Top Possible AI Scams in the Next 5 Years

Last Updated on July 25, 2023

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Credit: 0fjd125gk87

It was straight out of a horror movie.

An Arizona woman had just arrived at her younger daughter’s dance rehearsal when her phone rang. Her older daughter was training for a ski race, so she answered. It might be an emergency.

That was exactly what it turned out to be…or so she thought.

Mom! I messed up!

It was the voice of her daughter. And the words were chilling.

“Lay down, put your head back,” a male voice demanded.

The woman began panicking, but before she could say anything, a male voice took over the line. He had her daughter, the man said. If she called anyone, she’d be sorry.

The caller demanded a $1 million ransom for her daughter’s safe return. The mom called 911 and frantically tried to reach her daughter.

Soon after, her daughter called her. She was fine. The whole thing had been a scam.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), scammers are already able to replicate voices. As the technology improves, these scammers will only find more ways to use it to defraud innocent victims.

And voice scams are only the beginning.

What Are AI Scams?

In 1950, computer scientist Alan Turing posed the question, “Can machines think?” Turing ran a test to determine whether humans could tell the difference between a response written by a machine and one written by a human.

Earlier computers weren’t as skilled at tricking humans. But in the decades since computer programmers have tweaked and honed and created, we now have algorithms that can adjust and grow over time.

And that’s where artificial intelligence comes in.

The most significant breakthrough in AI in recent years is OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which can not only learn to create text that seems to have been written by humans but can also learn software, code, and even come up with new drug compounds. Other AI tools can generate images, videos, music – you name it.

And those skills are only the beginning.

ChatGPT has landed on the radar of criminals, who can’t wait to find ways to use it for financial gain. We’re already seeing some scams emerge, and they’re only likely to multiply in the years to come.

To help protect ourselves, it’s important to dive into the most likely AI scams to take off in the next five years.

Types of AI Scams

AI-Written Phishing Emails

What is it? Those honors students in English class in high school probably didn’t grow up to be scammers. That’s why grammatical and spelling errors have been a great way to spot fraud attempts. But what happens if the scammers suddenly develop writing skills that can pass as the real thing? One recent study found that Chat GPT is fairly skilled at writing phishing emails, which could make it tougher than ever to distinguish the real from the phony.

How to spot it: As ChatGPT grows more sophisticated, it may be tougher to spot scams. But one thing will remain the same: phishing emails aim to get you to click and enter details that can be used for fraud. Instead of looking for typos and clumsy wording, it’s already more important to pause before clicking on any links in emails or text messages.

How to avoid it: NEVER click on a link in email or text. If you do click, stop if you’re directed to a page that asks for financial information, account names, passwords, or any other information that could be used for fraud. This can help keep you safe from scammers, whether they’re using ChatGPT or their own writing skills.

Voice Cloning Scams

What is it? By now, we’ve all seen the disturbingly realistic deepfake videos. Similar technology can be applied to audio. Known as voice cloning, this technology allows someone to duplicate a voice and manipulate it. The example above with the ransom call is only the beginning. Voice cloning could be used for phishing scams where someone successfully talks you into handing over money, account information, or passwords.

How to spot it: The technology will only improve in the coming years, but it will likely never be perfect. You might detect a glitch in the speech. But the best way to detect deepfakes is to go with your gut. If something feels “off” about the interaction, listen to your instincts. A computer won’t be able to communicate with you the same way a human would.

How to avoid it: Instincts aside, you can avoid voice cloning scams by refusing to respond to random phone calls. If someone’s asking for information or money, simply hang up and go straight to the source. Contact the loved one the caller claimed to be or reach out to the service provider of the account that’s supposedly in question. Or you could do like me and send all unknown calls to voicemail.

Photo Manipulation Scams

What is it? Identity thieves grab information on you and run with it. Imagine how deepfakes could enhance that process. Realistic copies of documents like driver’s licenses and passports could be duplicated in minutes. Deepfake technology is already being used to add celebrities to photo and video ads that regularly display on social media, and this likely will continue.

How to spot it: As with audio, there’s usually something “off” about a deepfake video or photo. The lighting won’t look realistic, or the face will seem a little too digitized. It might look a little more like a painting than a photo or video.

How to avoid it: Safeguarding your personally identifiable information (PII) will be more important than ever as criminals grow more sophisticated. Know how to spot a fake and be skeptical anytime something seems too good to be true. Brad Pitt in an ad selling insurance, for instance. Over time, technology will hopefully make it easier to separate fake imagery from the real thing.

Identity Verification Bypass Scams

What is it? Even scarier than audio and video is the possibility that deepfake technology could be used to bypass biometrics. Facial recognition is especially vulnerable. It’s easy to grab photos of people without even hacking into a system to steal them. Criminals could use AI to hack into servers and individual devices remotely. 

How to spot it: Since this type of system manipulation happens in the background, it’s tough to spot and prevent. Server administrators will need to keep an eye on systems for signs of failed login attempts. On your own devices, pay attention to alerts that someone might be trying to log in as you.

How to avoid it: TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION is more important than ever as these technologies make it tougher to keep hackers away. Instead of facial recognition, consider using fingerprints or iris scans since scammers won’t be able to easily grab that information off the internet.

A Woman with Number Code on Her Face while Looking Afar

Photo by cottonbro studio

AI Chatbot Scams

What is it? Security experts are already tracking tools that promise to provide ChatGPT services. This might be a browser extension or an app, but the goal is to trick us into believing it’s a tool that will help us as we go through our day. But what these apps hide is nasty code that infects your device as soon as you download them.

How to spot it: Legit ChatGPT tools will likely have an existing reputation. Do a quick search and see if you can find any mention of them in respected publications. Look at the reviews in the app store for any solution you’re thinking about downloading to your device. If an app only has positive reviews, that can be a sign those reviews are fake. 

