In this bonus episode, Bob Sullivan invites anti-fraud activists Frank McKenna and Ayelet Biger-Levin to take stock of where we are in the fight against fraud and look ahead to the trends listeners should watch for in 2023. Learn how criminals exploit advances in technology (such as bots, deep fakes and ChatGPT) and how an old scam is making a big comeback.
[00:00:01] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam.
[00:00:03] Frank McKenna: I got caught up in the moment. I have emotions, and I wished I'd stopped and paused for a second and looked a little deeper. So yeah, anyone can and probably will be a victim of scam at some point.
[00:00:21] Bob: Welcome back to The Perfect Scam. I'm your host, Bob Sullivan. We’ve just finished another season, Season 13, full of crimes, duplicity, and hope thanks to all the brave victims who've had the courage to speak with us and tell us their stories. It's a good time to take stock of where we are in the fight against scams, and it's still early enough in 2023 to talk about what kinds of crime we should all look out for this year. And here to help us do both those things are Frank McKenna and Ayelet Biger-Levin. In a moment you'll hear from Frank who was actually one of the first people involved in the fight against digital age crime, specifically credit card fraud on the internet. But first, let's meet Ayelet. She's spent two decades helping financial institutions fight criminals and she has a new project devoted to honoring the work of fraud fighters. You'll hear about that soon too. But we begin our conversation with a simple question: Where do things stand in the fight against fraud?
[00:01:27] Ayelet Biger-Levin: I think we're at the very beginning in the US when it comes to scams, because typically what a cybercriminal start in the UK when it comes to fraud and with the most advanced attack vectors. And then we see them eventually ending up here as well. I think here it's just the beginning. It's a beginning for financial institutions, it's the beginning of the scams in general. We're going to see a huge growth before it declines, and I think what's frightening to me is that the monetary losses are growing significantly.
[00:01:57] Bob: Why are scams growing so fast? Initially, digital age crimes involved hacking into banks, understanding sophisticated, malicious software, but increasingly, criminals have realized that scams involving consumers are easier to commit, and the laws haven't really caught up to the problem.
[00:02:16] Ayelet Biger-Levin: So what happened in the last few years is that banks actually put really good controls for account takeover fraud. First of all they were mandated; there was liability, and they have to reimburse customers if someone steals credentials and takes over their accounts or someone logs into your bank account and your money is stolen or there's some misuse of information, the bank has to reimburse in the US according to Reg E and in other countries as well. What is not well regulated yet is scams. And the, why I'm mentioning regulation, it's important because where regulation is, they will put controls. Where regulation is not, it's open to, you know, they want to put, do the right thing and help their customers, but the priority is where they're liable. What cybercriminals have figured out is they have to look for the weakest link, which is the humans, all of us.
[00:03:07] Bob: Financial institutions do use sophisticated software to stop fraud. They detect unusual purchase patterns for example, but it's harder for them to detect crimes when a consumer is an unwitting accomplice, she says.
[00:03:22] Ayelet Biger-Levin: It's very, very hard to detect because now we're expecting financial institutions to not only detect, you know, a device change, IP or whatever, we are expecting banks to detect intent. Am I intending to do this for the right reasons or is this someone impersonating scamming me on the other side? That's almost impossible to detect.
[00:03:41] Bob: We're asking technology to detect intent. Wow, that's a mouthful.
[00:03:46] Ayelet Biger-Levin: Exactly. Because how can you tell if I'm transferring money because you know I'm transferring it to a contractor or someone from the gig economy that's given me a service. They're both new payees; one of them is legitimate, the other one is not. Um, it's really hard.
[00:04:01] Bob: Cybercrime that involves victims is becoming faster and easier to commit, she says. Especially with the rise of cryptocurrency scams.
[00:04:10] Ayelet Biger-Levin: In the past, if you wanted to kind of get a lot of money from someone you had to get them into a romance scam and convince them, and hold their hand for each dollar that they transferred. You had to stage this emergency situation where you know I need you to transfer my money because I'm in a risk, or how many times can you create that situation? In investment scams they work on a different, they work on delight in the hope to make quick money.
[00:04:33] Bob: That's really interesting. A romance scam might take a year or two even to evolve fully, right, where a, a crypto scam could happen much more quickly than that, right?
