• Almost nine out of 10 deepfakes involve cryptocurrencies, research shows.
  • ‘The video is not real!’ said Lee Hsein Loong.
  • Law enforcement authorities are scrambling to curb deepfakes.

Lee Hsein Loong might have ended his 20-year tenure as prime minister of Singapore in May, but he is not pivoting to promoting crypto.

Investors may have thought otherwise last week when an ad popped up on social media featuring videos of Lee hawking crypto investments with guaranteed returns for an outfit called Quantum AI.

Lee said the videos were deepfakes that layered bogus audio over video of a speech he made earlier this year.

“This is extremely worrying: people watching the video may be fooled into thinking that I really said those words,” Lee said in a Facebook post on June 2. “The video is not real!”

10-fold surge

The episode punctuates mounting concerns the cryptocurrency sector is vulnerable to fraud powered by artificial intelligence and deepfakes.

A whopping 88% of deepfake cases occurred in the cryptocurrency industry in 2023, according to a report from Sumsub, a verification company.

Global deepfake incidents surged 10-fold between 2022 and 2023, with North America and the Asia-Pacific region topping the list.

Scammers often use public figures such as Elon Musk or Taiwan’s former president Tsai Ying-wen to promote dodgy investments.

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Lee has long been a target for fake cryptocurrency scams.

In 2022, the Singapore police warned against a rise in fake articles suggesting Lee endorsed investments in cryptocurrencies. The articles were used as clickbait to lure people to investment platforms.

Third time

It’s the third time in the past year Lee has put out a warning against scammers impersonating him. The problem is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate real from fake.

“AI and deepfake technology are becoming better by the day,” Lee said.

Even as China and South Korea try to ban deepfakes, law enforcement authorities are scrambling to develop and deploy technology to identify them.

The group using Lee’s image, Quantum AI, also impersonated Musk earlier this year to imply that he is involved in the project.

Hong Kong alert

Last month, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission, issued an alert against the platform. Quantum AI could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Lee urges investors to use caution as deepfakes proliferate. “Please remember, if something sounds too good to be true, do proceed with caution,” Lee said.

“If you see or receive scam ads of me or any other Singapore public office holder promoting an investment product, please do not believe them.”

Callan Quinn is DL News’ Hong Kong-based Asia Correspondent. Get in touch at callan@dlnews.com.

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