scams

Le Roux is currently investigating scams related to South African-billionaire and tech mogul Elon Musk.

  • One particularly advanced deepfake scam involves a fabricated SABC broadcast featuring Musk endorsing an investment scheme.

The video claims a modest investment of R4 700 can yield R30 000 monthly, attributing the returns to a groundbreaking “software” supposedly developed by Musk himself.

The deepfake video showcases Musk’s likeness, with AI-generated audio mimicking his tone and accent.

  • Another scam involving X (formerly Twitter) accounts with verified badges promotes a fake cryptocurrency, “X token,” using Musk’s image to enhance its credibility and reach.

READ ALSO: Single and widowed women warned of fraudsters targeting their hearts and wallets

Ramaphosa also exploited

Musk is not the sole target of these online scams however. President Cyril Ramaphosa is also frequently exploited.

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies recently issued a warning about a scam promising free airtime from the president.

The accompanying link, however, is infected with malware, underscoring the potential dangers associated with these fraudulent schemes.

Earlier this year, South Africans were warned that scammers are employing deceptive tactics to trap unsuspecting residents by disguising their malicious activities as job opportunities while fraudulently using the name of Ramaphosa.

READ ALSO: Scammers now using Ramaphosa’s name to exploit victims

The Presidency ssued a stern warning regarding these scam messages, cautioning citizens that Ramaphosa does not solicit funds, endorse payments, or facilitate contracts between third parties through various communication channels such as websites, advertisements, social media, emails, letters, texts or phone conversations.

Tips to side-step scams

As these scams continue to evolve in sophistication, individuals are urged to exercise caution and follow essential cybersecurity practices.

Verifying the legitimacy of unsolicited communications, being skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true, and checking for official verification on social media accounts are crucial steps in safeguarding against online fraud.

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