[00:04:42] Ayelet Biger-Levin: Yeah, a crypto scam is a matter of weeks or months, and it typically starts with someone, a wrong number. So you know, someone can write you, you know, "Janet, how are you? Um, I just wanted to say that..." something or whatever. And then it's like, "Oh, you're not Janet. Sorry, it's a wrong number. Oh, you're so kind. How are you? Where are you from?" "I'm from LA." You know, this conversation starts and then they kind of befriend the person and then they start a, start presenting a flashy lifestyle, like, "Oh, look at me being here in this picture, and I want to buy this bag." And all these great things. And then they, they say, "You know how I got all this money? I used; I invested in crypto. I have a friend and he told me this and like that."
[00:05:23] Bob: We've told some of those crypto investment scam stories here at The Perfect Scam. They are tragic. Victims can see their whole life savings stolen. And there's a bigger picture problem that's often missed, Ayelet says.
[00:05:38] Ayelet Biger-Levin: This is a phenomena that goes beyond the banks. It will impact government and taxpayers as well. And we need to consider the wholistic aspect. It, it's kind of an attack on our economy and the global economy. And trillions of dollars.
[00:05:54] Bob: Trillions of dollars. Scams are an attack on the global economy. We'll hear more from Ayelet in a moment. But our next guest has been working on the front lines of fraud fighting for many years. Nowadays he spends a lot of time on the Dark Web using communications tools like Telegram to keep an eye on digital criminals. And he has a lot to say about what crimes are coming down the pike.
[00:06:20] Frank McKenna: Yeah, my name is Frank McKenna. Um, I live here in San Diego, California, and I work for a company, I actually started a company called Point Predictive. We're a AI company that focuses on fraud, particularly for auto and mortgage lenders.
[00:06:35] Bob: For Frank, fraud is personal.
[00:06:38] Frank McKenna: I was one of those people that was calling customers of the bank saying, "Hey, was this your charge?" And about half the time it wasn't. And so we were notifying the customer that of something they didn't even know about.
[00:06:50] Bob: What an amazing experience to actually be talking to human beings experiencing fraud.
[00:06:54] Frank McKenna: Yeah, most people are kind of shocked. The psychology was very interesting as well because what most people didn't realize, and this was back at that time, and I'm sure it's still the case, when you have a case of credit card fraud, about 40% of the time you know the person that did it. So walking them through potentially somebody that was in their house, a son, a daughter, a housecleaner, a gardener, somebody would get their credit card. So walking them through that process of understanding who might have taken it was really interesting as well.
[00:07:28] Bob: Oh my God. I can't even imagine. And, and then they have to suddenly realize this person I trusted I can't trust anymore. Wow.
[00:07:34] Frank McKenna: Yeah, exactly. And it's a, sometimes people would be in denial, um, especially if it was a son or daughter, somebody close to them, but so often that was the case.
[00:07:44] Bob: After years of following crimes and scams, Frank has a rather depressing observation to offer about criminals.
[00:07:53] Bob: And the vast majority of them are getting away with it?
[00:07:57] Frank McKenna: The vast majority are getting away with it. I would probably guess about 99.9% of people that commit fraud get away with it.
[00:08:05] Bob: Oh my God, that's crazy to think about.
[00:08:07] Frank McKenna: Yeah, and if you think about what has to happen for somebody to do time, number one, the victim has to come forward and report it to police, so maybe half the time that won't happen, or even more. Then the police have to take that; they have to investigate and be able to link the person to it, and that, you know, can get rid of another 30 or 40%. Then the district attorney has to prosecute it and that weeds out more, and then the people have to actually find them guilty. This is that process of getting consequences, is very hard to get a prosecution.
[00:08:40] Bob: Scams are personal to Frank because, well, he's been a victim too -- several times.
