How a deepfake Mark Ruffalo scammed half a million dollars from a lonely heart

How a deepfake Mark Ruffalo scammed half a million dollars from a lonely heart

Having previously warned readers not to be scammed by fraudsters pretending to be Hollywood hardman Jason Statham, it’s now my duty to advise you not to be fooled by anyone posing as Incredible Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo too.

The Asahi Shimbun reports that 74-year-old Manga artist Chikae Ide received an unsolicited message via Facebook in February 2018 from somebody claiming to be Ruffalo.

With help from some translation software, an initially skeptical Ide responded to the Hollywood actor, attaching a photograph of herself.

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Flattered by the phony Ruffalo’s response, Ide shared details of her private life, and personal struggles.

“Mark Ruffalo”‘s response?

“I will never make you feel sad.”

An American friend of Ide subsequently questioned whether the person claiming to be Ruffalo was genuine, noting that he wrote “like somebody who has not learned English.”

But, says Ide, a 30-second video call blew away any suspicions.

“I’m sure it was Mark himself who was behind the screen chatting with me,” Ide said.

The Asahi Shimbun suggests that this may have been a deepfake video, although it’s unclear how they came to this determination:

She did not realize at the time that it was a “deepfake” video, and her romantic feelings toward the imposter intensified.

“He respected my work, and he said that I, this old lady, am beautiful,” Ide recalled. “He also said the age difference is no problem for him, and he wants to make me happy.”

By September 2018, the couple had “married” online.

You can probably guess where this is heading…

The fake Mark Ruffalo began to complain of financial problems, and asked for Ide to wire US $1,000 for a plane ticket.

Each time, “Ruffalo” promised to pay Ide back, asking for more and more money.

Ide says that to cover the costs she sold her jewellery, was late paying wages to her assistant, and fell behind with her utility bill payments.

The story gets crazier and crazier, but the outcome was that Ide was swindled out of 75 million yen (over US $500,000.) And no, she never met the man who had defrauded her out of so much money.

Ide has recently published a new work – entitled “Poison Love” – based upon her ordeal. She says that she will continue to “draw manga until I die” to pay back friends and acquaintances who lent her money.

Take care out there.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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