Tech and Science

Ontario man loses $12,000 in deepfake scam involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

A Toronto man loses $12,000 after falling victim to a fake cryptocurrency scam apparently involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Justin Trudeau supported it, so I thought, ‘Well, that must be good,'” said Stephen Henry of Toronto.

Last November, Henry said he saw a YouTube video in which it appeared the prime minister was recommending a cryptocurrency exchange.

In the video, manipulated through AI and voice cloning, Trudeau appears to say: “We have developed an investment platform that we believe can help every Canadian secure their financial future, even in times of inflation.”

Because of the video, Henry decided to invest.

“I thought, ‘It has to be legit, it has to be perfect. If not, how could one get the Prime Minister?’ So I thought, ‘It has to be official,'” Henry said.

Henry contacted the website recommended in the YouTube video and was then advised to start investing $250.

When it became apparent that his investments would increase, he was advised to continue depositing more money and it appeared his account had grown to over $40,000. But Henry couldn’t withdraw the money and it turned out he was scammed out of $12,000.

“When I tried to get something back, it was the hardest process in the world,” Henry said.

Prime Minister’s Office Press Secretary Jenna Ghassbeh confirmed to CTV News Toronto that the PMO has seen “how malicious accounts and users can spread falsehoods.”

“The amount of fraudulent, fake and misleading information and accounts targeting elected officials is increasingly concerning and unacceptable, especially in an era of deepfake technology,” Ghassbeh said.

A survey by cybersecurity company Okta, which focuses on identity management and breach prevention, found that 75 per cent of Canadians fear their identity could be stolen due to advances in AI, and only 20 per cent are confident about attempts to do so AI that can detect their identity compromise information.

Okta country manager Dan Kagan said people need to do more to educate themselves about AI and cybersecurity.

“If you’re not up to date on this cyber intelligence and you’re going about your everyday life and you’re not aware of what’s going on behind the scenes or, as I say, behind the screens, you need to do more to protect your data “Safe and secure,” Kagan said. “I think AI is here to stay and will become more complex, which is why we as Canadians need to make sure that what we put on the internet is fundamentally secure.”

Henry was shocked to find out the videos had been manipulated using artificial intelligence, saying: “So you’re saying this is all AI? All I can say is, ‘Wow.'”

The $12,000 he used came from his savings, which he put aside in hopes of finding a better place to live.

“Now I have no chance of ever having a life. That was all the money I had,” Henry said.

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