How to Detect and Stop an AI Scammer

ai scammer

AI scammers are exploiting voice cloning technology to dupe victims, triggering a new wave of deception. People are suffering significant financial and emotional harm from AI scam tactics involving urgent requests for money through wire transfers, gift cards, and cryptocurrencies, which often result in billions in losses to unfortunate victims.

Focusing on the “AI scammer” phenomenon, this guide will show you how to identify and thwart these sophisticated scams.

Understanding AI Scammers

AI scammers, with their advanced AI tools, are a new breed of fraudsters who have taken deception to a whole new level. They primarily use voice cloning technology to create a disturbingly realistic mimicry of a person’s voice for fraudulent purposes. But what exactly is voice cloning and how has AI scamming become such a prevalent issue?

Voice Cloning Technology

Voice cloning, also known as voice clone technology, involves using artificial intelligence to create a near-perfect mimic of a person’s voice. Scammers use this technology to alter voice recordings, making the voices sound just like the individuals they’re impersonating. All it takes is a brief audio recording of the person’s voice — which can easily be found online — and the scammer can clone it.

As reported by CBS News, voice cloning has greatly enhanced the sophistication of phone scams, with scammers able to impersonate friends and family with unnerving accuracy.

The Rise of AI Scamming

The speed at which AI technologies are developing, especially in the field of voice cloning, has resulted in a notable surge in the use of these technologies by cybercriminals.

In 2023 alone, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center in the US received over 880,000 complaints, a 22% increase from the previous year. The potential losses are more than $12.5 billion. Given that experts predict generative AI would increase identity fraud by $2 billion annually, future losses could exceed the above sum.

AI scams are often orchestrated by complex organizations, not just individuals, involving tasks such as data gathering, voice cloning, and executing the scam calls. Short, scripted messages that induce urgency are commonly used, limiting the victim’s ability to verify the call’s authenticity and increasing the scam’s success rate.

Common AI Scam Tactics

Scammers are adept at exploiting human psychology to their advantage. Urgency is one such tactic that forces victims to act immediately and make hasty decisions. Advanced AI tools enable scammers to clone voices with a high degree of realism, potentially using as little as 3 seconds of audio, allowing impersonation of recognizable figures or loved ones.

They often make urgent requests to send money, preferring methods such as:

  • Wire transfer
  • Gift cards
  • Payment apps
  • Cryptocurrency

They may use deceptive tactics such as claiming you’ve won a prize but need to pay associated costs.

Impersonating Family Members

Scammers have no qualms about exploiting family ties. They use AI voice cloning technology to create realistic mimic voices of victims’ loved ones, invoking emergency scenarios to request immediate financial aid. The scammers can gather details about a person’s life and whereabouts from social media and other internet sources, which makes their impersonation scams more convincing.

Warning signs of a family member impersonation scam include urgent requests for wiring money, cryptocurrency transactions, or gift card details.

Posing as Government Officials or Businesses

Impersonating government officials or businesses is another tactic scammers use to appear more legitimate, causing trouble for unsuspecting victims. Red flags include requests for money or sensitive personal information in an unusual manner.

The best course of action in such cases is to hang up and directly contact the organization through an official number found on your account statement, their website, or through verified contact details.

Protecting Yourself from AI Scammers

avoid ai scam calls

Knowing how to protect yourself from AI scams is crucial. Be vigilant for warning signs such as high-pressure sales tactics, unexpected requests for personal information, or demands for payment via untraceable methods. If you encounter a robocall, hang up immediately and do not press any numbers to avoid interaction with potential scammers.

You should also be cautious of callers claiming to be affiliated with the government or offering limited-time deals to pressurize you into quick decision-making. Always remember that caller ID can be unreliable due to spoofing techniques that allow scammers to display any name or number.

Verifying Caller Identity

One way to protect yourself is by verifying the caller’s identity. If you receive a call from a supposed loved one who is panicked, follow these steps:

  1. Hang up and attempt to reach the person through a known and trusted phone number.
  2. Establish and use a “safe word” that can confirm the identity of the caller.
  3. If the caller makes out-of-character requests, such as asking for money or personal information, consider calling back on a trusted number before providing any sensitive information.

Be wary when the caller is evasive and requests personal information for “verification” purposes, as these are likely to be scams.

Being Aware of Unknown Numbers

Another protective measure is to be aware of unknown numbers. Here are some steps you can take when dealing with an unknown number:

  1. Do not answer calls from unknown numbers.
  2. Allow calls to go to voicemail to verify a caller’s legitimacy before responding.
  3. If you’re unsure who is calling, use Nuwber’s reverse phone lookup service to find out.
  4. Use call-blocking services to reduce the chance of scam calls by blocking unknown or unwanted numbers.

Also, setting a password for voicemail services is crucial to prevent access by unauthorized individuals. Enroll your phone number in state and federal do-not-call lists to lessen the number of telemarketing and potential scam calls.

