Would-be fraudsters used a voice clone of Benedict Cumberbatch
A film production company has been targeted by fraudsters using an AI-created Benedict Cumberbatch voice ‘clone’, the company has revealed to DailyMail.com.
A strangely convincing Benedict Cumberbatch phoned the company to discuss a film deal, said Bob William, screenwriter and director at Peabody Films, a company based in Malaga, Spain.
AI Cumberbatch was “100 per cent the voice”, says Mr William, adding that the company was confident she was the real actor at the start.
When “Cumberbatch” and his agent refused to meet in person, they realized the ruse, avoiding losing money.
But, many more have fallen for similar scams, as AI opens the door to new tools that bad actors can use to steal money from unsuspecting people.
Technical staff at Peabody Films realized the call was from Philadelphia (Peabody Films)
“At first the email seemed like a dream come true. Benedict Cumberbatch had apparently read the script for our upcoming film and was interested in discussing a potential role,” Mr William said.
“Reading further, we couldn’t believe our luck.
“Here is one of the most talented actors of our time, who contacted us and showed interest in our project.
“We were shocked and disappointed to discover that we had been victims of an AI program impersonating a famous actor.”
The director says it’s an “example of the growing sophistication of AI technology and its potential for deception.”
Mr William said they initially received an email from someone claiming to be the Avengers star’s agent, who then suggested setting up a call.
He realized it was a scam when the number he called from seemed to have too many digits – and the fake ‘Cumberbatch’ was also very reluctant to meet in person.
The technology to impersonate people’s voices is already here – and already being used by fraudsters.
Discovery of the cybersecurity company McAfee that in the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Australia and India, ten percent of people have been targeted by an AI-powered voice scam.
They are also remarkably effective, with 78% of those allegedly targeted losing money as a result.
Earlier this year, Microsoft researchers showed off a text-to-speech AI model that can synthesize anyone’s voice from a three-second audio sample.
The model, VALL-E, can preserve the emotional tone of the speaker and can make the person say anything – its creators suggesting that it can be used to create scripted audio content by other models. AI.
The fake “Cumberbatch” was 100% convincing, Mr William said.
“It was the voice. No doubt about it,” he continued.
“AI must be the source. We first thought it might be a voice actor playing a prank – but it continued and they started asking for money. ‘
The company had several conversations with “Cumberbatch”, but then noticed “a few red flags”, William says – including his reluctance to meet in person.
“There were also some weird requests, like asking us to pay a £200,000 registration fee before we even met in person.”
William says he challenged the fake agent on where he saw the script for the next film, Emma, which hadn’t been widely released.
The issue was not even acknowledged.
When he called the real company switchboard, he asked for James Hayes – but was told no one by that name worked for the company.
William says he thinks he was targeted because, as a small production company, they wouldn’t have the resources to verify the details.
He says he will now notify the company where the alleged agent is believed to have come from – Conway VanGelder, and says he plans to report the attack to the police.
Artificial intelligence and fraud expert Alexey Khitrov, founder and chairman of ID R&D, told DailyMail.com that fake AI-generated images and sound are already widely used in commercial fraud.
He said: “We did a survey there of participating companies. What we have seen is that 42% of them have seen deep fakes being used in fraudulent attempts in their field of work. So it’s real, it’s already there.
Peabody Films is an independent production company founded by iconic British director Barney Platts-Mills, known for his award-winning films such as Bronco Bullfrog and Private Road.
Since Platts-Mills’ death in 2021, the company has produced feature films including The Way We Are, The Way We Were, which is slated for release in 2024.