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Deep Fakes
The Computer Corner

February 11, 2024

by Charles Miller

If the comedic legend Chico Marx were still alive today he would be 137 years old, and he would have lived to see one of his most memorable laugh lines proven to be prescient. In the 1933 movie "Duck Soup" he famously asked "Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" Ask yourself the same question after reading this column.

The word "deepfake" is a portmanteau of "deep learning" and "fake" and refers to audio and/or video media that have been digitally manipulated to replace one person's likeness with that of another; often convincingly so. When you are done reading this article click this link to see the Youtube video "You Won't Believe What Obama Says in this Video." It is a chilling example of a deepfake; and the technology has only improved since that deepfake video was made five years ago. There are many more such as Bernie Sanders doing impossible dance moves and a remake of the 1980 movie "The Shining" with Jack Nicholson's replaced by Jim Carrey. That last one is creepy to watch on several levels. Another worth watching is a fake Morgan Freeman explaining "the era of synthetic reality."

Deepfakes have already been used to create child pornographic videos, fake news stories, blackmail, and financial fraud. The criminal element has found it very effective to impersonate well-known personalities including Elon Musk, Taylor Swift, Tom Hanks, Michael Saylor and others. A recent Bitcoin scam using a deepfake Michael Saylor was incredibly productive with one victim losing more than one million dollars. Saylor was quoted as saying more than 400 scams using his likeness were launched on YouTube in a single week. He went on to say he and his staff were reporting the scam videos every 15 minutes, they are taken down, but the scammers just launch more scam videos. The criminals are relentless.

Today's technology makes it possible to do some of this deepfake creation in real-time. Imagine receiving ransom note saying a child or spouse has been kidnapped, and then comes a short phone call from a computer sounding exactly like your loved one pleading for you to pay the ransom. Under great emotional pressure you could even have a short conversation with the computer and come away completely fooled.

The company Whale Alert tracks online scams and attempts to estimate the amounts of money stolen by each. They track thousands of fraudulent web sites, unfortunately only after the fact. The company warns that cybercriminals are finding it easier to swindle people out of their money because their schemes have become unbelievably professional and aggressive. A rough estimate is that almost a billion dollars has been lost to the scams they have tracked. "Why not?" ask the crooks. This scam business is almost risk-free as perpetrators operating out of third-world countries have an extremely low chance of getting caught and an even lower chance of ever being prosecuted. The best cure for all of this is prevention, so stay constantly vigilant!

Please note; the quote mentioned in the first paragraph of this column is often erroneously attributed to Groucho Marx. It was actually spoken by his brother Chico, who was playing a character impersonating another character played by Groucho. That last sentence would make more sense if you would watch the movie for yourself, but "who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with decades of IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico. The opinions expressed are his own. He may be contacted at 415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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