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Top tips to avoid Digital Deception and AI Fueled Scams

Paru le 20 juin 2024

Scams cases increase every year and AI is here to boost the numbers

Scammers hold many tools in their arsenal to steal your hard-earned money and AI came to help them.

In this article we are going to take a look into some ways scammers operate and things that will help you and your loved ones to be more protected.

top tips to avoid scams illustration

Case in point

You might think people in general are clever enough to understand context clues on the fly and avoid being scammed.

Yet, statistics show that 1 in 5 people, from 2021 to 2023, were victims of fraud.

Imagine for a moment you are a parent and you receive a message from an unknown number saying it’s your daughter in need of help because she lost her phone and needs money for a new one, or someone stole her credit cards. You probably would terminate the call because either you know your daughter is at home or somewhere in reach and safe.

But what if your daughter was far away at university? Working in another town?

While the example of fraud mentioned above commonly targets people of older age and with family ties, there are plenty of other schemes in a scammer’s arsenal focusing on other groups based on habits, gender, language and age.

Scammers are masters of deceit and social engineering, skills they use to prey on vulnerable and unaware people using all kinds of emotional triggers, trust manipulation and technical expertise with only one goal – to have what is yours.

Why scamming

Scammers’ motives tend to be identical to common thieves, financial.

One way to better understand fraudsters either in a scammer’s world or in the case of someone diverting money from the company they work is to look at the Fraud Triangle, where this model tries to predict the conditions that make someone go to fraud based on 3 elements:

  • Financial Motivation
  • Perceived Opportunity
  • Rationalization

Many scammers' organizations are based in countries where the average income is lower than in other parts of the world. They believe international law agencies cannot locate them due to their strong ties with local law enforcement.

The rise of digital fraudsters goes hand in hand with the advent of the internet but more specifically with the rise of e-commerce with millions of people transferring money online every day and reaching more and more people with a lot of help from social media, the golden goose for scammers.

Phishing and other types of digital scams and their impacts

One of the most used practices to scam someone is called phishing; deceiving victims through computer or phone-based methods to obtain personal or sensitive information, ultimately to steal money from them.

One of the phishing schemes scammers use is malware, malicious ads or websites to infect your computer or phone to steal website credentials for other services like banking. Another phishing technique is Authorized push payment. The scammer tricks victims with fictitious problems - maybe a bill to pay - and directs them to fake payment websites or simply gives fake bank details. An example of this is doing renovations and posting an image on Instagram of it. You may then receive a call from someone stating that they are from the company renovating your house and informing you of a change of bank details that you need to transfer money to.

Any demand for money made by anyone by any means of communication, such as email, SMS, WhatsApp, or phone should be questioned and verified. You should never rush a payment under these circumstances.

 

Even other services you wouldn’t think would be carriers for scamming attempts are not exempt from scammers' tactics. A good example is when scammers used Google paid ads to push malicious software.

One particular disturbing method of stealing from those gullible enough to think there’s a way to easy money or romantic love is the Pig Butchering Scam. Scammers lure victims with false promises, offering something in return for money. Initially, they may send early positive results to build trust, but their true intent is to gradually empty the victim's wallet. Simple and very effective. Between 2020 and 2024, criminal networks gained some $75 Billion dollars from pig butchering crypto scam victims.

The options available to scammers are immense but so is the internet and there are a lot of resources to be better informed. Here you can find a list of commonly used scams and explanations about how they work.

How AI helps scammers

Although they face a difficult task, international law agencies are not blind to the increased use of AI. Interpol, in their latest Financial Fraud assessment, found that AI lowered the entry-level to less tech-savvy fraudsters to design and use scamming tools. Scammers can now easily create a deepfake of someone’s voice or image to create or manage bank accounts for unsuspected victims. The Fintech sector during 2023 had an increase of 700% in incidents involving deepfakes.

“Changes in technology and the rapid increase in the scale and volume of organized crime has driven the creation of a range of new ways to defraud innocent people, business and even governments. With the development of AI and Cryptocurrencies, the situation is only going to get worse without urgent action.“
INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock

Voice and video deepfakes have been used in many different cases. There have been attempts at voting suppression by fake videos urging people not to vote, or targeting Ukrainian troops with misinformation with a fake surrender call from Volodymyr Zelensky to the terrifying use of a family relative voice to create a fake hostage situation with the goal of money extortion.

scamming the unaware

ChatGPT, other LLMs, and various AI-powered apps have helped many people worldwide. As they gained popularity, scammers began targeting them, using these tools not only to create scamming methods but also as bait for phishing attacks. Scammers use fake social media profiles and fraudulent web or mobile apps to lure people into providing sensitive data, such as bank details, or installing malware like adware and spyware. In a world of fast internet consumption, people often fail to pay the necessary attention to their 'digital surroundings'.

What to do & what not to do 

One should be aware that scammers are master manipulators who can turn information and our surroundings into weaponizable scamming tools. Therefore, one should not blame themselves for falling victim to these criminals. Instead, one can prepare by being aware. Here’s a list of precautions to take:

  • Stay informed: have knowledge of possible attack vectors scammers use, and to follow trusted authority’s indications regarding cybercrime.
  • Be skeptical: if someone communicates with you in the name of a company and saying you are missing a payment (for eg), hang up the call and search for said company's trusted number and give them a call confirming the situation.
  • Stop, think and ask questions: One way scammers control people is by bombarding the victims with information and the sense of urgency.
  • Try set up a family code word only the members know: that can help when someone receives a sms/call/voicemail asking for money due to some problem because caller ids can be faked.
  • Set your social media accounts to private: scammers can use your photos, videos and information you post against you.
  • Pay attention to those around you with less computer knowledge, and help them understand common rules regarding internet and aiding them by providing script cards that can follow.
  • Don’t be overconfident: don’t overestimate your knowledge, nor underestimate scammers' abilities and knowledge.
  • Scan files for virus and malware: when in doubt of the origin use services online like VirusTotal to scan files and urls.
  • Keep your computer and mobile device up to date.

The more information you have about this issue, the better you will be able to detect and protect yourself and others. So pay attention and don’t rush into conclusions. On a positive note, there are bad guys online and there is also good guys with the goal to protect people and fight against scammers, as you can see in the video below.

Further reading: European Commission unhappy with consumer rights on social media by Gary Engelbrecht

Images: Depositphotos

Eduardo Martins Paulo

I work in the IT field with a longstanding passion for technology and its ability to bridge information gaps. I enjoy the challenge of troubleshooting and finding solutions to help people overcome their IT hurdles. Prior to this current role, I have honed my creative skills as a graphic designer, bringing a unique perspective to the world of technology.

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