AI Scams: The Dark Side of Artificial Intelligence

As artificial intelligence continues to advance and permeate various aspects of our lives, it has also given rise to a new breed of scams known as AI scams.

Some of the ways AI is being used to create more sophisticated and convincing scams include:

  1. Deepfakes: AI algorithms can generate incredibly realistic images, videos, or audio recordings of people, which can be used to impersonate public figures, celebrities, or even friends and family.
  2. AI-generated content: Scammers can use AI algorithms to produce convincing but fake news articles, social media posts, or emails.
  3. Automated social engineering: AI-powered chatbots can be programmed to impersonate legitimate customer support representatives or even friends and family members, engaging victims in conversations to extract personal information, account details, or money transfers.
  4. AI-driven investment scams: Fraudsters can create artificial intelligence-based investment schemes that promise high returns by leveraging AI technology.

By understanding AI scams, you will be able to better protect yourself against these emerging threats, which is why we wrote this article.

One recent example of an AI scam is the kidnapping hoax involving Jennifer DeStefano’s daughter. In January 2023, Jennifer DeStefano received a phone call from someone who claimed to be her 15-year-old daughter, Briana. The caller said that she had been kidnapped and that the kidnappers were demanding a ransom. DeStefano was understandably panicked and agreed to pay the ransom. However, she later realized that the call had been a hoax and that the caller had used AI to impersonate her daughter’s voice.

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The Dangers of Artificial Intelligence - AI Scams

Common Types of AI Scams

Deepfake scams

Deepfakes are made with AI and use special computer programs to create fake audio, video, or images.

They show people doing or saying things they never really did.

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    Deepfakes can look very real, and it’s hard to tell them apart from real content.

    Deepfake extortion scams

    Deepfake extortion scams make fake videos, audio, or images of a person in a bad situation.

    Scammers threaten to show these fakes to others unless the person pays them money, usually in digital currency.

    Since deepfakes look very real, people might pay the scammer to avoid problems like embarrassment or harm to their reputation.

    Impersonation scams using deepfakes

    Impersonation scams using deepfakes are a type of fraud that tricks victims into taking specific actions by creating realistic audio, video, or images of individuals, including public figures, executives, or people in positions of authority.

    One common tactic is through deepfake phone calls, where a scammer pretends to be a CEO or manager and instructs an employee to transfer funds or share sensitive information.

    Another approach is through deepfake video content, where scammers impersonate celebrities or political figures to spread disinformation or influence public opinion.

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    AI-generated content scams

    Plagiarism and content theft

    AI algorithms are capable of generating new content by using existing articles, research papers, or other intellectual property as a basis.

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    However, this has led to an increase in plagiarism and content theft, as scammers pass off AI-generated content as their own or sell it to others.

    These scams not only devalue the efforts of the original creators but can also contribute to the spread of misinformation or a decline in information quality.

    This is because the AI-generated content may not accurately reflect the original sources, leading to diluted or inaccurate information being circulated.

    Fake news and disinformation campaigns

    AI-generated content has been misused to create and spread fake news, disinformation, and propaganda campaigns.

    By utilizing AI algorithms to produce highly convincing but false news articles, social media posts, or other forms of content, scammers can manipulate public opinion, interfere with political processes, or incite conflict within communities.

    Since AI-generated content can be created rapidly and tailored to specific demographics or interests, it is more likely that the targeted individuals or groups will engage with and share false information, leading to a widespread impact.

    Spam and phishing emails

    AI algorithms are being employed by scammers to create highly convincing spam and phishing emails that are challenging to differentiate from genuine communications.

    These AI-generated emails can replicate the writing style, tone, and language patterns of trustworthy sources, making it more likely that recipients will unwittingly click on malicious links, download malware, or disclose sensitive information.

    By automating the production and distribution of these emails, scammers can efficiently and effectively target a large number of potential victims, which enhances the success rate and profitability of their scams.

    AI investment scams

    Fraudulent AI startups

    Some scammers may create fraudulent AI startups, claiming to have developed groundbreaking technologies or innovative AI solutions.

    These fake startups may present fabricated success stories, testimonials, or partnerships to lure investors.

    Victims may be enticed to invest in these seemingly promising ventures, only to discover later that the company is a scam, and their investment has been lost.

    Pump-and-dump schemes

    Pump-and-dump schemes involve scammers promoting a stock or cryptocurrency related to AI through social media or other online platforms to artificially raise its value.

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    They may use AI-generated content or falsified information to hype up the asset and encourage others to invest and push up the price.

    After the price has increased substantially, the scammers sell their shares, causing the value to plummet and resulting in significant losses for investors.

