JAN 2, 2024
Singapore Prime Minister issues warning on AI-generated crypto scam
In a recent announcement on Facebook, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has raised alarm bells about a new form of cyber scam that exploits deep-fake technology.
The Prime Minister highlighted the emergence of deceptive videos utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to create false portrayals of him endorsing cryptocurrency scams. This development underscores the escalating sophistication of online scams and the deployment of advanced technology to mislead the public.
Deep-fake technology has emerged as a powerful tool for scammers, enabling them to manipulate genuine footage to produce highly convincing yet entirely fabricated content. In the latest incident, a deep-fake video features Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong endorsing a nonexistent crypto investment platform purportedly associated with entrepreneur Elon Musk. This video, a manipulated version of an interview on CGTN, showcases the concerning level of realism achievable with deep-fake technology.
The incident emphasizes the growing trend of utilizing AI in perpetrating scams. Prime Minister Lee underscored the deceptive nature of these videos, articulating the potential damage they could inflict by leading unsuspecting individuals to invest in fraudulent schemes. The Singaporean government maintains a vigilant stance on such scams, consistently urging citizens to exercise caution and verify information from official sources.
The exploitation of public figures in financial scams is not a new phenomenon. Prime Minister Lee has been a recurrent target of such scams, dating back to 2018. At that time, the government issued public warnings about Bitcoin investment scams falsely claiming the Prime Minister’s endorsement. More recently, in July, another fake video featuring Lee Hsien Loong surfaced, prompting renewed public warnings.
In 2021, the Prime Minister’s name and photograph were used without his consent in an effort to sell cryptocurrency. The data was taken from his X (formerly Twitter) profile. At the time, Lee wrote:“The site’s creators are anonymous, but I have sent an open tweet out to ask that my name and photo be removed from the site immediately, as I have nothing to do with the platform. I urge everyone to remain vigilant when dealing with cryptocurrency platforms.”
That was a much less sophisticated identity-related scam. More often than not, scammers and fraudsters tend to be early adopters of technology. That’s proving to be the case with the use of deep-fakes in this instance.
A need for caution
As he did in 2021, Prime Minister Lee has urged the public to exercise caution in light of this more recent incident. He advises against responding to scams promising guaranteed investment returns or giveaways.
There’s every sign that the Prime Minister’s warning is warranted. In September it emerged that six Singaporeans lost more than $100,000 when a scammer tricked them into buying tokens on a cryptocurrency trading platform. More recently, five Americans were conned out of $10 million in a scam that involved a spoofed domain of the former Singapore International Monetary Exchange (Simex).
This call for public vigilance is part of a broader government effort to address the surge in cyber fraud. These repeated incidents underscore the challenges posed by digital technologies in spreading misinformation and financial fraud.