How to avoid it: Currently, ChatGPT is only available through OpenAI’s website. That could change in the coming months, though. Moving forward, it’s best to carefully vet any app or extension you’re considering downloading.

Investment Scams

What is it? ROBO-INVESTING is all the rage, with plenty of legitimate financial platforms promising to automate your portfolio. Using data analytics, these tools promise to be able to make expert predictions on which assets will perform well at a given time. Scammers have moved into the space, promising to provide the latest AI technology to help them make money. In the end, the platform takes its fee, and you’re left with less-than-stellar results. 

How to spot it: Scammers tend to have one thing in common: big promises. A legitimate platform won’t promise results. You’ll simply be told that the robo-advisors automate the investing process. Robo-investing scams tend to be prevalent in crypto-investing communities. Many of these platforms will take your money with little to nothing in return.

How to avoid it: Never turn full control of your investing over to someone else. At the very least, keep an eye on things and make sure you’re the one ultimately making the decisions.

How to Protect Yourself Against AI Scams

Artificial intelligence seems to evolve with each passing year. That can make it tough to detect a scam when you see it.

Here are some things you can do to keep yourself safe from AI scams. 

1. Vet Your Phone Calls

My phone is set to silence unknown callers. I often don’t know a call has come in until I see I have a voicemail.

99.999 percent of the time, the call is spam.

Note: You can turn this feature off with a couple of taps if you’re expecting a call from someone not in your contacts.

But even when I switch that silencer off, my cellphone provider is pretty good at letting me know when a spam call is coming through. Yours probably is, too.

If you’re still getting spam calls that don’t have that built-in warning, you can use a tool like Robokiller or Nomorobo to filter out the junk.

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Photo by Markus Spiske

2. Detect Deepfakes

In an interesting twist, software developers are coming up with ways to use artificial intelligence to detect artificial intelligence.

It’s funny when you think about it.

In the future, we may have software built into our devices that automatically recognizes and warns us when we might be looking at something fake.

Until then, learn to take a close look at anything you see. In the next five years, AI may become so advanced it will be indistinguishable from the real deal, but chances are, there will always be flaws.

Look (and listen) for glitches in what you’re seeing. If a deepfake is pure entertainment, enjoy. But when it comes to news and information, products you’re considering purchasing, or funds you’re about to send to someone, always take a closer look.

3. Avoid Requests for Information

Many scams rely heavily on you picking up a phone or clicking on a link in a message you’ve received.

One easy way to avoid scams is to make a rule:

Never provide information to someone who reached out to you.

If there’s a problem with your account, hang up and contact the account provider. If the notification invites you to click a link, close the message and go directly to the site in your web browser.

Also, be mindful of what you share online. This is especially true if your work gives you access to a server hackers might be interested in accessing. Consider whether it’s time to lock your social media profiles and keep your face off the internet.

At the very least, enable two-factor authentication wherever available. This will require that you have a secondary way to verify your identity if a system detects you’re logging in from an unfamiliar device.

4. Invest in Malware Protection

As AI technology improves, scammers will likely use it to convince us to download malicious files. That makes it more important than ever that we have top-quality malware protection on our devices.

Solutions like Norton, McAfee, and Malwarebytes make it their business to keep track of the latest viruses. Some antivirus providers even build artificial intelligence into their platforms. Again, you’ll be battling AI with AI.

5. Consider Identity Theft Protection

You protect your car and home with insurance, so why not your identity?

Like insurance, identity theft protection gives you peace of mind. You may never have to use it, but it’ll be a huge relief if someday you do.

Companies like Aura specialize in protecting consumers against identity theft. They’ll also keep an eye out for signs of fraud and alert you so you can take action.

closeup photo of white robot arm

Photo by Possessed Photography

What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed

Stories of AI scams claiming more victims make it clear. Eventually, it just might be coming for all of us.

Once you realize you’ve been scammed, it’s important to take quick action. Here are some things to do as soon as you realize a scam has come your way.

1. Contact Your Bank

If your financial information might have been compromised in the scam, it’s important to contact your bank right away.

This goes for any debit or credit card number or financial account number that might have been involved.

Zero liability fraud protection means you won’t have to pay for any charges made to your card, but you’ll want to alert the card provider as soon as possible. You’ll then have to go through the process of updating your card number anywhere you use it for autopay.

2. Freeze Your Credit

With the right information, a scammer can open credit and make major purchases in your name. The result will be a hit to your credit score, which could keep you from qualifying for loans for years.

If you think your PII might have been compromised, you can freeze your credit. This will keep anyone from applying for credit using your Social Security number. If you ever need to use your credit again, you can unfreeze it in a matter of minutes.

The only downside to freezing your credit is that you’ll have to do it with each of the three credit bureaus. But you can do it online, and it won’t take long.

3. Report It to the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission is keeping an eye out for identity theft-related fraud. That means reports of instances are likely to be taken seriously.

Did you know you can complain about fraud to the FTC? The agency doesn’t investigate each individual report, but reports will be part of the bigger picture.

To report fraud (of any type) to the FTC, go to its website. You’ll be walked through the steps to report the fraud, and during the reporting process, you’ll be given a list of helpful resources.

Conclusion

Keeping up with artificial intelligence has become a challenge, but it’s important to be aware of the danger.

Avoid giving information or money to someone unless you’re absolutely sure who’s on the receiving end. Never hesitate to say “no” if your instincts are telling you something’s wrong.

In time, it’s possible technology will make it easier to detect fakes, but in the meantime, we’ll have to be extra diligent to keep ourselves and our money safe.


Other Types of Scams You Should Know: