South Koreans, beware of fabricated adverts for 'free online investment courses' at SNU

Seoul National University said it is not offering a million won ($720) to anyone taking part in 'free online investment courses' to mark its 78th anniversary, contrary to claims in a fabricated advertisement shared online. The video advertisement -- which came in various versions -- linked to a chatroom soliciting investments from users. South Korean police and financial authorities have warned the public from taking part in these types of anonymous chatrooms hawking dubious investment opportunities. 

"Don't miss this amazing opportunity! We are running a one-day special event! Anyone can receive a learning transaction fee of 1 million won through a simple process! Join now!" read the Korean caption of the advertisement shared on Facebook.

The video shows a woman introducing a purported free online course on financial investment conducted by SNU -- one of South Korea's best-known universities.

Online users were then asked to click the video and register via Naver Band, a South Korean forum, to take part in the course.

"By taking the free online investment course offered by Seoul National University for its 78th-anniversary event, you will receive 1 million won for investing in the learning period," says the woman featured in the advertisement. 

"This is an opportunity to participate in Seoul National University classes free of charge."

Screenshot of the false post, captured July 2, 2024

Similar videos were also passed off on Facebook here, here, and here,  with some versions showing different men instead.

The advertisement video leads to a private Naver Band chatroom promoting "prospective investment assets." 

The South Korean police and the Financial Security Service have warned the public against this type of scam (archived links here and here).

"[These schemes] deceive users with exaggerated or fake advertisements to get investors to subscribe to fake trading websites," a police disclaimer explained, adding that "operators vanish" once investors ask for their returns on these platforms. 

Fake advert

A spokesperson for the Seoul National University told AFP that the video advertisement was not created by the academic institution, which "is not offering any free online investment classes."

The school is not handing out any disbursements for a 78th-anniversary event, the spokesperson added. 

An AI expert explained the video used to hawk the investment scheme appeared to show signs that it is likely AI-generated. 

Tae-Hyun Oh, a principal investigator at the Algorithmic Machine Intelligence Lab said that "the movement and the sound do not match", including the unnatural movements of the upper and lower jaw as well as the stiff face and neck (archived links here and here).

While generative AI technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated, visual errors still show up in AI-generated content.

These defects are the best way to recognise a fabricated video, experts told AFP.

Keyword searches, including on SNU's website and official Facebook site found no reports, ads nor any other credible content that shows the university was promoting free investment courses (archived link).

AFP previously debunked a similar "get rich quick" investment scheme featuring well-known South Korean journalist Sohn Suk-hee. 

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