Educating Friends and Family

Sharing knowledge about AI scams is a proactive defense. Inform your friends and family about their existence and how they operate. Share information about the signs of voice-cloning and deepfake scams to help them recognize potential AI scams.

Encourage them to:

  • Use do-not-call lists
  • Understand the importance of reporting unwanted or scam phone calls to authorities
  • Use features like “Find My Phone” to protect their devices and personal information from being accessed by scammers

What to Do If You Encounter an AI Scammer

Even the best of us can fall prey to AI scams. If you sent money through a payment app and suspect fraud, here’s what you can do:

  1. Report the fraudulent transaction to the payment app company and request to reverse the payment.
  2. In the case of a fraudulent wire transfer, contact the wire transfer company or bank, request to reverse the transfer, and get a refund.
  3. If you paid a scammer with a credit or debit card, contact the company or bank that issued the card, request to reverse the transaction, and get a refund.
  4. If your identity has been stolen as a result of an AI scam, visit www.identitytheft.gov to understand the next steps to take and how to report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Reporting the Scam

If you’ve fallen victim to an AI scam, it’s essential to report it. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. File complaints with the FTC via various channels, such as calling 1-877-FTC-HELP or 1-877-ID-THEFT, or visiting www.ftc.gov to file a consumer complaint or report identity theft.
  2. Report scam phone numbers to your phone providers.
  3. Report the scam to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  4. Report the scam to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) via the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov.
  5. Contact your local law enforcement, which may refer you to state consumer protection offices for certain types of scams.

Safeguarding Personal Information

In the aftermath of an AI scam, it’s essential to safeguard your personal information. Change passwords and login credentials immediately, especially for sensitive accounts like financial or email, to prevent further unauthorized access. Monitor your credit reports closely for any signs of unauthorized activity.

If you suspect your personal data has been compromised, consider a credit freeze with the major credit bureaus. Regularly back up phone data to the cloud or a computer, ensuring you have a secured copy of your personal information in case of scamming incidents.

Real-Life Stories of AI Scam Victims

voice cloning scams

Real-life stories of AI scam victims highlight the emotional and financial harm caused by these scams. They reveal the severe personal consequences for victims, leaving them with financial loss, stress, and a sense of betrayal. They underscore the critical importance of staying vigilant and informed to combat the evolving threat of AI scams.

Jennifer DeStefano’s Story

Brianna DeStefano’s mother Jennifer was living a normal day when she was targeted by an AI scammer impersonating her 15-year-old daughter. Brianna was away on a ski trip, which added credibility to the scammer’s impersonation. The convincing imitation of her daughter’s voice led DeStefano to believe her daughter had been kidnapped.

After the initial panic and negotiation with the scammer, it was discovered that Brianna was safe with her father and not in any danger. Realizing that it was indeed a scam, DeStefano confronted the scammer and eventually hung up on him. She later went public with her experience, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee and raising awareness about such scams.

Summary

AI scams, particularly voice cloning scams, pose a significant threat to our security and well-being. With AI technologies rapidly advancing, scammers are becoming more sophisticated, employing tactics such as impersonating family members or government officials. It’s crucial to be aware of these tactics, take protective measures, and know what to do if you fall victim to an AI scam. Sharing this knowledge with friends and family can also help build a network of informed individuals who can protect themselves and each other.

FAQ

How many people have been scammed by AI?

A recent survey by McAfee reported that one in four of the 7,000 respondents said they had either fallen victim to an AI voice scam themselves or knew someone who had. According to the same survey, 77% of people who got an AI voice call lost money.

How do you protect yourself against AI?

To protect yourself against AI, never share sensitive information with unverified contacts, use strong and unique passwords, and keep your device’s security settings at their strongest. Always check the URL of the landing page when banking online or sharing sensitive information.

Can a scammer get into your phone?

Yes, a scammer can potentially get into your phone through methods like infecting it with malicious code via phishing texts or exploiting vulnerabilities in your phone’s security. It’s important to protect your device with antivirus software to safeguard against such attacks.

Is AI voice cloning legal?

No, using someone’s voice without permission, particularly for commercial purposes, can lead to lawsuits for copyright infringement or violation of publicity rights, as seen in cases involving celebrities like Drake and Bette Midler. It’s important to obtain proper permissions before using AI voice cloning technology.

What to do if you get an AI call?

If you receive a suspicious AI call, hang up, do not redial, and contact the supposed person directly using a trusted phone number to verify their identity. If you suspect a scam, report the call to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and consider filing an official identity theft report.

Eugene Kirdzei
Eugene Kirdzei

Chief Technical Officer at Nuwber
With nearly two decades of experience in the IT industry, Eugene possesses comprehensive knowledge across his professional field, including in data management, data protection, and information search. Through his writing, he aims to provide valuable insights and practical advice on how to safely explore the online environment and leverage digital tools to enhance people’s lives.