[00:08:47] Frank McKenna: The first scam, I luckily caught it at the end, but it, it was a call that came into me from the IRS. It was a police officer. They told me that I owed $2000, and I didn't know what was going on and I thought, you know, maybe I calculated my taxes wrong. I couldn't figure out what they wanted me to do, but eventually they wanted me to send them money to be able to uh, release the case, and it was going to be $2000. And I was getting kind of caught up, I was really afraid. But then when they told me to send an Apple card, I knew it was a fraud. So that was the first time I, I kinda realized. I was pretty late into the call before I realized that. And that was several years ago when those types of scams were not unusual. The other scam was during COVID. My wife was looking for disinfectant spray, and I, I don't know if you recall this, but Lysol was like $20 a bottle. You know you couldn't find it anywhere. And so I was like, I thought I was smart, and I was going, well I'm going to go around, I'll find some Lysol online. And sure enough, within a minute I found a site that was selling Lysol for like $3. So I thought, well my wife's going to love this, and then I was, I said I'm going to buy like 20 bottles and then she'll have it, you know, however long this lasts. So I put in my credit card, the transaction went through, but then when it came through on my credit card statement, it says it was some company out of Japan. It wasn't Lysol at all. And somebody had basically just put up a website to steal people's credit card numbers and take the money. And to me my big learning was if it's too good to be true, it probably is. And I lost, you know, money out of that so.
[00:10:26] Bob: You know, I think that's a great example though. Well one of the themes of this podcast is, is if you haven't been a victim of a scam, you're, you're just lucky and your time is coming. Like there's a scam for everyone. But also something you might not do under normal circumstances you will do under duress, and the pandemic is a perfect example of all of us. We're under duress and looking to buy goods that were suddenly limited, and lots of people uh were victims of scams in that circumstance.
[00:10:52] Frank McKenna: Yeah, exactly. And you think, how could I be a victim, like this is what I do all day. I would say I'm like pretty savvy about scams, but I got caught up in the moment. I have emotions, and I wished I'd stopped and paused for a second and looked a little deeper. So yeah, anyone can and probably will be a victim of scam at some point.
[00:11:14] Bob: I really appreciate you sharing that. That's going to make a, I think a lot of our listeners feel better. So thanks, Frank.
[00:11:19] Frank McKenna: (chuckle)
[00:11:21] Bob: As I mentioned, Frank's on the front lines spotting new scams and new criminals. The other observation he has to offer about today's criminals is that they change their tactics constantly. In fact, so often that Frank has a name for that now. He calls them shape shifters.
[00:11:41] Frank McKenna: Yeah, shape shifter is a new type of fraudster. These shape shifters are working in coordination with each other. So if you go to um, these messaging channels like Telegram, there's over 100,000 fraud channels with sometimes up to 10,000 members each. And these people are all communicating back and forth about how to defraud people. They're communicating in real time with each other and they're adjusting their tactics based upon what they're hearing from each other in real time and online. They're using really sophisticated tools, like you think about ChatGPT that just launched. You know the, the ability for everyone to get access to these very high powered AI tools, they're leveraging that, they're leveraging data science, so they actually, some of these fraudsters have their own data and analytics teams of people. These are scientists that know how to build models that can penetrate lenders and consumers' defenses. And they're really, and the bottom line, they're emboldened because most people that are committing fraud these days they're not getting caught. So they're able to kind of shape shift, change their tactics, become whoever they want to be online and defraud millions of people.
[00:12:57] Bob: How does shape shifting work in practice?
[00:13:00] Frank McKenna: I'll give you an example what happened on this holiday season, the day after Thanksgiving, I think they call it Black Friday. There were a global group of fraud attackers who were attacking merchants here in the United States. They were pushing through transactions all over the world to these merchants. They were targeting using people's stolen credit cards on those sites, and what they were doing is simultaneously they were targeting the fraud tools that those sites used. They were doing D-Dos attacks which was, they were flooding the fraud systems with millions and millions of requests at the same time to bring the fraud systems down. So when they use like a consumer's stolen card, the fraud system could not respond, and the card would go through. That's an example of them using these tactics, and then when they would get pushed out, or they would stop the attack, they'd just go another route. And they would do it again. That's an example of what they did this year and caused millions and millions of damages and stolen lots of people's credit cards and used them successfully.
[00:14:09] Bob: Some of these teams have names.
[00:14:12] Frank McKenna: Yeah, the Master Manipulators are shape shifters. It's a term that was given to the group, if you recall the group I talked about on Black Friday. That term, Master Manipulators, was given to that group by about 40 different online retailers, merchants, that were dealing with them in real time on Black Friday. So these Master Manipulators were doing that shape shifting and the merchants were all kind of collaborating in the background trying to counter these attacks that were hitting them. So those Master Manipulators caused, you know, probably millions and millions of damage in just a single day.
