Chinese authorities have reported that a scammer utilised artificial intelligence (AI) to convince a businessman to part with millions of yuan by pretending to be his trusted friend.
Last month, the victim, who goes by Guo, had a video contact from someone who appeared and sounded familiar.
According to an article posted on Monday by a media portal connected to the government in the southern city of Fuzhou, the caller was actually a con artist who “used smart AI technology to change their face” and voice.
The scammer was “masquerading as (Guo’s) good friend and perpetrating fraud”, the article said.
Guo was persuaded to transfer 4.3 million yuan ($609,000) after the fraudster claimed another friend needed the money to come from a company bank account to pay the guarantee on a public tender.
The con artist asked for Guo’s personal bank account number and then claimed an equivalent sum had been wired to that account, sending him a screenshot of a fraudulent payment record.
Without checking that he had received the money, Guo sent two payments from his company account totalling the amount requested.
“At the time, I verified the face and voice of the person video-calling me, so I let down my guard,” the article quoted Guo as saying.
He only realised his mistake after messaging the friend whose identity had been stolen, who had no knowledge of the transaction.
Guo alerted police, who notified a bank in another city not to proceed with the transfers, and he managed to recover 3.4 million yuan, the article said.
It added that efforts to claw back the remaining funds were ongoing but it did not identify the perpetrators of the scheme.
The potential pitfalls of groundbreaking AI technology have received heightened attention since US-based company OpenAI in November launched ChatGPT, a chatbot that mimics human speech.
China has announced ambitious plans to become a global AI leader by 2030, and a slew of tech firms including Alibaba, JD.com, NetEase and TikTok parent ByteDance have rushed to develop similar products.
ChatGPT is unavailable in China, but the American software is acquiring a base of Chinese users who use virtual private networks to gain access to it for writing essays and cramming for exams.