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Ask Arthur: How can I avoid AI scams?

A reader asks how to avoid scams using new technology like artificial intelligence. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK offers some advice, with the help of AI.

Q: I keep seeing warnings that criminals are using new technology like artificial intelligence to pull scams on consumers. How does this work and how can I protect myself?

A: The best source for advice on this question is AI itself. I asked ChatGPT’s pro version, GPT-4, and it gave me this comprehensive guide:

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more sophisticated, scammers are increasingly exploiting this technology to create more convincing and manipulative scams. Here are several strategies to help protect yourself from falling victim to these AI-powered scams.

1. Recognise the signs of AI-generated content: AI can generate realistic text, images, and even voices, but often these creations have subtle flaws. Text might include unusual phrasing or syntax errors, images might have inconsistencies like distorted backgrounds or odd facial features, and AI-generated voices might lack natural intonation or emotion. Being aware of these signs can help you spot scams.

2. Be skeptical of unsolicited communications: Many AI scams start with unexpected emails, phone calls, or messages. If you receive an unexpected communication asking for personal information or money, especially under urgent or threatening circumstances, be cautious. Verify the identity of the sender through independent means, such as calling the company or individual directly using a number you find on their official website.

3. Use advanced security features: Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all accounts where possible, which adds an extra layer of security beyond just a password. This can be crucial in protecting your accounts even if scammers manage to phish your login credentials.

4. Educate yourself about current scams: Stay informed about the latest scam tactics by regularly checking reputable sources like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or cybersecurity news websites. Knowledge of current scams can make you less likely to fall for new ones that utilise AI technologies.

5. Safeguard personal information: Never share sensitive information like identity numbers, banking details, or passwords in response to unsolicited requests. Scammers using AI may create highly personalised and convincing messages or calls that mimic legitimate sources, but remember that legitimate organisations will not ask for sensitive information in this manner.

6. Report and block suspicious activities: If you encounter a potential scam, block the contact. Reporting these incidents can also help prevent further scams and assists law enforcement in tracking down the perpetrators, but that is usually easier said than done.

7. Keep software up to date: Ensure that all your devices are running the latest software versions, which include security patches that can protect against new methods of exploitation, including those that might be powered by AI.

8. Double-check sources and URLs: Before clicking on any links in emails or text messages, hover over them to see the actual URL. Scammers can use AI to create convincing fake websites. Ensure the website is legitimate and secure (look for HTTPS in the URL) before entering any information.

Awareness and caution are your best tools in ensuring that you do not fall victim to these advanced technological deceit tactics.

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