[00:14:50] Bob: Another crime that's stealing millions and millions of dollars a day is that crypto investment scam which Ayelet mentioned. According to Frank, the groups behind that scam are even more sinister than you can probably imagine.
[00:15:05] Frank McKenna: What is happening is that in Cambodia and Vietnam and some of the poorer countries, people are basically being sold to these Chinese Triad Mafia groups who are basically bringing them into these illegal casinos, they're putting them at desks, and they're giving them phones, and they're forcing them to commit scams. So what these people are forced to do is create these fake, online accounts using fake pictures of men and women, and then they're kind of chatting up people they meet online, often here in the United States, and they're up adopting this persona that they're rich and they're helping them get into these investments to make lots of money. But what it is, it's nothing more than an investment scam where they're getting you to deposit money into these fake brokerages, and once they have your confidence, they're just taking all your money. But those are committed by slaves, essentially, that are forced into it.
[00:16:12] Bob: That's just sounds so, so horrible, but that also provides a workforce on a scale that, that must be really hard to combat.
[00:16:19] Frank McKenna: And a workforce that will do anything because they will punish these people. They are forced to work long hours; they feel like they're doing something illegal so they're less likely to speak up. They do harm these people greatly by beating them or tasering them, forcing them to really go to any resort to get people's money.
[00:16:45] Bob: So if a consumer is enticed by an offer to invest in bitcoin or, or something like that, um, and, and maybe they're not even sure it's real, but they are um, entertaining it and having some dialog, they may very well be talking to someone who's essentially a slave.
[00:17:03] Frank McKenna: They probably, yeah. Very well could be talking to somebody that's a slave that doesn't want to do it to them, clear across the country, clear across the world, you know that you just have no idea what's happening.
[00:17:15] Bob: Far, far away from new cryptocurrency crimes on the other side of the technology spectrum, Frank also said that an old-fashioned crime came back into fashion last year. Check washing.
[00:17:29] Frank McKenna: Yeah. The problem of check fraud is doubled in the last year. Um, that's from my discussions with banks, and if you look at the media, you'll see there was hardly any mention of check fraud 18 months ago. Now it's dominating. You just see so many stories. And when I go out and I look at what all the fraudsters on Telegram, you know, the dark channels are talking about, it's check fraud. So what are they doing? They're doing a few things. They're stealing checks out of the mail. So they're breaking into those boxes or they're stealing, the carrier, the keys, those arrow keys they call them. They can open up the mailboxes and they'll steal the mail, they'll take the checks out, they'll wash them; and what that means is they'll put it into some solvent like fingernail polish or something that will erase the ink, and then they're changing the name and the dollar amount, and then they're depositing those checks into bank accounts and taking the money out. Check washing is a huge problem right now and that's what, that's what a lot of consumers are getting hit with.
[00:18:31] Bob: (chuckles) I'm sorry, I feel like I'm in the 1980s here. That's, that's shocking to me that this is the problem still.
[00:18:38] Frank McKenna: It is shocking that it's a problem still, and that it's a problem because it's, banks thought checks were going away years ago because check use has been declining so they haven't really invested in any modernized tools. So it's kind of been like one of those viruses that's been out there that just starts raging because there's, it just came back. It, it is amazing. It's a, it's the fraud of the '80s, but it's the number one fraud of the 2023 now.
[00:19:06] Bob: Wow. Okay, so what other things are you looking out for in this coming year that my listeners should know about?
[00:19:14] Frank McKenna: You know I think that there's a few things that your listeners would probably want to know about. I think there's one particular type of scam that is perpetrated, it's also semi-sophisticated, but they're called one-time passcode bots. And what these are are these are pieces of software that these criminals have where they can autodial people, they'll put in a bunch of phone numbers, and they'll call pretending to be from a bank, like Bank of America, or you know, Wells Fargo, and they'll engage in a conversation that you will think is real. They say they're calling from the bank, that there's been an attempt on your account. To prove your identity they're going to send you a one-time passcode. You need to read it back to them so that they can help you. And what they're doing is fooling consumers into giving the one-time passcodes that are used to log into their bank accounts, and then they're sucking all the money out of their accounts. It's one-time passcode bots. It's, again, a sophisticated crime, and it's causing millions and millions of people to lose their life savings.
