What is AI?
In the simplest of terms, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a complex computer program that was trained on large amounts of sample data, has analyzed it for patterns and correlations. Other software then uses the AI model to make predictions on new (previously unseen) data. In short, the AI program learns from existing data, and creates rules (algorithms) which guide it in making future decisions.
How is AI being used in scams?
As with any advancement in technology, people will always find negative uses for it. This includes the scammers. You might have heard the term “Deep Fake”, where people take video clips and change them to appear and sound like someone else. Unfortunately, this can be also used for scams.
Scammers are taking this technology and using it to capture pieces of audio from your friends/family to create an AI that can sound like them. The scammer then calls you to have “your family member” plead with you for help – usually saying that there is some emergency, and they need money immediately.
The Federal Trade Commission reported that in 2022, the number one scam was the “Imposter Scam”, with $2.6 BILLION in losses! (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/02/new-ftc-data-show-consumers-reported-losing-nearly-88-billion-scams-2022).
By using text-to-speech AI programs, it is estimated that as little as a three-second audio sample is needed to simulate a person’s speech including emotion. Then, by linking that to content-creation programs, like a virtual chat program, they can have an interactive program that will respond to your inquiries in a manner that can convince you that you are talking to your family member!
What can you do to protect yourself?
This is a difficult question. Some experts say you should have a “password/keyword” that family members can use to know it is the actual person. Not a bad idea, but in a situation that could be an emergency, will you remember to ask for it? Will they remember it?
Our best advice is to not give into the “I need the money now” scenario. “Let cooler heads prevail” is a good first step – wait and try and verify the situation. Even if they say they are in another country, you can contact SOMEBODY to verify the situation – what hospital, etc. they say they are at – get the name and look up the information yourself and contact the location. Don’t trust a number they give you, get the info separately.
Is anything being done to regulate AI to prevent scams/fraud?
The FTC did release guidance for companies regarding AI ( https://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2021/04/aiming-truth-fairness-equity-your-companys-use-ai ). The biggest issue is that many of the current companies making this software are, to quote Jurassic Park, “so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn't stop to think if they should.” In the meantime, the best defense is knowledge. Know that the scams are out there – and don’t fall for the “urgency” pressure that they will try and use to get you to give them money.
Is AI doing anything good or helpful?
YES! AI is actually more involved in many things today than people realize. AI technology is used in things like:
- facial ID – like unlocking your computer/phone
- voice assistants for phones & smart appliances
- driving aids (GPS route mapping/traffic updates)
- medical imagery analysis – helping spot things like cancer
- breakthroughs in self-driving vehicles / driving assistance features
- banking – using AI to help detect possible fraud
- predicting the weather forecast
Technology is inherently neither good/bad – how it is used is what matters!