    Insider trading using AI-generated predictions

    AI algorithms are capable of analyzing large volumes of data to generate forecasts about market trends, stock prices, or other financial indicators.

    However, scammers can misuse these AI-generated forecasts to engage in illegal insider trading activities. By trading on non-public information, they gain an unfair advantage in the market, leading to illicit profits.

    AI chatbot scams

    Social engineering and manipulation

    AI-powered chatbots can be programmed to engage in social engineering tactics, using persuasive communication and psychological manipulation to trick victims into disclosing sensitive information or taking actions that benefit the scammer.

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    By impersonating legitimate contacts, authority figures, or even friends and family members, these chatbots can exploit the trust of their targets, making them more likely to comply with the scammer’s requests.

    Unauthorized access and identity theft

    AI chatbots may be used to gather personal information, such as usernames, passwords, Social Security numbers, or other identifying data, from unsuspecting victims.

    This information can then be used to gain unauthorized access to the victim’s accounts, steal their identity, or commit other forms of fraud.

    By engaging in seemingly innocuous conversations, chatbots can extract sensitive information from their targets without raising suspicion, making it easier for scammers to perpetrate identity theft or other cybercrimes.

    Fraudulent customer support

    Scammers can deploy AI chatbots that impersonate legitimate customer support representatives from well-known companies or organizations.

    These fraudulent chatbots may interact with victims through messaging platforms, social media, or even directly on a company’s website, offering fake assistance or troubleshooting services.

    The chatbot may request personal information or account details, which can then be used by the scammer for malicious purposes, such as unauthorized transactions or account takeovers.

    By appearing as a trustworthy and helpful customer support agent, the chatbot can deceive victims into divulging sensitive information, putting them at risk of fraud or identity theft.

    Voice Cloning Scams

    AI is capable of replicating someone’s voice using sophisticated deep learning techniques and voice synthesis technologies.

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    By analyzing a person’s voice recordings, AI algorithms can detect and replicate the unique features of their speech, including pitch, tone, and speaking patterns.

    Subsequently, the AI system can generate new audio that replicates the individual’s voice with remarkable accuracy.

    Scammers use voice cloning technology to trick people in various ways. Some common tactics include:

    1. Impersonation: Scammers can use voice cloning to impersonate someone the victim knows, such as a friend, family member, or coworker. By mimicking the voice of a trusted individual, the scammer can manipulate the victim into sharing sensitive information, transferring money, or performing other actions that benefit the scammer.
    2. Fake authority figures: Voice cloning can also be used to impersonate authority figures, such as law enforcement officers, government officials, or company executives. Scammers may use these cloned voices in phone calls or audio messages to deceive victims into believing they are dealing with an authentic representative, pressuring them to comply with requests for personal information or financial transactions.
    3. Vishing (voice phishing) attacks: In vishing attacks, scammers use cloned voices in combination with social engineering tactics to obtain sensitive information over the phone. By using a realistic-sounding voice, the scammer can build trust and appear more credible, making it more likely that the victim will disclose the requested information.
    4. Deepfake audio: Scammers can create deepfake audio recordings using voice cloning technology, fabricating conversations or statements that never occurred. These falsified audio clips can be used to spread disinformation, harm reputations, or manipulate public opinion, all with potentially severe consequences.

    AI-Driven Phishing Scams

    Scammers are leveraging AI technology to make phishing scams more sophisticated, convincing, and effective in obtaining personal information from unsuspecting victims.

    Some ways AI is being used in phishing scams include:

    1. Personalized phishing emails: AI algorithms can analyze large datasets to identify patterns, preferences, and behaviors of potential victims. By using this information, scammers can create highly personalized phishing emails that are more likely to resonate with the recipient, increasing the chances of them clicking on malicious links or providing sensitive information.
    2. AI-generated content: Scammers can use AI-generated text, images, or even deepfake videos to create more authentic-looking phishing emails, making it harder for recipients to identify them as fraudulent. These emails may convincingly mimic the style, tone, and language of legitimate communications from reputable organizations, further increasing their believability.
    3. Automating phishing campaigns: AI can automate the process of generating and sending phishing emails, allowing scammers to target a larger number of potential victims more efficiently. AI-powered tools can also adapt phishing campaigns in real time, refining their tactics based on recipient interactions and responses, making them more effective in obtaining personal information.
    4. Bypassing security measures: AI-powered phishing scams can potentially bypass traditional email security measures, such as spam filters and content scanners, by generating content that appears legitimate or by learning to identify and avoid security triggers. This makes it more likely for phishing emails to reach the intended recipient’s inbox, increasing the chances of a successful scam.
    5. Context-aware phishing attacks: AI can help scammers design context-aware phishing attacks by identifying relevant events, such as data breaches, software updates, or tax deadlines, and tailoring their phishing emails to exploit these situations. By taking advantage of current events or trends, scammers can make their phishing emails appear more credible and increase the likelihood of victims falling for the scam.

