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Thursday, April 25, 2024

BBB Alert: Artificial Intelligence presents very realistic scams 


Above / Better Business Bureau sends updated warning to be aware of alien emails and voicemails forwarded by AI: What you see or hear may not be what you get. (Image by Monika Grafik from Pixabay)

Update, 4PM July 6, 2023 / The August 2023 issue of Consumer Reports arrived in this day’s U.S. Mail. The cover headline proclaims “Your SCAM Protection Guide.” Inside are ten pages of smart security steps similar to the ones featured in the BBB story. One piece of advice says to ignore sketchy prize notifications via email. “A message that asks you to click a link or provide personal information, or wants to charge fees to send the item you won, is probably false.”

Also the July 6 edition of the Wall Street Journal features a front page story titled Boom in Artificial Intelligence Helps Lift Tech-Sector Blues. The story asserts the old line that AI will automate many jobs, allowing new start-up companies to remain lean and likely profitable. In our view, most innovation comes with pros and cons. Technology comes with two sides to every story. Still, scams that surface with AI from fraudsters are among the cons that need attention. Beware.

Update, 5:30PM July 5, 2023 / Shortly after this post went live, a PN reader reported a sale on social media today that featured postage stamps available online at a nearly 50 percent discount. She suggested the offer likely was a scam, mindful that the USPS does not discount. Searching online readers will find numerous stories about such stamp scams. “According to U.S. postal inspectors, there’s a good chance stamps bought at a deep discount are fake,” notes one story. Best advice: Purchase Forever stamps from the U.S. Post Office near you.

Originally Posted 4PM July 5, 2023 / CHICAGO No one is riding the wave of artificial intelligence (AI) higher than scammers, who see the new technology as a fabulous money-making opportunity, according to folks at the Better Business Bureau. Deep fakes are altered videos and edited recordings, often targeting well-known celebrities and leaders. Deep fakes are also being used as an emerging and effective fraud tool against anyone who posts video or audio on social media.

The Better Business Bureau is warning people that audio posts on social media or the Internet are susceptible to being copied to be used to make alarming calls to your loved ones.  

“It’s clear to see that anything you say as an audio post can be used against you and your loved ones in this evolving and dangerous type of scam,” noted Naperville resident Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Artificial Intelligence is a hot topic in business and social conversations, often called more exciting and important than the industrial revolution. Generative AI programs like ChatGPT can create new content, such as audio, text, or images. They’re already commonly used for entertainment and business, but they can be used for a more dubious purpose: scams.   

“Scammers are using voice duplication as a tool to make fake calls to potential victims with a cloned voice to trick people into believing the person they know is in trouble, danger, and in need of money,” Bernas explained via email. “Some examples are people being kidnapped, in crashes, or being arrested. Scammers could expand into romance, tech support, celebrity and other scams.”  

Bernas continued, “It’s been alarming to see how easily scammers can run sophisticated but readily available and inexpensive software to produce audio-video duplicates. Once they get audio samples, they can use AI software to make that hijacked voice sample to say whatever they want. Unfortunately, people hear who they think is a loved one in distress and unwittingly send money to help. What you see or hear – is no longer what you get.” 

‘The tip-off to the rip-off’ is frightening

According to Bernas, “The Tip-off to the Rip-off” is that scammers will try whatever it takes to frighten people into acting immediately while emotions run high. The best defense to this type of call is to remain calm and contact the person directly, which immediately exposes this kind of scam attempt.

AI appears more professional than phishing messages

Consumers should be on the outlook because AI can also significantly increase and make fake text and email messages more grammatically correct than scam emails in the past. Previously, typos or odd phrasing were possible signs of a phishing message, but these may be less common going forward. 

“Consumers will need to be more vigilant and double-check the source of any unsolicited messages,” Bernas advises.

Skepticism and verification help to avoid scams

Awareness of how scammers may use AI can help consumers do their due diligence and protect themselves. The good news is that many best practices for verifying online information and vetting unsolicited messages still apply.  

•    Don’t believe everything you see or hear online. This classic rule of thumb for avoiding scams becomes ever more important in the age of AI. Use a healthy amount of skepticism if someone contacts you and you can’t verify their identity.  
•    Scrutinize wording. Generative AI has advanced to the point where it creates compelling messages, but it’s not infallible. Odd phrasing or incorrect information may still be a sign that something’s not right.  
•    Don’t click links or attachments. If you receive a message that seems to be from an official source, verify the sender and web address before you click any links, download attachments, or call any numbers that you see in the message. Unfamiliar links and attachments could contain computer viruses or lead to fraudulent websites set up for a scam.   
•    Check and double-check. Even if a website looks real, check the address at the top of your web browser to ensure you are on the correct site. It’s especially important to double-check before submitting sensitive personal or financial information to any website.  
•    Know common phishing tactics. Unsolicited emails and texts that promise great deals or urge you to act on something immediately should be taken with a grain of salt. Read BBB’s guides on spotting phony emails and text messages for more common red flags. 
•    When in doubt, get a second opinion. BBB’s 2022 ScamTracker℠ Risk Report found that nearly ¾ of people who avoided losing money in a scam had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right about the situation. If you receive a phone call or message that doesn’t seem right, ask a friend, or loved one for a second opinion. 

Thanks for reporting all scams to Better Business Bureau

Individuals who encounter a scam are encouraged to report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Reports expose scammer tactics.

Report submitted by BBB Newsroom for Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.

Editor’s Note / Earlier this year, I received a phone call from someone who said, “Hi, Mom! This is your loving daughter and I’m coming over for dinner.”

The voice sounded a little like our daughter, but she would never have talked that way.

Right away, I was suspicious, so I asked, “When is your birthday?”

Right away, the call went dead.


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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.


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