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Artificial Intelligence Scams Targeting Seniors

Artificial Intelligence Scams Targeting Seniors - Some Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim

by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. 4.28.24


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Attorney RJ Connelly III

"A new type of fraud has emerged that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) technology to deceive unsuspecting victims," stated professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "Imagine receiving a phone call from someone who claims to be your granddaughter, whom you haven't heard from since her high school graduation nearly ten months ago. The voice on the other end is immediately recognizable, and you are thrilled to hear from her. However, the news that follows could be better. Your supposed granddaughter tells you that she's been arrested in another state and needs bail money. She pleads with you to keep this a secret from her parents and requests that you wire the funds to her. To add to the authenticity, she hands over the phone to the desk sergeant, who takes your information and guides you on transferring the money."


In Sugarland, Texas, news station ABC KTRK recently reported a scam targeting an 82-year-old man named Jerry. According to the report, Jerry received a phone call from a person claiming to be from the San Antonio Police Department, informing him that his son-in-law had been arrested for causing a car accident. During the call, Jerry believed that his son-in-law had taken the phone to explain the situation. However, voice cloning technology was used to deceive Jerry.


Subsequently, Jerry paid a considerable amount of money to secure the release of his son-in-law from jail. Unfortunately, it later transpired that Jerry's son-in-law had never been arrested and that he and his wife had been swindled out of $17,000. The couple are residents of an expensive assisted living facility, and this scam has forced them to consider finding additional sources of income to supplement their loss.


"The two incidents cited above serve as evidence of the growing trend of AI-powered scams," said Attorney Connelly. "Older adults, frequently targeted by fraudsters, are advised to exercise extreme caution when receiving unsolicited phone calls or messages containing alarming information about a loved one or friend. Further, it emphasizes the importance of education about artificial Intelligence scams targeting seniors."


What is Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing field revolutionizing how we perform various tasks. It involves the development of complex algorithms that simulate human thinking and decision-making, allowing machines to perform tasks that were once only possible for humans. One of the most commonly used applications of AI is voice recognition software, which is used to power smartphone voice assistants. Online shopping platforms also rely on AI technology to suggest products that customers may be interested in buying based on their previous purchases.


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AI being used for fraudulent activities

However, while AI has many benefits, it can also be exploited maliciously. Scammers can use AI-powered "family emergency schemes" to deceive people into sending money or personal information. For example, they can create fake videos or clone someone's voice to make it sound like a family member is in trouble and needs financial help. This is just one of the many ways AI can be used for fraud.


It is essential to be aware of these fraudulent practices and take necessary measures to protect oneself. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned about the potential dangers of AI technology and its susceptibility to be exploited for fraudulent activities. Therefore, it is vital to stay vigilant when communicating with unknown individuals and to verify any requests for money or personal information before responding.


AARP Tips

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers the following tips on avoiding becoming a victim of a phone fraud:


Don’t trust your caller ID - If you get a call from a business, hang up and find the company’s number (for a bank, it will be on your financial statement, for example), then call directly. No matter what the pitch, anyone asking you to pay with a gift card is a scammer, according to the Federal Trade Commission.


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Be wary of unsolicited phone calls

Pause before you click - Never click on a link in an email or text message without confirming that it’s from a legitimate source. Criminals can craft extremely sophisticated-looking messages, as well as fake websites that convincingly mimic real ones.


Consider choosing a safe word for your family - Share it only with family members or others in your inner circle. If someone calls claiming to be a grandchild, for example, you can ask for the safe word or words — rubber ducky, Fred Flintstone, whatever — and if the caller doesn’t know it, it’s clearly a scam.


Call back your “grandchild” in crisis - If you don’t have a safe word and your supposed grandchild or child calls saying there’s a medical emergency or some other crisis (sometimes callers say they’ve been kidnapped), they may add that their phone is broken so you can’t call them. Pause, take a breath (criminals try to rattle you to disrupt your rational thinking), and tell them you want to try to call them back anyway. Chances are your real grandchild will pick up, unharmed and bewildered by your concern.


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Do not download software found in an ad

Don't click on ads to download software - The FTC says that if you see an ad for software that piques your interest, rather than clicking on a link, go to the company’s website by typing in its address. If you search for it online, the agency warns, “remember that scammers also place ads on search engines. They’ll appear at the top of your search results page and might have a label that says ‘Ad’ or ‘Sponsored.’ Scroll past those to get to your search results.”


Guard your personal information - To avoid identity theft, be careful about disclosing your full name, your home address, your Social Security number, credit card and banking information, and other personal details. Definitely don’t share information with someone you only know from email or texting.


Spread the word - Educate your loved ones on the latest scams and the advice above.


Report scams - If you spot a scam or you’ve been a victim of one, report it to the police, as well as the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov. The more information authorities have, the better they can identify patterns, link cases and ultimately catch the criminals.   


"The AARP Fraud Watch Network is an effective way to safeguard yourself and your loved ones against fraudulent schemes," said Attorney Connelly. "To benefit from this network, you can enroll in free Watchdog alerts, dial the toll-free helpline at 1-877-908-3360 if you suspect a scam, and even examine our scam-tracking map to keep track of the latest activities of fraudsters in your area."


A Final Word

"As the field of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to evolve, scammers have become increasingly adept at exploiting it for their nefarious purposes," stated Attorney Connelly. "Elderly individuals and their families, in particular, are vulnerable to these scams, often involving AI-generated voices designed to sound convincing and trustworthy. These scams can take various forms, such as robocalls, fake tech support calls, and romance scams. It is essential to remain informed and vigilant to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling prey to these deceptive schemes. Adopting the precautions outlined by the AARP in this blog can help protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming victims of fraudulent activity."


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Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.

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