AI Scams : An Emerging Cybersecurity Threat

AI Scams : An Emerging Cybersecurity Threat

Artificial Intelligence (AI), a technology that replicates human-like intelligence in machines, has brought about a sea change in various facets of our daily life. It has significantly altered the way we work, communicate, and even entertain ourselves. From automated customer service and smart home devices to personalized content recommendations and advanced data analysis, AI is increasingly becoming a cornerstone of our digital existence.

However, every technological advancement carries a double-edged sword. While AI has undeniably brought numerous benefits, it also opens up new avenues for misuse and exploitation. A key area of concern that has emerged in the wake of AI’s rapid proliferation is the rise of a new class of fraudulent activities known as AI scams.

AI scams are a broad category of deceptive practices that leverage the power of AI technologies to exploit unsuspecting individuals or businesses. These scams can range from phishing attempts, where AI is used to generate persuasive and seemingly legitimate emails, to deepfakes, where AI is employed to create convincingly realistic but entirely fake images or videos. As AI continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, so too do these scams, creating an ongoing challenge for cybersecurity and the broader digital community.

In the following sections, we delve into the various types of AI scams, the methods scammers employ, and the steps you can take to protect yourself. Knowledge and awareness are our strongest defenses in the face of this rapidly evolving threat landscape.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) scams have seen a significant rise in prevalence throughout the year 2023, and they generally fall into two distinct categories.

The first category is known as AI-assisted scams. In these types of scams, the technology of artificial intelligence is harnessed directly by scammers to facilitate their fraudulent activities. A common example of this is the creation of text for phishing emails. Before the advent of AI, a phishing email might have been relatively easy to spot due to poor grammar or spelling errors. However, AI tools like ChatGPT are capable of generating text that is grammatically accurate and contextually relevant, making it harder for potential victims to distinguish these phishing attempts from legitimate correspondence.

The second category of AI scams takes advantage of the popularity and the novelty factor of AI itself to lure unsuspecting victims. These scams often present themselves in the form of fake AI applications or platforms. The scammers behind these fraudulent operations capitalize on the public’s interest and curiosity in AI, offering enticing opportunities that are, in fact, non-existent. The victims, intrigued by the prospect of engaging with cutting-edge AI technology, might unknowingly sign up or invest, only to realize too late that they’ve been deceived.

The proliferation of AI tools like ChatGPT, which can generate text that convincingly mimics human writing, has unfortunately made these types of scams more effective. ChatGPT’s ability to produce authentic-sounding text means that a wider demographic, not just those with technical expertise, can now orchestrate these scams. While AI continues to bring countless benefits to various aspects of our lives, it’s essential to remain vigilant about its potential misuse in the form of these AI scams.

Types of AI Scams

AI-Enabled Phishing Scams

Phishing scams, a longstanding form of online fraud, typically involve fraudsters sending deceptive emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate company. The ultimate goal of these scams is to trick the recipient into clicking a malicious link. This link then either leads to the installation of harmful software on the person’s device or to the theft of sensitive personal information. As of 2023, advancements in AI technologies such as ChatGPT have allowed scammers to generate convincing, error-free text, which has made it even more challenging to differentiate phishing attacks from authentic communications.

AI Voice Scams

Another rising trend in the realm of AI-assisted scams is the use of AI voice cloning technology to perpetrate fraud. In these scams, artificial intelligence is employed to mimic an individual’s voice. The scammers use this cloned voice to impersonate the victim, potentially deceiving their contacts or family members. According to a global survey conducted by cybersecurity firm McAfee, 10% of respondents had already been personally targeted by an AI voice scam. Furthermore, among US victims who lost money to AI voice cloning scams, 11% were duped out of significant amounts, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.

Scams Involving Fraudulent ChatGPT Apps

The growing fascination with AI tools like ChatGPT has given rise to another category of scams: fraudulent ChatGPT app scams. In these scams, fraudsters exploit the popularity of ChatGPT by creating counterfeit apps that appear to be related to ChatGPT. These rogue apps usually provide a basic program for free but severely limit its functionality. Users of these apps are then inundated with in-app advertisements pressuring them to sign up for a pricey subscription.

AI-Engineered Kidnapping Scams

AI Kidnapping Scams take AI Voice Scams o an even lower level and typically involve criminals using artificial intelligence to replicate the voices of loved ones to convince victims that a relative or friend has been kidnapped. Jennifer DeStefano, an Arizona woman, shared her harrowing experience with one such scam during a Senate judiciary committee meeting.

