Artificial intelligence: China confronts the traffic in “stolen faces

The video call lasted just seven seconds. Enough, however, for Fang Yangyu to be convinced that the face and voice were indeed those of someone close to him. And for him to transfer 300,000 yuan (nearly 39,000 euros) to a bank account. 
 “In fact
, it was all fake,” says commissioner Zhang Zhenhua of the Shanghe public security bureau (a district of Shandong province in eastern China). “It was an AI scam, like we’ve been seeing a lot of lately”. 

The case took place on May 29: Fang Yangyu, who lives in Jinan, the capital of Shandong, was watching short videos at home, when he received a message from a stranger who introduced himself as a family member, and sent him his QQ ID (“Kioukiou”, named after one of China’s main messaging networks). No sooner had Fang Yangyu added the contact than he received a video call from what appeared to be one of his “cousins”. 

 Using poor network quality as an excuse, the caller hangs up after a few sentences. Their conversation continues in the chatroom: the “cousin” explains that he urgently needs to transfer a sum of money, but can’t do it directly. He would therefore first like to transfer the funds to Fang Yangyu’s account, so that the latter can then transfer them to a given bank card.  

  He sends her two screenshots showing that the money has been transferred to Fang Yangyu’s account, but she is surprised not to have received any notification from her bank. “It should arrive within twenty-four hours. In any case, bank receipts are authoritative,” assures his “cousin”, who is slowly turning up the heat. After repeated requests, Fang finally transfers the 300,000 yuan to the account indicated. 

Shortly afterwards, his interlocutor asked him to transfer another 350,000 yuan. Fang Yangyu is suspicious, remembering a message about scams. He phoned another member of his family (to verify the identity of this “cousin”) and eventually discovered the scam. 
 That same evening, he notified the police, who discovered that his bank card had been used in a jewelry store in Guangdong province. Local police arrested six suspects in the city of Dongguan, and discovered that the mastermind of the AI scam was based in northern Burma. The six individuals arrested in China, on the other hand, had organized themselves to launder money for crooks located abroad, dividing up the tasks between them. 

 In the age of AI, the human voice and face have become data that can be traded and become a source of profit.  

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