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Binance exec says scammers made a 'deep fake hologram' of him to fool victims

That wasn't actually me on a Zoom call, it was a malicious AI clone built from TV interviews, claims PR

A Binance PR exec says crooks created a deep-fake "AI hologram" of him to scam cryptocurrency projects via Zoom video calls.

Over the past month, Patrick Hillmann, chief communications officer at the crypto hyper-mart, said he received messages from project teams thanking him for meeting them virtually to discuss listing their digital assets on Binance. This raised some red flags because Hillmann isn't involved in the exchange's listings nor did he know the people messaging him.

"It turns out that a sophisticated hacking team used previous news interviews and TV appearances over the years to create a 'deep fake' of me," Hillmann said. "Other than the 15 pounds that I gained during COVID being noticeably absent, this deep fake was refined enough to fool several highly intelligent crypto community members."

In his write-up this week, Hillmann posted a screenshot of a project manager asking him to confirm that it was, in fact, him on a Zoom call. "That wasn't me," he replied.

The hologram is just the latest incident of cybercriminals spoofing Binance employees and executives on Twitter, LinkedIn, Telegram, and other platforms, according to Hillmann.

And, of course, Binance isn't the only crypto firm in these crooks' crosshairs. As more and more netizens try out tokens, for good and bad, these scams become more profitable for criminals.

By at least one account, cryptocurrency-based crime hit an all-time high last year, with illicit addresses receiving $14 billion, representing a 79 percent increase compared to 2020. 

The Binance platform has its own security tools, such as Binance Verify, to confirm whether messages and the like from employees and executives are the real deal. Although, as Hillmann noted, this can be spoofed by a scammer hiding behind the identity of a real Binance employee.

Additionally, scammers increasingly use fake profiles on LinkedIn and other social media sites to message their marks — in this case, using the promise of listings to engage and build relationships with their targets.

It's basically a new twist on the old Nigerian prince scam: pay a small amount of money upfront and then get the keys to the kingdom after sending the "prince" your account info. 

"In this case, the equivalent of the large sum of money is having a token listed on," Hillmann warned. "But to get there, the projects are asked to pay some money first. Same trick, different wording." 

Legitimate crypto businesses won't ask users to send over their personal info or password, or ask them to transfer coins to "secure wallets" to avoid losing their funds. These types of urgent emails are likely scams, he said.

"Whether you're a Binance user or a blockchain startup founder, vigilance is the most powerful weapon," Hillmann wrote. "Criminals don't need advanced technical skills to steal your funds — all it takes is making you believe them." ®

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