• BEWARE: Criminals creating fake websites with fake people to target victims online

    By: Tom Regan

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - The power of artificial intelligence is more than a convenience, it helps humans lead better lives. But criminals may try to use it to con you out of cash, and it could threaten our democracy. 

    A Channel 2 Action News investigation discovered the bait that digital criminals cast to catch victims is often a big job offer. Scam artists are using artificial intelligence to create real looking job websites, and photos and videos of people who don't exist. That so-called deep fake technology’s goal is to steal your money and personal information. 

    A Georgia man thought he was applying for a job, but it was a believable cyberspoof. 

    "I know people are going to fall for this because it looked so amazingly real,” explained corporate trainer John McDowell. 

    He posted his resume on Indeed.com looking for a job. A Japanese company contacted him and said it had expansion plans for the U.S. 

    “They used a real company’s website,” McDowell said. “It looked real. They were very professional.”

    They offered him the job, but he first needed to install some software on his computer and spend money. That is when McDowell knew he was being scammed.

    “I guarantee this guy was in Nigeria, putting on a fake Japanese accent," McDowell said. 


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    Threat researcher Willis McDonald said sites like the one McDowell saw are easy to set up.

    To show how easy it was, McDonald made a website for a fake company that claimed to make autonomous systems for cargo planes to show how easy the con is. The website showed a real address, a real chat feature.

    You can even see photos of the team behind the company. But the names are fake, and the photos of the team are digital creations of people who don’t exist.

    “If I wanted to use this site for malicious purposes, it would probably take two to three hours to set this thing up and around $20,” McDonald said. 

    The fake photos for McDonald’s website were created by another website called ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com

    That website’s creator, Philip Wang said those images of nonexistent people even fool him. He used a powerful AI program created by tech company Nvidia to spawn a new face and a new person every second. The creations are basically a mashup of pictures online.

    “What you see here is 70,000 public domain pictures from the Flicker[.com] data set," Wang explained. “It's quite possible you're in there someplace."

    A Channel 2 Action News editor tested the ease of creating a fake person with components of actual human images. He mashed up video of three Channel 2 employees to make a pretty convincing fake. 

    Filmmaker and comedian Jordan Peele created a digital fake of former President Barack Obama to make the point that online impersonators could threaten democracy. 

    “This is a dangerous time, moving forward we must be much more vigilant of what we trust from the internet," the digital Obama impersonator warned. 

    McDonald and other cybersleuths said deep fake video and photo counterfeiting could have a profound impact on elections, foreign relations and our economy.

    “Influence the stock market, influence decision makers, do certain things they wouldn't if this fake video hadn't popped up," McDonald said. 

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