The most popular AI scams to watch out for

February 21st · 14 min read

Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|
Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|

The future of fraud: Understanding AI's role in scams

Gone are the days when the biggest worry about answering the phone was whether you'd be stuck talking to your kooky Aunt Edna. Today, the stakes are much higher. Welcome to the age of AI scams, where the familiar voice on the other end of the line—or even the face on your screen—might not be who you think it is. AI scams are the latest trick in the scammer's playbook, taking advantage of cutting-edge technology to craft not just hyper-personalized emails, and voice clones but also creepily realistic videos all designed to con you out of your hard-earned cash.

The Federal Trade Commission reported that Americans lost nearly $10 billion from internet scams in 2023. At the heart of this alarming trend? Scammers taking advantage of AI technology for voice cloning, deepfake videos, and phishing emails. Imagine the voice of a loved one pleading for help or a video of a public figure endorsing a product that's actually a scam. Even emails that seem to know you a little too well are part of the con, tailored just for you by AI that's learned from data you've shared online.

The cost of cybercrime in 2023 was approximately $8 trillion.

In this article, we'll explore the most common artificial intelligence frauds. From AI voice clones to deepfake videos and personalized scam emails - we’ll cover it all. After this read, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to spot these scams. And the cherry on top? You’ll learn how cybersecurity software like Guardio can protect you from them. So, buckle up it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

AI scams are smart - with Guardio, you are smarter

Outsmart scams — upgrade to Guardio!

Robot with sign

What’s AI?

The phrase "AI" is buzzing around like a bee at a summer picnic, popping up in everything from AI banking to AI driving and any other "AI Unicorn Grooming" that marketers want to make seem cooler and more techy. But let's break it down: what on Earth is AI, really? And more interestingly, how are the bad apples, aka scammers, using it to spoil the bunch?

AI, or artificial intelligence, is like a computer playing smart—thinking, learning, and making decisions as if it had a human brain. It's the force behind self-driving cars, voice assistants, and even your recommended Netflix shows. In the simplest terms, AI is like teaching a computer to be a mini-you, making decisions and learning from mistakes without ever needing a snack break. This technology is rapidly advancing, blurring the lines between what machines and humans can do.

However, this cutting-edge technology has a darker side, as scammers have begun exploiting AI's capabilities to deceive and manipulate. They're using AI to create eerily accurate fake voices and videos or crafting messages that are too good (or bad) to be true. By exploiting AI, these digital con artists can mimic loved ones or fabricate entirely believable scenarios, all designed to deceive you into handing over money or personal information. Their creative misuse of AI technology showcases a dark side to these advancements, turning innovative tools into weapons of fraud and deception.

Common AI scams

From the unsettling realism of deepfake videos to the personalized deception of email-writing scams and voice cloning, each type of AI scam aims to exploit, deceive, and manipulate people for financial gain or to spread misinformation.

Email writing scams: AI-powered email scams involve crafting highly convincing and personalized messages that mimic the tone and style of someone you know, like a colleague or a family member. By leveraging data scraped from social media or hacked information, these emails can trick you into transferring money, clicking on malicious links, or revealing sensitive information.

AI voice scams: AI voice cloning takes phishing scams to a new level by generating calls that mimic the voice of someone you trust. With just a few seconds of audio, scammers can convincingly replicate a loved one's voice to solicit money or personal details, making these scams particularly insidious and emotionally manipulative.

Deepfake scams: Utilizing AI, deepfake technology creates alarmingly realistic videos or audio recordings of people saying or doing things they never did. These can range from fake celebrity endorsements to manipulated political messages, preying on the trust and recognition we have in public figures to sway opinions or open wallets.

As these technologies become more accessible and their deceptive capabilities more refined, detecting and preventing these scams becomes increasingly difficult. Let's take a closer look at these AI scams to understand their mechanics, impact, and how we can protect ourselves from falling victim.

AI personalized email scams

While email phishing scams aren't new, AI is definitely making it easier for scammers to mass-produce personalized phishing messages. By leveraging AI, and software like Chat-GPT, cybercriminals can now create emails that are uncannily personalized, accurately mimicking the tone, style, and content of legitimate communications. This AI-driven sophistication allows for the targeted distribution of phishing emails, utilizing data obtained from social media, breached databases, or previous email exchanges. Consequently, recipients are presented with emails that seem to be from trusted contacts or organizations, urging immediate actions like clicking on a malicious link, downloading an attachment, or providing sensitive information on a spoofed website.

This advanced form of phishing represents a significant challenge, as the emails often evade standard spam filters and security measures to reach potential victims directly. The deceptive authenticity of these AI-crafted messages, complete with personalized details and familiar language, can easily lead to data breaches, financial losses, or unauthorized access to secure networks. For businesses, the stakes are even higher, as a single successful phishing attack can open the door to extensive data theft, financial fraud, and severe damage to the company's reputation. With the continuous evolution of AI technologies, the arms race between cybercriminals and cybersecurity defenses intensifies, highlighting the critical need for innovative solutions to counteract the growing sophistication of AI-enabled phishing scams.

