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How the Yahoo Boys Use Deepfakes to Trap Victims in Romance Scams; Over $650 Million Lost Till Now

The scammers are taking catfishing to a new level by pretending to be anyone they want, with all the little details like facial expressions and voice.
PUBLISHED APR 30, 2024
Cover Image Source: Deepfakes are being used in romance scams (representative image) | Photo by Artem Podrez | Pexels
Cover Image Source: Deepfakes are being used in romance scams (representative image) | Photo by Artem Podrez | Pexels

We are all aware of catfish scams—it's when someone tricks you into thinking they're in love with you online, but they turn out to be someone different in real life. Well, now there's a new called the Yahoo Boys scam. It's like catfishing but scarier because these scammers can even fake their faces! They use deepfake technology, making fake videos or audio recordings that look and sound exactly like real people. This means scammers can pretend to be anyone they want, with all the little details like facial expressions and voice. Deepfakes can be harmful because they're so hard to spot. They can spread fake news or even trick people into giving them money. So, it's important to be careful and know what signs to look for.

Image Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio |Pexels
Deepfakes are being used in romance scams (representative image) | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio |Pexels

The cybercriminals behind the Yahoo Boys scheme are mostly from Nigeria. They conduct romance frauds with the assistance of cutting-edge technologies. They begin by establishing a close relationship with their victims via video calls and chats. They employ techniques to perfectly replicate the person they have been pretending to be during these calls. Because looking at someone's face can feel like identification documentation, this increases the victim's level of trust in them. Eventually, the con artists fabricate tales to persuade the victims to send them money. Many have lost a great deal of money as a result of these frauds; the FBI reports that over $650 million has been lost.

The Yahoo Boys con artists use the following techniques to carry out their ruses:

Step 1: They utilize a computer and a phone or two phones. One device is used for video conversations with the victim and the other is used to execute specific software.

Step 2: They activate the second device's software. The software overlays a digital mask on the scammer's face, which is captured on video. This mask moves just like a genuine face, and it looks like the face of someone else.

Step 3: The con artist displays this phony visage on their screen during the video chat. Perceiving it via the camera, the victim believes it to be the true face of the con artist. They arrange everything so that the phony face appears consistent and clear.

Step 4: The con artist may alter their voice via technology to match the phony face. This lends even more credence to the fraud.

Knowing how these scams operate can enable you to recognize them and take precautions.

Image Source: Photo by Artem Podrez | Pexels
Deepfakes are being used in romance scams (representative image) | Photo by Artem Podrez | Pexels

Here's how to avoid deepfake schemes such as the Yahoo Boys scam.

1. Verify identities: In video conferences, request something unexpected such as the display of a written word on paper.

2. Exercise caution: Exercise caution if someone you only know online requests money or private information.

3. Modify privacy: To make it more difficult for scammers; share less private information on social media.

4. Use secure apps: Steer clear of less secure messaging apps and only use encrypted ones.

5. Learn about deepfakes: Keep up with fake technology so you can identify it.

6. Report anything strange: If you believe someone is attempting to con you, report them to the appropriate parties.

The threat of identity theft increases with the advancement of deepfake technology. Fraud is harder to spot since con artists can construct convincing fakes using stolen information. Identity theft protection services can help with that. They keep an eye on your personal information and notify you of any questionable conduct. Some even provide insurance and assistance if your data is stolen. This additional security layer helps prevent fraudsters such as the Yahoo Boys.

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