South Korean woman conned out of US$50,000 by fake Elon Musk she fell in love with on Instagram

A South Korean woman says she lost US$50,000 to a con artist who was posing as Elon Musk.

“On July 17 last year, Musk added me as a friend on Instagram. Although I have been a huge fan of Musk after reading his biography, I doubted it at first,” the woman, who declined to provide her real name, told South Korean broadcaster KBS in an “In Depth 60 Minutes” interview that aired April 19, per a translation from The Korea Herald.

The woman said she began to believe that she was conversing with the real Musk after the person she was talking to sent her photos of what appeared to be Musk’s ID and images of himself at work.

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“‘Musk’ talked about his children and about taking a helicopter to work at Tesla or Space X,” she told KBS. “He also explained that he contacts fans randomly.”

The fake Musk, the woman said, even shared details about a meeting that the real Musk had with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in April 2023. The impersonator said Yoon told “Musk” to build Tesla’s Gigafactories in Seoul and Jeju.

“‘Musk’ even said ‘I love you, you know that?’ when we made a video call,” the woman said, referencing a video call with what was likely to be a deepfake of Musk.

The woman said the scammer eventually convinced her to transfer 70 million Korean won, or US$50,000, to a bank account he said belonged to one of his Korean employees. The person behind the fake Musk claimed he would make the woman rich by investing her money, she told KBS.

Love scams are a very real problem in the US, too. Romance scammers made off with US$1.3 billion from their victims in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

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This incident also isn’t the first time someone has hoped to gain fame or fortune by channelling Musk. In China, a Musk doppelgänger named Yilong Ma has been posting videos of himself on TikTok.

The videos have caught the attention of Musk himself, who has questioned if Ma is even a real person.

“I’d like to meet this guy [if he is real]. Hard to tell with deepfakes these days,” Musk said of Ma in an X post in May 2022.

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