AI Robot

How to stay safe: AI email scams - protection

In the digital battleground against AI-enhanced phishing emails, arming yourself with knowledge and the right tools is crucial. Here are key strategies to strengthen your defenses and not fall victim to these sophisticated scams:

Stay skeptical: Always question the legitimacy of unexpected emails, especially those urging immediate action or requesting personal information.

Verify sender information: Before responding to or acting on any email, verify the sender's details through independent means like Googling their name, or email address. If an email claims to be from a known organization or contact, like your bank, telecoms provider - reach out to them directly via trusted channels.

Check for personalization: While artificial intelligence fraud can be highly personalized, look for generic greetings or mismatches in the level of personal detail compared to genuine communications from the same sender.

Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments: If an email prompts you to click on a link or download an attachment - don’t do it! Verify the email's authenticity first or access the website by manually typing the URL into your browser.

Use cybersecurity software: These days, using the internet without having cybersecurity software with comprehensive protection is like going snorkeling in shark-infested waters wearing a suit made of fish sticks. It's not just risky; it's an open invitation for bites! Guardio online scam prevention, for example, is your go to for detecting phishing emails, blocking access to dangerous links, and alerting you if your personal data has been compromised in a breach. By scanning for threats in real time, Guardio reduces the risk of falling prey to AI-driven phishing attempts and ensures your online security.

Phishing emails are evolving - stay one step ahead

Don't let AI emails trick you, secure your inbox with Guardio!

AI voice scams

Your laugh in a TikTok video, your cooking story on Instagram, and even your "Hey, I can't come to the phone right now" voice message could be the ticket for digital con artists to clone your voice. With just a short recording of it, and AI technology, scammers can clone your voice to perfection, transforming a few harmless words into a deceptive tool. They mix and match your spoken syllables like a DJ remixing beats, creating a voice double that's ready to perform in any scammer's latest hit—tricking your loved ones into believing it's really you on the line.

They dial up your mom, grandma, friend, or anyone else, using your voice to deliver their lines. They can script whatever narrative they like, typing out messages for the AI to relay in real-time. Once they've got your loved one hooked, with their full attention, they twist the tale any way they please, weaving their web of deceit and manipulation with your voice as the lead.

Here are some examples of the types of scams your voice could be unwittingly headlining:

Fake kidnapping phone scams: "Mom, I need help” - scammer grabs the phone -” We have your loved one, send money or else!" —a script straight out of a thriller, where your voice is used to demand ransom.

Cloning your voice to access accounts: "It's me, I swear!" says your voice, tricking your bank's customer service into unlocking accounts.

Friends in need: "Hey, it's me, I'm in a bind"—except it's not you, and your friend is about to wire money to a scammer.

Grandparent scam calls: "Grandma, I need help!"—your voice, playing the role of a grandchild in distress, tugging at heartstrings and purse strings alike.

No matter the script they follow—be it a fake kidnapping drama, a made-up emergency call from a "friend in a bind," or a heart-wrenching appeal to grandma—all roads lead to one destination: your wallet.

AI voice scams in action: A chilling tale

Jennifer DeStefano, an Arizona mom went through every parent's nightmare. Jennifer was tricked by an AI voice cloning scam into believing her daughter Briana was kidnapped. Scammers used cloning technology to create a voice recording that sounded exactly like her daughter Briana. When Jennifer received the call, she heard what she believed was Briana sobbing and crying for help, which set off every alarm in her mind. Amidst this heart-wrenching plea, a man's voice took over, threatening to harm Briana unless a ransom was paid. The caller demanded an astronomical sum, and Jennifer was prepared to do anything to ensure her daughter's safety. However, the situation took a turn when a friend who Jennifer had confided in and who knew about AI voice scams, stepped in. This friend guided Jennifer to get in touch with her real daughter, ensuring that she was safe and unharmed.

Thankfully, Jennifer's daughter was okay, but when Jennifer tried to tell the cops about it, they just waved it off as a "prank call." It seems like the police are a step behind when it comes to catching up with sophisticated scams crafted by AI technology. What's even more "Black Mirror"-esque? About 70% of people can't even spot the difference between a real voice and one that's been cloned by AI. It's a scary to think that these fake voices are fooling so many of us, making it feel like we're living in a sci-fi movie, but it's all happening right here and now.

How to stay safe: AI voice scams - protection

Recognizing these scams is the first step in protecting yourself and it requires a keen ear and a skeptical mind. Here are the key red flags to watch out for:

Calls from unknown numbers: If you receive a call from a number you don't recognize, especially from abroad, it's the first sign you might be dealing with a scam. Scammers often use international numbers to avoid detection and make tracing more difficult.

Inability to answer personal questions: An AI or a scammer cannot replicate personal memories or detailed knowledge about your loved one. If they evade or cannot answer simple questions, it's a significant indication of a scam.

