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Ontario man loses $12K to deepfake scam involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

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A Toronto man is out $12,000 after falling victim to a deepfake cryptocurrency scam that appeared to involve Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"It had Justin Trudeau endorsing it, so I thought, ‘Well this has to be good,’” said Stephen Henry of Toronto.

Last November, Henry said he saw a YouTube video where it appeared the prime minister was recommending a cryptocurrency exchange.

In the video, manipulated by AI and voice cloning, Trudeau appears to say, “We have developed an investment platform that we believe can help every Canadian safeguard their financial future even during periods of inflation.”

Based on the video, Henry decided to invest.

"I thought, 'It's got to be legitimate, it's got to be perfect. If not, how could you get the prime minister?' So I thought, 'It’s got to be official,'" said Henry.

Henry contacted the website recommended in the YouTube video and was subsequently advised to start investing with $250.

When it seemed his investments were going up, he was advised to keep putting in more money, and it appeared his account had grown to over $40,000. But Henry couldn’t take the money out, and it turned out he was scammed out of $12,000.

“When I tried to get something back, it's the hardest process in the world," said Henry.

Press Secretary for the Prime Minister’s Office Jenna Ghassbeh confirmed to CTV News Toronto that the PMO has seen “how malicious accounts and users can proliferate falsehoods.”

“The amount of deceptive, fake and misleading information and accounts targeting elected officials is increasingly concerning and unacceptable, particularly in an era with deepfake technology,” Ghassbeh said.

A survey by cybersecurity company Okta, which focuses on identity management and avoiding security breaches, found that 75 per cent of Canadians fear their identity could be stolen due to advancements in AI and only 20 per cent are confident they can recognize AI attempts to compromise their information.

Country manager for Okta Dan Kagan said people need to do more to educate themselves on AI and cybersecurity.

"If you're not up on this cyber intelligence and you go about your day, and you’re aloof as to what's going on behind the scene, or as I say behind the screens, then you need to do more to keep your data safe and secure,” said Kagan. “I think AI is here to stay and it's going to be more complex, which is why we as Canadians need to make sure we are fundamentally secure about what we are putting on the internet."

Henry was shocked to find out the videos were doctored using artificial intelligence and said, “So you're saying all of that was AI? All I can say is, 'Wow.'”

The $12,000 he used came out of his savings, which he set aside in hopes of finding a better place to live.

"Now, I’m ripped off of all my chances of ever making a life. That was all the money I had,” said Henry. 

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