    AI-Generated Text Scams

    Scammers are using AI-generated text and fake product reviews to manipulate consumer perceptions and decision-making, often with the goal of promoting their products, services, or even fraudulent schemes.

    AI algorithms can generate large volumes of realistic and seemingly authentic content, making it easier for scammers to carry out their deceptive tactics.

    Here are some ways scammers use AI-generated text and fake product reviews to fool people:

    1. Inflating product ratings: Scammers can use AI-generated text to create fake positive reviews for their products or services, artificially inflating their ratings on e-commerce platforms or review websites.
    2. Discrediting competitors: Conversely, scammers can use AI-generated text to create negative reviews for their competitors’ products or services.
    3. Creating a false sense of authenticity: AI-generated text can be used to create detailed and seemingly genuine reviews, complete with personal anecdotes, specific product features, or other elements that make them appear more credible.
    4. Manipulating search engine rankings: Scammers can use AI-generated content, including fake reviews, to manipulate search engine rankings and increase the visibility of their products, services, or schemes.
    5. Promoting fraudulent schemes: Scammers can use AI-generated text and fake reviews to promote investment opportunities, online courses, or other schemes that are designed to defraud people.

    Case Studies: Notable AI Scams

    Deepfake scams

    Deepfake scams involve the use of AI technology to create fake videos or images that can be used to trick people into believing something that isn’t true.

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    One example is a deepfake video created by filmmaker Jordan Peele in 2019 that showed former President Barack Obama delivering a public service announcement. In the video, Obama appears to be speaking, but it is actually Peele’s voice delivering the message.

    AI-generated content scams

    AI-generated content scams involve the use of AI technology to create fake text, images, or videos that can be used to spread disinformation.

    One example is a pro-China disinformation campaign that was discovered by the research firm Graphika. In this campaign, deepfake videos were distributed by pro-China bot accounts on Facebook and Twitter. The videos showed computer-generated avatars of news anchors delivering pro-China messages. This was the first known instance of deepfake technology being used to create fictitious people as part of a state-aligned information campaign.

    AI investment scams

    AI investment scams involve fraudulent AI companies that trick people into investing money in their fake operations.

    One example is a case where fraudsters used AI to clone a company director’s voice and steal $35 million in a complex bank heist. The scammers called a bank manager in Hong Kong and used an AI-generated voice that sounded just like the director to convince him to authorize transfers of $35 million. The bank manager believed everything appeared legitimate and began making the transfers, but later realized he had been duped as part of an elaborate swindle.

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    AI chatbot scams

    AI chatbot scams involve the use of AI technology to create convincing chatbots that can trick people into giving away personal information or money.

    One example is a case where a chatbot phishing scam spread where the scammers pretended to represent DHL, a courier, package delivery, and express mail service company.

    How to Spot and Avoid AI Scams

    AI scams can be sneaky, but there are signs that can help you figure out if something is a scam.

    Watch out for these clues:

    1. Unexpected contact: Be careful if you get surprise emails, calls, or texts from people you don’t know or who say they’re from a company.
    2. Made-up names or titles: Sometimes, scammers use fake names to sound more important.
    3. Asking for your information: Don’t share your private details, like your Social Security number or bank account, with strangers.
    4. Urgency and pressure: Scammers might try to rush you, so take your time and think before you act.
    5. Mistakes and odd language: AI-generated messages might have strange words or mistakes that can be a giveaway.
    6. Weird links or attachments: Don’t click on links or download files from people you don’t know.
    7. Impersonation: If a message from a friend seems strange, double-check with them in a different way.

    Here are some ways to protect yourself from AI scams:

    1. Be careful with unknown messages and calls.
    2. Keep your personal information safe.
    3. Don’t click on links from people you don’t know.
    4. Keep your computer and software updated.
    5. Learn about new scams to stay safe.
    6. Use strong passwords and change them often.
    7. Be smart about what you share on social media.
    8. Use security software and keep it up to date.
    9. Back up your important files.

    Bottom Line

    AI is getting smarter, making it easier for bad people to trick others with fake videos, voices, and messages.

    These bad people use new technology to fool many people and groups.

    It’s very important to be careful and watch out for signs of these tricks.

    By knowing about these tricks and being careful, people can keep themselves safe from these sneaky actions.

    If you are a victim of AI scams, please let us know by commenting below and if you have lost a significant amount of money to online scams, do not lose hope. We can help you recover your funds!

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