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After DeepFakes, the ‘Shallow Fake’ Scam Is Targeting Social Media Users; How to Stay Safe

"It's really sad that someone would stoop to this level to scam people," said Patterson, a victim of the 'shallow fake' scam.
Cover Image Source: 'Shallow fake' scams are targeting social media users (representative image) | Photo by Alex Green | Pexels
Cover Image Source: 'Shallow fake' scams are targeting social media users (representative image) | Photo by Alex Green | Pexels

Scammers are getting craftier with their schemes—the "shallow fake." You may be familiar with deepfake, in which actors utilize advanced computer techniques to create phony footage of celebrities. However, a new scam has emerged: the "shallow fake." Scammers are impersonating others in their videos this time. Leonard Patterson, an Indianapolis resident, is one individual who became entangled in this issue.

Image Source: Photo by Tim Gouw | pexels
'Shallow fake' scams on the rise (representative image) | Photo by Tim Gouw | pexels

"It's really sad that someone would stoop to this level to scam people," said Patterson. Patterson relies on Facebook to stay connected with friends and family to help his businesses grow. “I primarily use it to promote the band that I’m in,” said Patterson. Patterson's band, Living Proof, is pretty popular—they perform all over the state.

During one show, Patterson was juggling several things and got a message from a friend. Without thinking, he clicked on a link he shouldn't have, and that's when things went south. A hacker got into Patterson's Facebook account, which had 5,000 followers. "The hacker messaged me right away, trying to get money out of me," Patterson explained. "They said I had to pay $500." Patterson refused, so the scammer got sneaky and started posting about selling Taylor Swift tickets using Patterson's account.

Patterson's friend Jeff Vest came up with a scheme to bring down the imposter Leonard Patterson, per WRTV. Patterson's face showed up when he started a FaceTime conversation but there was no audio, making it obvious that it was a "shallow fake" with a muted video playing. Vest saw the pause button when the video cut to black, indicating that it was being recorded. Vest saw through the hacker's attempts to fabricate an explanation for the lack of audio. When WRTV Investigates reached out to the Identity Theft Resource Center about this scam, the CEO Eva Velasquez confirmed they'd come across it. "We've seen it," she said. "It's a low-budget fake because it doesn't cost much to pull off."

Image Source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels
Impersonation scams are on the rise (representative image) | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels

Scammers are aware of our need for reassurance that communications from our Facebook friends are authentic, as Velasquez pointed out. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that in 2023, social media account takeovers surpassed both checking accounts (21%) and credit card accounts (17%) in terms of reported account takeovers. In a staggering 96% of these cases, Facebook or Instagram were implicated. After bank accounts (25%) and credit cards (16%), social media account takeovers fell to the third most reported category in 2024 (89% involving Facebook or Instagram).

This shows an increase of 2 percentage points over the year prior. To highlight the gravity of the situation, Velasquez said, "It is a terrible problem without good solutions once it happens." The Identity Theft Resource Center urges Meta to take better action, including enhancing customer service by providing human support.

"Be careful," warned Leonard Patterson. "Watch what you click on." Despite Patterson's many reports to Meta, his page is still compromised. He made a new Facebook page to inform his friends and family about the hack. As the hacker keeps using fake videos, Patterson is still trying to reach out to Meta and even the FBI for help.

Leonard Patterson attempted to reach out to Facebook for assistance. When he tried to call the number he had located, it was revealed to be a scam. Patterson began to worry about the potential number of victims of this kind of hacking. Although the number of victims of these hacks is unknown, it is quite high. According to Eva Velasquez, an internet number does not always imply that it is legitimate. Meta and Facebook don't offer phone help.

Numerous phony Facebook support phone numbers were discovered by WRTV's Kara Kenney. The person she spoke with on the phone said they were from Facebook, but they refused to provide her with an email to verify. They even attempted to download a program into Kenney's computer, a tactic used by con artists to steal personal info.

Image Source: Alex Green | Pexels
Social media scams on the rise (representative image) | Alex Green | Pexels

1. Use different passwords for each account.

2. Avoid using the same password again and again.

3. Turn on extra security like two-step verification.

4. If your account gets hacked, make a new Facebook page to tell your friends and family.

5. Follow the steps Facebook gives you to get your account back.

6. Don't try to call Facebook or make deals with hackers.

7. If a message from a friend seems strange, talk to them on the phone or in person instead of on the platform.

8. If your "friend" won't talk to you outside of the platform, be cautious.

9. Be careful with messages and videos, they could be fake.