Valentine’s Day is just across the corner and with many setting out on a quest for love for the special day, experts are urging Canadians to watch out for an increased variety of technology scams that would get in the way in which of relationships.
“Hackers are often focused on the times of 12 months once we’re most vulnerable,” Robert Falzon, head of engineering at cybersecurity provider Checkpoint Canada, told Global News from Calgary, Alberta.
Valentine’s Day is one such “great option for scammers,” Falzon said.
Romance scams and catfishing have flourished for a very long time, especially with the advancement of technology, in line with Briana Brownell, CEO and founding father of artificial intelligence (AI) consultancy Pure Strategies, but the difficulty grew when Artificial Intelligence (AI) began taking centre-stage.
The largest challenge, said Brownell, is ensuring you’re secure from scammers posing as someone they’re not.
“What’s recent now could be that the technology is making scams harder and harder to identify and increasingly convincing, and there’s the flexibility for scammers to do it at a much larger scale than they might before,” Brownell told Global News from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
In keeping with an alert issued this month by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), romance scams were answerable for the second highest amount of fraud-related dollar-loss last 12 months.
“These scammers are using advanced methods to look legitimate and trick people into trusting them,” the alert from the CAFC said.
In 2021, of the 1,249 complaints of romance scams made to the CAFC, 925 victims reported a complete of greater than $50 million lost, in line with a report from the RCMP. Last 12 months, $32,000 related to romance fraud was successfully frozen by the CAFC.
A recent uptick in romance scams has also been observed by the Higher Business Bureau (BBB).
Across North America in 2021, BBB saw a 13 per cent increase in this kind of scam from the 12 months before. In the primary two months of 2022, the variety of reported romance scam cases greater than doubled in comparison with the identical period in 2021.
“With Valentine’s Day across the corner and the pandemic still a component of our lives,” the BBB in a report last month, encouraged “those in search of like to be wary of fraudsters. Don’t let your quest for love blind you to the realities of romance scams.”
Scammers, today, usually are not only capable of create fake profile pictures on dating applications, but they’re also capable of fabricate voices and automate messages, in line with Brownell.
“With AI, it mainly implies that it’s getting easier and easier to create fake pictures, even to have a fake voice and have the option to automate the conversations that you simply’re having with someone through dating apps,” she said.
In keeping with a 2021 report from dating website eharmony, 36 per cent of Canadians use online dating.
Over 300 million people use dating apps worldwide, with about 20 million paying for premium features, a Business of Apps report published last month showed.
Although there have been various tools throughout the existence of AI — for instance, generative adversarial networks that create realistic images of individuals — Brownell said technology has now “gotten even higher” and so have scams.
“Individuals are capable of essentially take profile pictures and mainly create selfies and pictures of those that don’t actually exist,” she said.
The event specifically in image generation has made these scams even harder to identify, in line with Brownell.
“It’s actually pretty difficult since the technology is advancing,” she said. “The challenge is that it’s hard to inform and technology is getting really, really good.”
Scammers have also been known to make use of technology like AI chat bot ChatGPT to automate conversations on dating apps, Brownell said.
They can even create “bots” to have automated conversations with quite a few victims at the identical time, she said.
“The technology to really run a whole bunch or hundreds or hundreds of thousands of those scams at the identical time is suddenly available,” Brownell said.
Last month, the beta phase of ElevenLabs’ voice synthesis platform, which allowed users to generate realistic audio of any person’s voice by uploading a number of minutes of audio samples and typing in text for it to say, was released.
Soon after it dropped, fake videos began emerging online. There have been clips of U.S. President Joe Biden delivering a speech attacking transgender people, Bill Gates supposedly saying COVID-19 vaccines caused AIDS and actress Emma Watson reading Hitler’s manifesto — none of which were real. But they still were widely shared.
An increased variety of cryptocurrency investment rackets linked to romance scams have also been identified by the CAFC. Such scams are more common in virtual relationships where a scammer tries to get someone to take a position in cryptocurrency and finally ends up stealing money or personal information, in line with the CAFC.
Taking a look at the history of AI, “it’s actually really entangled with this concept of deception,” said Katrina Ingram, CEO of Ethically Aligned AI, a social enterprise that launched in 2021 committed to consulting and educating corporations on artificial intelligence.
“Though recently what we’re seeing is a few super sophisticated abilities that these systems use to remix words and remix images in ways which may appear to be they represent content coming from a human,” she told Global News from Edmonton, Alberta, pointing to image generators like DALL-E and LensaAI.
“And after all, if you may have someone that doesn’t have good intentions, they’ll actually need to deceive you a way using these tools. It’s arming them with more abilities to create a extremely convincing, deceptive presence on the web.”
One of the well-known romance scams was televised on Netflix last 12 months. Called the “The Tinder Swindler”, the documentary followed the story of Simon Leviev — real name Shimon Hayat — as he conned women he met on the dating app Tinder. The documentary landed on Netflix’s Global top 10 list of the most-watched TV shows and movies.
Leviev fabricated quite a few personal crises that required his victims’ financial help. Some took out loans and signed up for bank cards to assist him, leaving them financially answerable for his debts.
Besides being looking out for such scammers on dating apps, Falzon can be cautioning Canadians to control their email inbox for phishing scams as Valentine’s Day approaches.
“Hackers within the old days was once really terrible at grammar and spelling,” he said. “Using the help of artificial intelligence and automating tools, they’re getting significantly better… and these emails are much harder to discern from real emails that you simply might receive.”
In keeping with the Higher Business Bureau, one must also never send money or personal information to someone they’ve never met in person.
As a substitute, they beneficial cutting contact with someone who asks for bank card information or bank or government ID numbers.
“The primary thing I might say is that you almost certainly don’t have a secret admirer,” said Falzon.
Because it gets more complicated to identify scammers, using protection in your computer and mobile device is crucial, he said.
“There’re a whole lot of tools available,” he said, noting Checkpoint’s ZoneAlarm antivirus software for example.
In keeping with Brownell, the techniques utilized by scammers are mostly “well-known,” and lots of are still using older methods, but technology has definitely enabled them.
“Technology is an enabler for people to perpetrate (crimes) on a bigger scale however the sorts of things that they’re doing with the intention to orchestrate the scams are well-known already,” she said.
A standard “red flag” is the intimacy level of conversation. If it escalates quickly, it’s a priority, in line with Brownell.
“Constructing a extremely emotional component to it really quickly,” she said.
Brownell can be urging online daters to be “skeptical concerning the context and particularly if someone is attempting to scare you or they’re attempting to threaten you.”
Other red flags to be mindful of, in line with the CAFC, is that if the person desires to quickly move to a non-public or different mode of conversation, like Whatsapp, or in the event that they have an excuse not to satisfy in person.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press