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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Satz, CFP®, MPAS® CRPC®, AWMA®

AI-Enabled Heists: The Rising Sophistication of Digital Scams


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Key Takeaways

  • AI technology is boosting the sophistication of scams, with fraudsters using voice masking and intelligent bots to deceive victims.

  • Fraudsters are exploiting multiple communication channels, including phone calls, emails, and legitimate financial platforms, amplifying the need for vigilance.

  • The rise of AI-enabled scams underscores the importance of robust cybersecurity practices, including complex passwords, two-factor authentication, and skepticism of unsolicited communications.

Artificial intelligence, for better or worse, is sweeping the nation’s consciousness. And while AI holds great potential to make us all better and more efficient at what we do, it has also made thieves and scammers much better at what they do.


Several of our clients have been duped or almost duped by increasingly sophisticated frauds. I want to make you aware of these scams so you can protect yourself and your family. *


For starters, if someone claims to be from your bank or credit card company -- and is in a real hurry for you to take action on something or change something on your account -- hang up immediately. Don’t click on any links. Go to your real bank or card company’s website, get the correct phone number, and give them a call. Verify whether someone from the organization did contact you about your account. Chances are they did not.

Hacker at desktop using computer with digital business interface.

Fraudulent Charge Scam (Not Using AI)

One of our clients recently received a text message purporting to be from Chase Bank. The alleged customer representative told our client she wanted to verify a charge of $1,800 for Air Mexico. Our client was instructed to press “Y” for yes if the charge was valid. If it wasn’t valid, she was instructed to contact a certain phone number, which she did. After dialing, the voicemail system greeted her with “Thank you for calling Chase Bank, etc.” and then a human got on the line and asked our client to verify her name, date of birth, and Social Security number, which she did. Uh oh! Then she was asked about some of her other accounts at which point she started to get suspicious. Then the alleged customer support person told her to call back on a different number – allegedly a secure line – “since we’ll be talking about sensitive information.” The number, of course, was bogus. It started with *72 which unfortunately is an automatic call-forwarding command. Now ALL of her phone calls were being forwarded directly to the scammers and she didn’t know how to turn the call forwarding off. Not only were they receiving her phone call, but they had all of her confidential information. In a panic, she called us as well as our custodian and put a verbal password on her account. We were also able to un-forward her phone calls. But she will have to use credit monitoring to ensure there is no suspicious activity under her name now that scammers have some of her sensitive information. In the meantime, we placed a credit freeze on our client at all of the credit agencies to prevent any new loans or credit cards from being opened in her name.


Man talking smartphone using the voice recognition.

AI Voice Masking Scam AI has gotten so sophisticated that anyone can mask their voice to sound like anyone they want. Another one of our clients received a phone call, supposedly from his “nephew,” who told our client anxiously “I’m in a bit of trouble.” Even more disturbing, the scammers knew the first name of our client’s real nephew. The voice on the phone even sounded like our client’s nephew, an English-speaking American teen. The voice on the phone told our client that he got a DWI ticket and that he couldn’t let his parents find out about it. He claimed he had to hire a lawyer and the lawyer needed a $20,000 retainer to defend him. “Can you lend me the money?” the voice on the phone asked our client. Once our client agreed, his “nephew” told him he’d be getting a call from the “lawyer” -- which he soon did. The alleged lawyer told our client he needed the $20,000 in advance or else his nephew would be going to jail and subject to further fines and penalties. Our client was only somewhat suspicious until he was told how to deliver funds to the “lawyer.” He was instructed to wire $10,000 to the “lawyer’s” account and then get the other $10,000 in cash and have it ready for a “courier” to pick up. That’s when our client’s red flags went up and he balked.

Then the “nephew” called back frantically. “What’s the problem?” he screamed. “Why can’t I get the money?” Then my client asked the “nephew” to verify his mother’s first name again. That was enough to stump the scammer who quickly hung up. Thanks to being skeptical, our client avoided trouble – this time. With AI rapidly advancing, fraudsters will increasingly use voice masking to sound like Americans or other people relatively close to you. Even if a caller’s number pops up in your phone, scammers can “spoof” your phone number. Up until very recently, experts would need countless hours of audio to be able to disguise or mimic someone's voice. Now all scammers need is a few seconds of audio. They can call unsuspecting people on the phone, record the conversation, and then use free or very inexpensive tools online (as well as social media) to look up family relations, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Armed with this data, they can start to put together a picture of who could easily fall victim to a friend or family member in trouble.


Protect Yourself And Your Family

We want to make it clear that this post is not meant to be an all-encompassing guide to avoiding fraud. Countless other scams utilize various potential digital entry points such as social media, cash transfer apps (e.g. Venmo), and student loan forgiveness emails.

Here is a list of the top 12 scams right now that can trick even the sharpest of us: https://www.aura.com/learn/latest-scams-going-around.


As part of our continued efforts to maintain the highest cyber security standards posssible, the Novi team attends cyber security training annually. However, we are only part of the equation in protecting your digital (and financial) well-being. Here's what you can do to protect yourself and your family.

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Vigilance is key. Be a healthy skeptic. Never respond to text messages from any organization or company you work with unless it’s a doctor’s office confirming your appointment. Your bank or credit card company is NEVER going to text you to ask you to verify a transaction. If they do, always call the number on the back of your card to verify (with a human) that there was, in fact, an erroneous charge. If you receive a call from a distant friend or relative asking for money, that should be a red flag. Hang up immediately and call the friend or relative directly on the number for them that you have stored in your phone to verify it was them. Most of the time it won’t be. Again, keep complex passwords for all of your accounts and use password management tools like LastPass to make your life easier. (Click here to read more about Preventing Identity Theft). People don’t realize how much personal information can be gleaned from their email addresses once someone has the password. Make sure you have a very strong password to log into your email and make sure you have dual-factor authentication (often abbreviated as 2FA or DFA) to gain access to your email account and financial accounts, so you always have to verify yourself through your mobile phone. (Click here to read more about Dual Factor Authentication.)


If you use the same password for multiple sites, your password may be already out there on the dark web being sold off for people to attempt logins to your email accounts. If this happens, scammers can see emails from the financial institutions you use and go to the website and say: “forgot ID” or “forgot password” and have a link to the email sent to them so they can then change the password to one that only the scammer knows and then has access to your account. They could then link external accounts or wire money out into an account overseas.


Perhaps the most important thing of all you can do right now as the number of AI voice scams are expected to rise, is to have a secret word or phrase with your family members. This way, if one of them does call in an emergency requesting money, you can ask them for the secret phrase as a way to verify it is truly them. If this happens to you before you set up this agreement with your family members, ask obscure questions only they would know the answer to. Conclusion Always use complex passwords. Never use the same password twice, even though it’s convenient, and never store your login information in your web browser. As AI improves with lightning speed, hackers and scammers have never had more tools at their disposal to separate unsuspecting victims from their money and personal information.


 

DAN SATZ MS, CFP® is a Wealth Manager at Novi Wealth

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