Scams that appropriate the likenesses of well-known South Africans have taken a turn, as “deepfakes” featuring SABC news anchor Francis Herd are running as advertisements on Facebook and YouTube.
One of the videos on YouTube opens with Herd’s deepfake saying, “Elon Musk’s project has scared government and big banks. He has come up with a secret investment that has made hundreds of people very rich.”
The video uses the SABC News branding and, in overlay text at the bottom of the screen, states: “Everyone who invests R4700 can earn R300,000 per month”. (Inconsistencies in number formats quoted verbatim.)
It was uploaded on Friday, 3 November 2023, and had amassed 100,000 views by Tuesday afternoon. A similar video is being used in advertisements on Facebook.
Those familiar with Herd’s voice will immediately recognise that it is not her speaking.
However, a casual news viewer watching on a smaller screen or window could miss the details that reveal the deception.
Following the brief introduction from Herd’s AI-generated doppelganger, the video switches to a deepfake Elon Musk, who appears to be announcing “powerful, world-first investment software” to a room full of people.
The deepfake claims you can make R30,000 on day one — or even much more.
These outlandish claims of a 538% daily return and 6283% monthly yield are a dead giveaway that this is a scam.
No one can promise returns like this — not even Elon Musk.
Fake-Musk goes on to claim that Nicky Oppenheimer and Johann Rupert have already invested in the project.
This is the second red flag. If someone tries to hard-sell you on a scheme and claims famous people have bought into it, end the conversation and verify it independently.
There are other telltale signs throughout the video that it is a fake, including mismatched lettering in the lower third, clear signs of poor editing in the overlay text, and the deepfakes’ mouth movements not matching their speech.
Herd has also confirmed on Twitter that the videos are fakes and asked people to report them wherever they can.
The video was posted by a channel called Excellent Result with the YouTube handle @drawingkidss. It is unlisted. The only listed videos on the channel are badly-produced alphabet teaching videos, seemingly aimed at kids.
This is not the first time scammers have used famous South Africans to sell investment schemes or even books promising to teach you how to make money fast.
Scammers have previously used Google ads to promote their snake oil using the faces of Mark Shuttleworth, Trevor Noah, Cyril Ramaphosa, Naas Botha, and Patrice Motsepe.
Google cracked down on the practice, but it took several months for the effects of the clampdown to become evident.