The FBI has issued a public service announcement warning about sextortion scams that utilize ‘deepfakes’. The agency has observed an increase in the number of victims reporting sextortion cases since April of this year.
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The FBI is warning the public that criminals are taking social media photos and videos to create deepfakes in sextortion schemes.
The agency issued the warning in a public service announcement on June 6, drawing attention to how malicious actors take advantage of image and video editing tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to create deepfakes, which are fake media created from otherwise benign content.
“The FBI continues to receive reports from victims, including minor children and non-consenting adults, whose photos or videos were altered into explicit content,” the agency said in the alert. “The photos or videos are then publicly circulated on social media or pornographic websites, for the purpose of harassing victims or sextortion schemes.”
The agency noted that it has observed an increase in the number of victims reporting sextortion as of April this year, with fake media being created using “content posted on their social media sites or web postings, provided to the malicious actor upon request, or captured during video chats.”
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Typically, malicious actors have two different demands, according to the FBI. They either want victims to provide money or gift cards in exchange for not sharing the fake images or photos with their family members or social media friends, or have victims provide real sexually-themed images or videos of themselves.
As a result, the FBI urges the public to “exercise caution” when posting photos and videos of themselves online, including social media and dating apps.
“Although seemingly innocuous when posted or shared, the images and videos can provide malicious actors an abundant supply of content to exploit for criminal activity,” the agency said.
“Advancements in content creation technology and accessible personal images online present new opportunities for malicious actors to find and target victims,” the agency added. “This leaves them vulnerable to embarrassment, harassment, extortion, financial loss, or continued long-term re-victimization.”
The FBI shared a list of recommendations, including asking parents to monitor their children’s online activities and run frequent online searches of their children’s information to know what is publicly available.
“Consider using reverse image search engines to locate any photos or videos that have circulated on the internet without your knowledge,” a recommendation says.
Other recommendations include implementing privacy settings on social media accounts, and exercising caution when accepting friend requests and engaging in video chats.
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