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Deep fake AI leads Montreal woman to lose $25,000 in crypto scam

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A Montreal woman says she lost close to $25,000 on a fake crypto trading platform she thought was developed by Elon Musk, highlighting the dangers of online scams, which are becoming more and more sophisticated.

For a little over a month, the woman (whose identity is being withheld) thought she was trading cryptocurrencies on a legitimate platform.

"I was on Facebook and a video of Elon Musk came on. He was talking for about five to 10 minutes about a new trading platform, a new trading software he had developed," she said.

"Why did I build it? No other reason than, so that, that people can change their financial situation and make their dreams come true?" says Musk in the video, which looked convincing to the woman and even had a CBC News icon in the top left corner.

The woman said she was in a desperate financial situation, so she clicked the link and was immediately called by a broker working with a trading platform.

She was set up with an account and started investing.

"I could see profit growing and I was enjoying the process," she said. "I just started creating spreadsheets. It's embarrassing now because it's fake."

After investing close to $25,000, she eventually started to get suspicious and decided to pull her money out.

"I said I want out, I just want my money. I want to close the account," she said.

When trying to pull her money out, she said the company started giving her the runaround, demanding hefty fees and security deposits for the withdrawal of her funds.

She ended up sending the company another $3,000 before finally realizing she was never getting her money back.

"I tried desperately to hang on to any hope of goodness and humanity," she said. "When I approached these people, they knew that I was not in a good financial place. They knew very personal things about me.

"We spoke on a personal basis to, so to reach the end of this process where, you've confided in someone where you've trusted them with, the last of your funds in hopes to be in a better place.

"It's hard. It's not just a financial hit. It's an emotional hit ."

Last year, Canadians reported losing over $314 million to investment fraud, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) said that's likely just the tip of the iceberg.

"We estimate that only five to 10 per cent of victims report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre," said CAFC planning communications outreach officer Jeff Horncastle, who added that the majority of reports are related to crypto.

"These platforms look very realistic, very legitimate looking, but unfortunately, a lot of times months down the line, the victim will realize they have been scammed when it comes time to task to withdraw the funds," he said.

Bell Media tech analyst Carmi Levy said the Musk video promoting the trading platform has been circulating online for months and is an AI-generated deep fake.

"We have to stop assuming that just because we've seen a video online that it is, in fact, legitimate," he said. "We have to disbelieve it to start with and have it prove to us that, in fact, we should believe."

Legitimate trading platforms will always be registered with your provincial securities commission. It is also recommended to verify the URLs on the emails you're receiving to make sure you're not being defrauded.

"Just always take as much time as you can," said Horncastle.

The extra time could save you tens of thousands of dollars.  

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