Do you know someone who has been scammed? It’s gut-wrenching when you or someone you love has been taken for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, especially if the scammer earned that person’s trust, seemed helpful, or was a love interest.
Sadly, scams around the world are on the rise. In 2021 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reported 2.8 million fraud reports, up 70% from 2020. The cost to consumers? More than $5.8 billion dollars.
Who Is a Target?
The elderly, often not tech savvy, are the largest group of victims. Many assume that the number of those being scammed will go down as children grow up with technology, but that is like saying because teens drive at sixteen rather than twenty that there will be fewer accidents on our roads. Generally, digital device safety is not taught in the schools. Children are given lessons on how to use tech, and even write code. But this does not address the increasingly complicated world of online crime. More sophisticated scams may involve using new technology machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
Machine learning programs allow a device to assess errors and correct them, in essence “learning” to improve. This can be used to monitor for and recognize scam activity. It can also be used by scammers to improve their chances of breaking into a system, generating more believable scams and keeping ahead of law enforcement.
Technology that is able to improve its function is being sold on forums criminals use. What has helped so far is simply that most scammers come from poor, undeveloped countries. They lack the training, language skills, or financial means to access such tech.
How Criminals May Use Artificial Intelligence
This could change as tech advances continue. Writing tools like ChatGPT can produce human-like writing by scanning billions of pieces of text and finding ways language is best used. This program has been in the news for its ability to write for students who aren’t invested in the work needed to generate the report the teacher assigned. We are familiar with computer typing programs that find our incorrect spelling and grammar. Continual advancement of such tech is the natural outcome.
This technology also is affecting video and audio. One of the newer and more alarming uses of AI is the deep fake. Clips can be altered to make it hard for a human to tell what is real. Imagine someone obtaining a clip of your boss speaking on a phone call. That voice sample can then be used to create a new message to the finance department to transfer funds to a scam account. The person recognizes their boss’s voice and transfers the money without question.
In essence, any tool used to fight scams, security breaches and false information, can be used in criminal ways. Strangely enough, even AI can be fooled if given enough false information that skews its learning.
Empowering Tech Users
If this sounds hopeless, take heart. People were afraid of the telephone, trains, cars, electricity and Y2K. The answer to all changes in technology is education based on good information and research. We can’t let fear guide us, but rather take advantage of the positive side of these tools. Couple that with some good old-fashioned common sense and healthy skepticism. The brave new world of tomorrow is the same brave new world of any age. This is the mission of Digital Respons-Ability – to educate, inform and empower learners toward a better technological world.