[00:20:21] Bob: Bots have become so sophisticated that some are now capable of impersonating people and automating credit applications.
[00:20:30] Frank McKenna: The uh, robots are going out to, let's say a, you know Bank of America, Wells Fargo, anywhere where you can open up bank accounts, and they're programmatically just going in, applying for accounts using stolen identities or synthetic identities, and they're just going through and programmatically hitting those, and if it gets declined, that's okay. They just go to the next one. They can do thousands of these applications in an hour. And if they only get 5% or 1% or 2% to go through, they still are able to get, you know, maybe 50 to 100 fake accounts established, within an hour. So it's all been automated. And that just means that no one's behind that. It's just like a robot.
[00:21:17] Bob: Wow. But where, where does the robot get the data from to attempt the applications?
[00:21:22] Frank McKenna: The robot gets the data from two places. The first place is the Dark Web. You know, think about the Dark Web as a place that's inaccessible to most people, but if you have a log in and some software, you can get in. And you can buy these lists. And in these lists, and I've seen some of them, they may have 250,000, 300,000 records and they may have a person's name, phone number, Social Security number, date of birth, other information, maybe mother's maiden name. And this is all in this spreadsheet that they basically use that spreadsheet. They buy it. You can buy this spreadsheet maybe for five or 10 thousand dollars with all those, all that piece of information. And then you just push it into the robot and the robot will roll out and apply. It will go out to hundreds of different websites and apply for accounts. Um, yeah, there are billions. Most people don't realize that their data is probably for sale somewhere on the Dark Web. There are literally billions and billions of records for sale right now. My data's probably in there. Your data's probably in there. You know, I've been a victim four times of identity theft in the last 18 months. I'm sure my data's out there.
[00:22:26] Bob: And I'm sure my data is out there too. That's why everyone has to be vigilant about their personal information, about checking their own credit reports, not that consumers should bear the burden of all this, but that's the world we live in today. It's not the world Ayelet wants to live in which is why she spends so much time fighting fraud. And for her, the fight is personal too.
[00:22:52] Ayelet Biger-Levin: I cry in movies. I cry when I watch movies that, that are emotional. Last year when I working at BioCatch, the company that I worked for before, and that deals with financial fraud with a technology called behavioral biometrics, we had a new campaign that we put together, uh someone on the team put together, and that campaign had a movie that took the perspective of the human side of fraud. We call that series “The Human Side of Fraud”, and there was a woman was impacted by an impersonation scam. And she was talking to the scammer, and you know she was returning a robocall, or calling back someone from a robocall, and then she was frightened by that person, and she was about to transfer all her money and suddenly she got a call from the bank. She did believe the bank. She didn't continue. And then after that, she hung up. And the relief she was, you know, very emotional, and she said, "I, I could have lost everything." The relief, and that hit me that we always think about the big numbers, and we always think about false positives and the detection rates and all these metrics that we, we're pushing for, and rightfully so. But we really need to understand and consider the human side. And that hit me and that from that point on, I just had to do something about it. So I think that my quest is to understand who can help and how people that do something today help scam victims, and how we can change the perspective and really think about not just the financial losses, but also the emotional toll. The emotional impact and what can we do to spare victims from being victims in the first place. because in my mind even someone who tries to transfer money and is stopped by the bank is already a victim because they feel awful and shamed, and they shouldn't because again, it can happen to anyone.
[00:24:52] Bob: There's an emotional side to this quest. But also a pragmatic side because relying on technology to stop a crime the moment before it happens, well that's pretty hard to do. So understanding the human side of crime will help everyone.
