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Artificial Intelligence Scams Targeting Seniors

If you have been listening to the news recently, you would have certainly heard about Artificial Intelligence “AI” for short. You may have discarded it, thinking that it’s for young people. In fact, the opposite is true. Seniors are rapidly becoming affected by AI in the form of AI money scams.

With AI, it is now possible to “clone” or copy the voice of any person from a few words that the person spoke in a video or audio clip posted on social media. With this new AI technology, a scammer can make a computer say anything in the voice of that person whose voice has been cloned. This is generally how the scam works: A senior receives a distressed phone call from one of his or her grandchildren or other young relative such as a niece or nephew. The senior recognizes the voice on the phone as the voice of a family member. The voice says that the caller is in trouble with the police and needs to be bailed out of jail or needs money to pay a lawyer for legal help. The voice then says not to tell the caller’s parents about the problem because they will not understand and will get upset. The voice informs the senior that he or she is the only person that the caller could call of the entire family. The voice is so convincing that the senior believes that the caller is speaking directly to his or her grandchild or young relative. The senior is given instruction about how to make the payment—almost always in cash to be mailed to a particular address. The senior is anxious to help a family member in distress, follows the instructions, withdraws the cash from the bank account and mails it off, only to find out later that the grandchild or young relative who supposedly called was never in any trouble, never made the call, and knows nothing about the matter.

There are other variations of the scam. In one variation, the senior receives a call from an unknown caller stating that the senior’s grandchild has been kidnapped. Then the senior hears the grandchild’s voice crying and pleading with the grandparent for help. The unknown caller then demands a ransom, which, as with the other scams, must be paid in cash.

If you receive a call of this nature, here are a few things that should set off alarm bells: (1) there is a strong element of distress in the caller’s voice; (2) there is an appeal to fear; (3) there is a sense of urgency; (4) you are asked to maintain secrecy; (5) the caller knows unusual details about the family; (6) you are asked for a large sum of money; (7) you are required to send the money in cash to some unknown address.

Here are some things you should do if you receive a distressed call from someone who sounds like a family member: (1) if the caller says he or she is calling from a police station, ask for the telephone number at that location and say that you will call back; (2) call the phone number of the person who is claiming to be your relative; (3) ask the caller for specific details about the trouble or problem that he or she is claiming to be in, such as the location where the arrest took place, the time the arrest took place, the name of the arresting police officer, and so on; (4) ask to speak to as many people as possible who might be at a police station and in positions of authority. Do not be in a hurry to do what the caller says. Delay for as long as possible—the longer you delay, the more frustrated the scammer will become, and you will be able to detect that frustration and know that the call is a scam.

Such incidents can be reported to the police, although they may not be able to do anything about it, but it needs to be reported for record purpose. The agency that deals with such crimes is the FBI, and the number to call is 202-324-3000.