The Korea Herald


Korean woman loses W70m in Elon Musk deepfake scam

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : April 23, 2024 - 14:38

    • Link copied

(123rf) (123rf)

A Korean woman was persuaded to invest 70 million won ($50,770) after seeing a deepfake video of what appeared to be Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, according to local reports on Tuesday.

Jeong Ji-sun, whom KBS has agreed to refer to by a pseudonym, shared how she became a victim of a romance scam on KBS's "In-Depth 60 Minutes." On the April 19 episode, Jeong opened up about how she first started talking with the con artist, who claimed to be Musk.

“I experienced something like a dream last year. On July 17 last year, Musk added me as a friend on Instagram. Although I have been a huge fan of Musk after reading his autobiography, I doubted it at first.”

However, Jeong’s doubts did not last long.

“Musk sent me his ID card and a photo of him at work. In addition, Musk talked about his children and about taking a helicopter to work at Tesla or SpaceX. He also explained that he contacts fans randomly.”

When Jeong asked the scammer what it was like when he met President Yoon Suk Yeol in April of last year, he answered that "Yoon talked about ‘Let’s establish Gigafactories in Seoul and Jeju,'" according to Jeong.

“Musk even said ‘I love you, you know that?’ when we made a video call.” After seeing a video of what appeared to be Musk, Jeong came to believe that this man was Musk.

Afterward, the scammer gave a Korean bank account number, saying, “I'm happy when my fans are getting rich because of me."

He said the account was held by one of his Korean employees. She ended up depositing a total of 70 million won into his account, thinking that he would invest it for her.

This is a typical romance scam involving AI, according to the show.

The con artist she talked with used a skill of “pig butchering,” the producer explained. A pig butchering skill is a type of confidence trick and investment fraud in which the victim is gradually lured into making increasing contributions to a seemingly sound investment before the scammer disappears.

Total amounts lost to romance scams, also known as confidence scams, are on the rise in Korea -- from 370 million won in 2020 to 5.51 billion won in 2023.

However, Korean law lacks some provisions that can help prevent such crime, according to the show.

The show pointed out that many of the romance scams take the form of the victim making a payment via credit on fake websites set up by the criminal, which is not specified as a situation in which payment can be suspended under the Special Act on the Prevention of Loss Caused by Telecommunications-based Financial Fraud and Refund for Loss.

According to a recent study conducted at Seoul-based Korea University, in a total of 280 crimes categorized between January and June of 2022, 71.4 percent of the victims were women.