[00:25:09] Ayelet Biger-Levin: It's really hard to stop the scam at the transaction point too. And I've heard from a lot of financial institutions that they try to, you know, tell the person you're, if it's an impersonation scam. So for example, someone is calling, a cybercriminal is calling someone and telling them, "You have to transfer all your money to this new account we set up for you." So it's called the bank impersonation scam, or authorized push payment fraud. "We want you to transfer all your money to this new account because there's a problem and you have to do it quickly." So they're convincing them, they're giving them more details. It seems legit. It's very scary, and then suddenly they get a call from their real bank saying, "You're being scammed right now. Stop." They don't know who to believe. They don't know who's a scammer and who's not. And it's very scary. So banks have reported that it's hard for them to stop these scams, even if they can detect them. People don't believe. They're too invested in the scam. They're too emotionally into it to stop. So what I think we need to do is look across the scam life cycle. So as I said earlier, it starts with a text or a phone call, and then whoever will respond to that will start going down this path of emotional manipulation, right. And at some point they will transfer money. After they transfer the money, at some point they will realize it is a scam. And then they'll do one of two. One is they'll just feel ashamed, and two, is they will report it. Now if they report it to the financial institution, they'll maybe take the case, they'll maybe not. They direct them to the FBI; they report to the FBI. The FBI will take that, learn from it, and maybe take the case or maybe not. And if, if they're lucky enough, there will be an attempt to recover their money. What I think we need to do is start from the very beginning, start with education. And be more proactive about education and it could be by banks, it could be by the government, it could be a collaboration, it could be by many types. Someone needs to take responsibility to drive awareness. And I think you guys at AARP are doing a great job with driving awareness and education. It really needs to be done by everyone who is a touchpoint in this life cycle. You know, big tech companies like Facebook and Google and others, I think also need to take responsibility and, and especially what's happening on their platforms. So that's step number one. Now education is not enough. Why? Because if I learned about an impersonation scam but now they're calling me not with a story that I need to transfer all my money to a different account because my bank account is in danger or whatever, there was a hack, but they're calling me with a completely different story telling me, you know, we, we, we are doing this process at the bank or we're reopening an account, whatever. The stories are so easy to come up with. Once it's out of context, I don't remember what I learned. It's important to have education and awareness, but it has to be a habit of consumers. So that's kind of the part of education. The next step is to do better in the data that comes. Telcos and, and robocalls and SMS messages, and I think there's an ability and an opportunity to stop these scams at the message point. So alert users when there is a message that looks like a scam, and educate them in context in the moment, and tell them what to do. So that's really an opportunity to stop it before their emotional manipulation starts. Then, of course, we need to deploy tools at the point of transaction and secure and do the analytics. We do have information about scams based on really following scams, understanding how they work, and then asking people the right questions. There are tools like confirmation of payee where you get the payee name, not just from the person who's telling you but also from the bank, or other services that was deployed in the UK. It's just the beginning, but it helps a little bit. There are tools like behavioral biometrics that help with identifying intent a little bit. So it's a collection, a layered approach. It has to be across the scam life cycle, and education of law enforcement about empathy, about, you know, think about the victim of the scam, and think about what they're going through. And how can we help them, even if we don't have the resources to take the case. What can we do to realize that physical crime is absolutely different from a digital crime, but it's still a crime. The digital crime is a crime too, and we need to address it appropriately.
[00:29:53] Bob: So that's part of why she started her new podcast, Scam Rangers, where she's talking to the people who are out there fighting scams. AARP's very own Kathy Stokes was the first guest.
[00:30:05] Ayelet Biger-Levin: What I wanted to do is take a slightly different perspective and talk about the people who fight fraud from different perspectives. So it can be law enforcement, it could be the district attorney that explains what they try to do to recover some of the money. I talked to someone involved in human trafficking because some of these scams are actually executed by people who were trafficked into conducting these scams. So you know it's, it's horrible. It's a horrible story, but we need to know what's going on. And every episode I'm kind of looking for, okay, how are banks going to protect us? How are telcos going to protect us? Because it often starts with a phone call or a text message, or something on social media. What are big tech companies doing to protect us. So it's that quest and the goal is to open up the conversation and really understand what people are doing, what they can think about doing, and what they're hopeful about, because I think we really need some hope in all of this.
[00:31:02] Bob: So many very large companies, how would you coordinate such an effort?