Brief contact with a loved one's voice: Scammers use short, emotional messages from a voice resembling your loved one's to create urgency. The less time you have to analyze the voice, the less likely you are to question its authenticity.

Rapid handover to another speaker: After the initial message, another person quickly takes over, claiming to be an authority figure or kidnapper. This tactic is used to escalate the situation and demand action from you.

Requests for payment in cryptocurrency or gift cards: Scammers ask for payment in hard-to-trace formats, knowing that once the transaction is made, the money is nearly impossible to recover.

Set up a "code word" system: Just like spies in the movies, have a secret word or phrase that only you and your close circle know. If someone's claiming to be in trouble, ask for the code word.

Lock down your social media: Make your profiles tighter than Fort Knox. The less information scammers can find about you, the better.

Verify with a callback: Got a call that's setting off alarm bells? Hang up and call back on a number you trust, whether it's for a family member or your bank.

And if the unthinkable happens and you get initially duped, these next steps might just buy you the time you need to rectify the situation:

Use strong, unique passwords: Don’t make it easy for scammers. Create complex passwords that are hard to crack, and make sure you’re not using the same password everywhere.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Even if you get duped initially, MFA can buy you precious time to act by requiring a second form of verification before granting access.

Install cybersecurity software: Tools like Guardio offer an extra layer of defense by scanning for scams and blocking malicious sites. Guardio online scam prevention also protects your social media accounts from being hijacked, blocks scam texts and email phishing attempts, and checks if your data has been leaked or breached—information scammers could use to craft convincing AI voice scams.

Incorporating these strategies into your digital routine can significantly boost your defenses against AI voice scams and other digital threats.

AI blurs reality - do not let scammers blur your judgment

Sharpen your digital vision and security with Guardio!

Deepfake scams: When reality is just an illusion

These days, seeing is no longer believing, thanks to the rise of deepfake scams. Scammers use AI to create videos so realistic they can fool anyone into thinking they're genuine. It's not just about cloning voices anymore; scammers are bringing entire personas to life, fabricating scenarios that never happened.

Suppose scrolling through your social feed when all of a sudden you come across a video of Tay Tay, aka Taylor Swift—enthusiastically endorsing a set of "free" Le Creuset Cookware or promoting an investment scheme that promises sky-high returns. The catch? Taylor Swift has never publicized any of these things. Her image and voice have been digitally manipulated to create a convincing lie.

This type of scam doesn't just stop at creating fake endorsements; it can spread misinformation, manipulate public opinion, and even cause personal and financial harm to the individuals impersonated and those deceived by the videos. In a startling incident, a finance employee at a global company was swindled out of $25 million by con artists wielding deepfake technology to impersonate the firm's chief financial officer during a video conference call. The elaborate scam involved deepfake illusions of colleagues, convincing the team member to engage in what he believed was a legitimate, urgent financial transaction. Ouch!

The technology behind deepfakes is both impressive and terrifying. Using just a few images or video clips of the target, AI algorithms can generate new content where that person appears to say or do almost anything. The result is a video that looks and sounds like the real deal, making it incredibly challenging to discern truth from fabrication.

Why deepfake scams are particularly dangerous:

Misinformation and manipulation: They can spread false information rapidly, influencing public opinion and damaging reputations.

Financial fraud: By impersonating trusted figures, scammers can convincingly pitch scams, leading unsuspecting targets to hand over money or personal information.

Emotional distress: For those impersonated, the creation and circulation of such content can cause significant emotional and psychological distress.

As these scams become more common, it's crucial to approach online content with a healthy dose of skepticism. Remember the golden rule: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Nothing in the scammer's world is truly free, and the cost of falling for a deepfake scam can be much more than financial—it can erode trust in the digital content we consume daily.

How to protect yourself from deepfake scams:

Verify the source: Before taking any video at face value, check multiple sources to confirm its authenticity.

Look for inconsistencies: Pay close attention to irregularities in the video, such as unnatural blinking, mismatched lip-syncing, or odd lighting.

Educate yourself: Familiarize yourself with the existence and capabilities of deepfake technology to better recognize potential scams.

Use trusted news outlets: Rely on reputable news sources for information about celebrities or public figures.

The bottom line

AI scams are getting trickier and more common. Now fake voices, videos, and emails can fool us into thinking they're real. This problem is big, and it's only going to get worse. So how do you avoid AI scams? Don't worry, there's a way to stay safe.

First, keep learning about these scams. The more you know, the harder it is for scammers to trick you. Second, use good online scam prevention tools like Guardio. It helps block scams before they reach you. Remember, by using the right tools and keeping up with new scam tricks, we can keep our online world safe and trustworthy. Let's make sure we're ready for whatever scammers throw our way!

Fake or real? AI scams make it hard to tell

Guardio doesn't - End the guessing game with Guardio!

Be the first to know!

Subscribe to our exclusive mailing list and get the freshest stories from the Guardio team

You may also like