She received a phone call from an unknown number, which she answered thinking it might be from a doctor’s office. On the other end of the line was what sounded exactly like her 15-year-old daughter, Briana, crying and sobbing for help. The voice claimed that she was kidnapped by some men and begged for help. A man’s voice then intervened, threatening DeStefano not to involve the police and to pay a ransom of $50,000 in cash​.

Despite the terrifying ordeal, DeStefano was told by another parent that the police were aware of these types of scams. She was able to confirm that her daughter was safe. But when she tried to file a police report after the ordeal, she was dismissed and told this was a “prank call”.

A survey by McAfee, a computer security software company, found that 70% of people said they weren’t confident they could tell the difference between a cloned voice and the real thing. McAfee also said it takes only three seconds of audio to replicate a person’s voice​.

The rise of these scams has been noted in recent years. Known as “deepfake ransom scams,” they’ve been used to manipulate victims into transferring significant sums of money. Deepfake technology uses AI to generate synthetic media, which in these cases, replicate the voices of loved ones.

In the US, reports of such crimes have been on the rise, and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received an increasing number of complaints. Authorities are warning people to be vigilant, as these scams continue to grow more sophisticated and challenging to identify.

How to Protect Yourself from AI Scams

Artificial Intelligence (AI) scams have grown in sophistication, making them challenging to recognize and guard against. Nevertheless, it’s important to be prepared and informed to protect yourself effectively. Here are some easy-to-follow strategies that can help:

  1. Be Cautious With Urgent Communications: One common tactic used in scams is to create a sense of urgency. For instance, you may receive an email or message urging you to pay an immediate fine or asking you to log into your account to prevent it from being closed. In such situations, it’s crucial to remain calm and cautious. Instead of reacting immediately, take a step back and evaluate the situation. If the message seems legitimate, open a new line of communication with the company to verify the information. For example, if you receive an email from your bank about unauthorized activity, don’t reply to the email directly. Instead, contact your bank’s customer service through their official website or a number you know to be genuine.
  2. Verify Unexpected Calls from Loved Ones: AI voice scams are a type of scam where the fraudster mimics the voice of a person you know, often claiming to be a loved one in distress. If you receive such a call, it’s important not to panic. Try to confirm the individual’s identity and the situation by calling them back on a number you know to be theirs. If you can’t reach them, attempt to verify their whereabouts by reaching out to other close contacts. In a situation where you can’t confirm the person’s safety, it’s essential to contact law enforcement immediately.
  3. Exercise Caution When Downloading Apps: Scammers often exploit the popularity of certain technologies or trends by creating fake applications. Therefore, be careful when downloading apps, especially from unfamiliar developers or sources. Always read the reviews and research the app before downloading it. Check for any information about the app online and make sure it’s available on legitimate platforms like Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. An app with few reviews or one that’s not available on major platforms can be a red flag.

In a world where AI scams are becoming more prevalent, these simple precautions can provide a strong line of defense. Remember, when in doubt, always choose to verify information independently and reach out to trusted sources.

Final Thoughts

The world of artificial intelligence is in a state of constant growth and evolution. This rapid advancement has brought with it an undeniable rise in the sophistication and complexity of AI-related scams. While this may seem intimidating, it is important to remember that knowledge and awareness are key tools for prevention.

It’s clear that as AI technology continues to develop, so too will the scams associated with it. They are likely to become more intricate, harder to identify, and potentially more damaging. However, we should not allow this possibility to create undue fear or anxiety.

Instead, we can utilize this understanding as a motivation to stay updated and informed about the latest trends in AI scams. Regularly reading up on new types of scams and the methods used by scammers can help us to identify potential threats early on.

Moreover, vigilance is an invaluable weapon against these scams. By being cautious about the emails we respond to, the phone calls we answer, the apps we download, and the information we share online, we can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams.

While AI scams may become more prevalent and complex, they are not an insurmountable problem. By staying informed, maintaining a healthy level of skepticism, and practicing safe online behaviors, we can continue to enjoy the benefits of AI while protecting ourselves from potential threats.

Further Resources and References to Help

  1. AI Scams to Look Out For & How to Spot Them: This article provides an in-depth look at the different types of AI scams and offers useful tips on how to identify and avoid them.