[00:31:05] Ayelet Biger-Levin: That's my quest. That's a really good question. And at the end of the day I think it's governments. There are a lot of nonprofit organizations against scams, fighting scams, but they're small. They have different perspectives and different motives, and it would be great if they all came together to fight this thing, but they're helping, they're trying to get people together. I've seen at least two nonprofit organizations doing really well in, in actually getting these people together to talk, but I think it needs to be governments globally working together to fight this organized, institutional crime ring, or set of crime rings that is a global problem. It's not just the US. It's really a global problem.
[00:31:55] Bob: Since I had Ayelet on the phone, I wanted to hear her concerns about 2023 also.
[00:32:01] Ayelet Biger-Levin: I definitely think there's going to be a rise in investment scams, just because they are so successful and the amount of money you can from one scam go to hundreds to millions of dollars. So that's in my, on my list, number one, to educate people for these scams. Phishing scams are just all these scams with a link. They're going to continue. They're very successful. Billions of dollars are lost to identity theft scams. They're used later for account takeover. They could be used to have someone install malware, ransomware, all these delivery scams, account lockout, all these scams will rise as well. The impersonation scams, the bank impersonation scams that I talked about earlier are also a huge problem. What I think is going to happen based on the recent release of ChatGPT that allows artificial intelligence or natural language processing to be used in, in general. So this is an open tool that allows people to submit a query and then get a response. What's going to happen is now fraudsters are going to use that tool in their conversations. So in the past you could identify a scam by looking at, you know, is the grammar okay, is all these little identifiers, understanding like I would not say that any, in American English. So I'm absolutely not talking to an American right, right now. Like indicators like kindly and sir, and so if they start using AI to create the text, it's going to be much harder to detect the scam. So they're already using this tool to write text and impersonate people and that's pretty scary. There's also deep fakes, and we've seen videos, I've actually seen a video yesterday of someone who is in Africa sitting in front of the computer, and recording themself saying a message to, you know a lady, it tries to imitate a, a romance scam. And you can see him sitting in front of the computer, but then you see an image of a completely different person with fair skin outside saying, "Hi, I'm outside today. How are you?" And it's just, it's not the person who's talking, it's the deep fake that was created with a video of someone else, and that's what's sent to the lady. So in the past we could say, well, you know, make sure that you have a video call very quickly at the beginning of the relationship to see that it's someone real, and if they don't agree to do a video, then you know it's something's going on. So now they can do that with this technology.
[00:34:39] Bob: Deep fakes. That's a technology all of us need to keep an eye on. You can't even trust a video someone sends to you now because videos can be artificially created. Well with all this talk about scams getting worse, and the kind of scams we should all be worried about this year, I wanted some reassurance that the news wasn't all bad. That even if there is a lot of crime to worry about, there are also a lot of people working to protect us. And both Frank and Ayelet think so, too.
[00:35:13] Ayelet Biger-Levin: I do see the community coming together and talking about this problem more than I've seen before. I think organizations across the board are worried about this. I'm very happy that the Senate is getting involved, so I do think that we'll come together in the US, and globally, to try to tackle this problem.
[00:35:35] Frank McKenna: Well I think the green shoots in the fight against fraud is that there are more companies than ever that are investing in better and better tools to protect consumers. Now that's first off. There’s literally hundreds of millions of dollars that, you know, founders are getting from Silicon Valley to invest in better tools to protect you from identity theft and scams. That's the first bit of good news is that it's going to get better. The second piece of good news is that banks are really stepping up to protect consumers from fraud. A lot of consumers were defrauded by Zelle, that's the person to person payment platform that banks launched a few years ago. Banks are going to step up and begin to reimburse people this year, and they're going to begin to be more proactive about identifying people when they think they might be a victim of scams. So that's going to help a lot of consumers get in front of it, understand it better, and then get their money back when it happens. And I think those are two bright spots that people can be pretty hopeful of for the future even though fraud's going to grow, the banks will be on their side and the companies that help stop the fraud will be on their side trying to get better at preventing it.
[00:36:49] Bob: And here at The Perfect Scam, we'll keep trying to do our part. Thanks for listening this season. We'll be back soon with the new season of tales from the dark side trying to explain the criminals and the scams you need to know about to protect yourself.
[00:37:06] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Thank you to our team of scambusters; Associate Producer, Annalea Embree; Researcher, Sarah Binney; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; and our Audio Engineer and Sound Designer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.
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