Elderly women are being fooled into thinking celebrities are in love with them in a sophisticated scam on the Chinese version of TikTok.
One 61-year-old was ecstatic when an account purporting to belong to TV star Jin Dong followed her on popular video sharing app Douyin.
She watched clips of the handsome 43-year-old for months believing he was sending them directly to her — but in fact she was the victim of deepfake technology.
Scammers have been using real footage of celebrities and dubbing them with flirtatious AI-generated voiceover tracks. The clips are accompanied by colourful text and backgrounds considered appealing to older viewers.
These videos are created specifically to draw in elderly Douyin users and sweet-talk them into buying products or joining pyramid schemes.
While crude and easily clockable to most tech-savvy social media users, they’ve successfully fooled many older people who are still relatively new to the internet.
The 61-year-old scam victim, who has used the pseudonym Huang Yue when appearing in local news reports, recently went viral in China for proclaiming she was ready to leave her family and enter a relationship with “Jin”.
“Why would he lie to me? That’s impossible,” Huang told Jiangxi TV.
“The whole country knows. Everybody who uses Douyin knows [that he loves me].”
In one video, Jin appears to say “Dear older sister, I have been texting you. Why are you not replying?” — but his lip movements do not match up with the words.
“Sister, I miss you. Do you miss me too? Can you click the video and let me see you?” he said in another clip.
She spent a lot of money on products recommended by the fake account and even travelled alone to another city in search of him.
Huang wasn’t the only one fooled by the Jin Dong scam, and the fake videos have attracted thousands of likes and comments from older female Douyin users.
A 49-year-old woman from a small village in Sichuan province started to develop feelings for someone she thought was the TV star while suffering in an abusive marriage.
She would watch his videos every day, referring to him as “little husband”, a term of endearment. However she seems to be aware that the Jin she watches online might not be real — or at least that he talks to many different women.
“Other women also call him husband,” she told the South China Morning Post. “I’m not the only one.”
Last week she lost contact with the account, saying: “Jin Dong quit Douyin tonight. I don’t why. He is a big star, and I’m only an ordinary person.”
In June there were reports that a woman in her 80s who lives alone had also fallen in love with the Jin videos, flying to Beijing in an attempt to be with him. She had come to believe she was interacting with him through the comment section on Douyin.
Douyin has issued a statement warning its users about the scams, and banned 5,000 fraudulent accounts in September alone.