In a world dominated by technological advancements, the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) has not only transformed our daily lives but has also ushered in a new wave of sophisticated threats. The use of AI in scams presents an unprecedented danger to individuals everywhere. As AI continues to advance, so do the deceptive schemes of scammers; therefore, our understanding of their tactics and how we can protect ourselves must also increase.
Recently, we have seen a significant rise in cases of individuals who are unsuspecting victims of these fraudulent attempts. Scams have always been intended to create a sense of urgency that clouds the victim’s judgment. However, AI has helped scammers become pervasive and creative in ways that make their scams more convincing and difficult to detect than ever before.
A Real Story
One of our clients received a call claiming her daughter had been in a car accident, resulting in the death of an unborn child. Therefore, her daughter was now facing charges of vehicular manslaughter and urgently needed bail money to get out of jail. To make the situation more convincing, it seemed as though the daughter was even put on the phone herself. Any difference in her voice was attributed to the reported jaw injury from the accident that affected her speech. She verbally requested her mom bring $16,000 in cash bond right away to the bondsman at a local grocery store.
This urgent and realistic situation could have easily deceived anyone. However, the client immediately came to her advisor, who, from an outside perspective, was able to recognize this as a scam. Together, they called her daughter, who promptly answered the phone and confirmed that she was okay. She mentioned that she had had an unusual conversation with a stranger over the phone earlier that day and eventually hung up on them. It was from that phone call that the scammer was able to gather information and use AI to impersonate her voice.
Protecting Against AI Scams
Faced with the escalating threat posed by AI-enhanced scams, we must be vigilant in the steps we take to protect ourselves. Implementing proactive measures is essential to mitigate the risks effectively. Here are several key strategies to consider:
- Cultivate Healthy Skepticism: If something seems suspicious, assume it’s a scam. Whether it is an unusual message, a questionable website, or an unsolicited phone call, exercising caution can help you avoid falling victim to an AI-driven deception.
- Guard Your Personal Information: Never give personal information or money to someone you do not know. Cybercriminals often exploit unsuspecting individuals by convincing them to share sensitive information. It is good practice never to share personal information, including passwords, financial details, and identification data, unless you are absolutely certain of the legitimacy of the request.
- Set Monitors on Your Credit Cards and Checking Accounts: Setting up alerts and monitors on your credit cards and checking accounts will allow you to receive automated notifications for unusual transactions or access. This will help you act faster in the event of any unauthorized or suspicious activity.
- Freeze Your Credit: By freezing your credit at the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian), you restrict access to your credit report and make it significantly more challenging for fraudsters to open new accounts in your name.
- Report Suspected Scams: If you are unsure whether an encounter is fraudulent, consider sharing the situation with a trusted individual such as a friend, family member, or financial advisor before acting on any requests. They will help you see the situation from an outside perspective. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, it is also important to report it promptly to the authorities, who can potentially help you recover from any stolen assets, as well as take additional steps to protect yourself in the future.
Although these strategies do not eliminate all risk of fraudulent attempts, it is an excellent place to start. By staying informed, remaining vigilant, and implementing these proactive measures, we can work together to safeguard against the risk of AI-driven perception.
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Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP®, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. He is the author or co-author of six books, including 50 Rules of Success; J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaire; and 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget. For more information, visit The Welch Group. Consult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.
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