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Beware of AI scams: The dark side of the digital utopia we didn’t sign up for

AI is here, and we cannot simply put the genie back in the bottle. Society will have to contend with AI as it grows in capability and prevalence.

harold on the phone

A fake Bloomberg Twitter account shared a photo (presumably generated by AI) depicting an explosion near the Pentagon.

The images shared by a blue check-clad Twitter account disseminated widely and seemingly caused a temporary stock market dip of 0.26% on May 23, 2023

The market recovered quickly. However, if the panic response is correctly attributed to a fake photo posted on a fake Twitter account, we should feel unsettled.

Manipulated photos circulated long before generative AI.

Some blame falls on Twitter for shifting the blue checkmarks from identity verification into a money-making-er-well-losing scheme. But AI feels like a new horizon for fraud, no matter how Twitter handles verification.

A single image of smoke rising near a government building is a fraction of what AI is currently capable of generating. 

The Daily Show used AI to generate Joe Biden’s voice for a satirical 2024 Biden presidential campaign commercial.

The video is clearly labeled as AI; the AI voice even says it’s an AI-generated voice. But what if it was trying to deceive the public?

Modified videos impersonating President Joe Biden have been circulating online, promoting a fake stimulus program.

TikTok recently removed a video of Joe Rogan using AI-generated audio that was promoting a “libido booster for men” called Alpha Grind.

Sometimes AI-generated audio or video, including videos of Biden and Rogan, are promoted with ads.

I’ve written about scams using advertising and impersonation. Ads impersonating MrBeast once ran, claiming to give away “10000$ to every person who visit this page[sic].”

This was most assuredly not a real advertisement from the famous YouTuber.

People are being given the chance to win $1000 when they visit the page and complete all the steps required to enter the Mr Beast Giveaway. Full Text: $1000 IM GIVING | |VAY PayPal A 10000+ TO EVERY PERSON WHO VISIT 0:20 / 0:23 THIS PAGE Claim $1000 $10000 Giveaway MrBeast and all US citizen have a CLAIM NOW : chance to win $ 1000 when they Ad mrbeast-givea ... visits this page! Enjoy V 124K views · 2 days ago + Claim Reward Like Dislike Share Download Save K MR BEAST GIVEAWAY SUBSCRIBE You must enter valid information 3.22K subscribers and complete all steps to enter the
Image: KnowTechie

These ads are either driving people to scams or perhaps toward fully legitimate products marketed in the least ethical way imaginable. Who can say?

Some impersonation scams are more personal than mass-distributed videos.

In March of this year, The Federal Trade Commission issued a consumer alert that scammers are using AI voice cloning to perpetrate family emergency schemes.

Data for 2022 published by the FTC says that after investment scams, imposter scams cost consumers the most, with losses of $3.8 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively.

AI-powered fraud is not just a U.S. Problem

In Canada, scammers used AI voice-changing technology to impersonate family members of eight senior citizens, stealing a collective $200,000 from the Octad over three days between February 28 and March 2, 2023.

According to Reuters, Mongolian police say a scammer used AI-powered face-swapping technology to impersonate a victim’s friend during a video call, successfully convincing them to transfer the scammer’s 4.3 million yuan ($622,000).

Even large companies have fallen prey to AI-impersonation scams

Voice-changing AI was used to impersonate executives at a U.K.-based energy firm and steal $243,000.

In a later case, criminals used AI voice cloning to convince a Bank in the United Arab Emirates to transfer $35 million to them.

AI is here, and we cannot simply put the genie back in the bottle. Society will have to contend with AI as it grows in capability and prevalence.

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Mason Pelt is a writer, primarily focused on the impact of marketing on culture. He's also the managing director of Push ROI Inc. and a board member for the non-profit Project HandUP.

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