A deepfake video posted to Twitter over the weekend shows the face and approximate voice of disgraced FTX founder and former CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried—offering assurance in the form of a crypto giveaway (i.e. a phishing scam).
“Hello everyone. As you know our eftex [sic] exchange is going bankrupt. But I hasten to inform all users that you should not panic. As compensation for the loss, we have prepared a giveaway for you, in which you can double your cryptocurrency. To do this, just go to the site ftxcompensation.com,” says the uncanny valley SBF-esque creation. Note: Gizmodo advises that you do not do this. In fact, Gizmodo advises that you neither listen to the actual Bankman-Fried, nor any imitation versions.
Bankman-Fried is the crypto-verse’s most recent fallen founder. He was once hailed by venture capitalists and some media outlets as a young visionary, as he touted “effective altruism” and talked about using the blockchain to make the world better. But over the course of a week earlier this month, his entire exchange platform fell apart and its native token FTT plummeted to zero. FTX filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and SBF openly admitted to using some creative (likely illegal) accounting methods to prop up both FTX and the closely linked firm, Alameda Research. Now Bankman-Fried seems to be hiding out in the Bahamas, while the island country argues with U.S. regulators about the best course of action.
The deepfake video, is a brazen attempt to scam those who have already been swindled by FTX and SBF. It was first reported on by Vice News and was initially posted from the now-suspended Twitter account @S4GE_ETH. But before the account was barred from the platform, it went by the name “SBF,” had a verified blue checkmark, and an image of Bankman-Fried as its avatar.
Using manipulated footage originally from a Bloomberg Markets and Finance interview, the video’s creator did their best to lure potential marks to a website, where FTX’s logo and a picture of Bankman-Fried loom large. In a classic giveaway scam format, the site encourages visitors to enter a contest for crypto cash by connecting to their crypto wallet through the portal, and sending some amount of funds—under the promise that your cryptocurrency will be sent back, doubled. Spoiler alert: it won’t. Though, the scam site goes the extra mile, attempting to instill confidence in its legitimacy with a ticker-esque display, showing fake completed transactions.
It may seem obvious that the video and accompanying site are a grift. After all, deepfake SBF mispronounces the name of his own collapsed crypto exchange and the website contains multiple typos. But many FTX investors who lost large sums of money in the platform’s implosion are likely desperate and seeking quick-fixes for their financial losses. And lots of people (including Tom Brady) got taken in by the real SBF, so it doesn’t seem impossible that a few could also be duped by the deepfake version.
Though the Bitcoin address at ftxcompensation.com doesn’t hold any tokens, according to Vice, the outlet pointed out that the Etherium address does currently have more than $1,000 in ETH.
The incident simultaneously highlights the dangers of cryptocurrency, Twitter’s floundering moderation and verification systems, and increasingly passable deepfakes. The digital world can be rife with traps—no matter what the digital SBF puppet tells you, don’t get caught in one.