Romance scams have become a multi-billion dollar industry, with the FTC reporting $1.3 billion in losses to romance scams in 2022. And now, with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), scammers are getting even more sophisticated in their tactics. AI is a rapidly advancing technology that has the potential to revolutionize many aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, it can also be used by scammers to perpetrate AI-powered romance scams.
AI can generate a wide variety of content—including text, images, videos and audio. This content can be used by scammers to create fake online personas that seem more convincing and credible than ever before. Let’s take a look at some of the ways AI can make romance scams more dangerous and less detectable.
The Rise of Deepfakes in AI-Powered Romance Scams
With the rise of deepfake technology, scammers can create highly realistic fake images and videos that are becoming impossible to distinguish from real ones. Deepfakes are created using machine learning algorithms that can analyze thousands of images and videos to create a highly accurate digital copy of a person’s face or body. Once the deepfake is created, it can be used to create convincing videos or images that look like a real person.
One of the most concerning developments in the realm of deepfakes is the potential use of the technology in real-time video chats. With deepfake video technology, scammers could create a convincing video of themselves in real-time, making it even more difficult for victims to identify a romance scam.
Currently, deepfake videos are created using existing footage and then manipulated using AI algorithms. However, researchers are already exploring the possibility of creating deepfake videos in real-time, using a combination of machine learning and computer vision techniques. If successful, this technology could be used to create convincing deepfake video streams that respond in real-time to a victim’s questions and comments.
The use of deepfake video in real-time chats could make it nearly impossible for victims to identify the scammer. In the past, Cybercrime Support Network (CSN) has advised people to be cautious of online love interests who refuse to video chat, but with the use of deepfakes, a victim could be convinced that they are talking to a real person, when in fact they are interacting with a computer-generated deepfake.
The Impact of Voice Synthesis in AI-Generated Romance Scams
Another tool being used by romance scammers is voice synthesis, also known as text-to-speech technology. This technology allows scammers to create realistic-sounding voice messages and even conduct phone conversations that are entirely automated.
By using voice synthesis, scammers can create a sense of intimacy and trust with their victims. They can use a synthesized voice to leave romantic voicemails or even call their victims and speak to them directly. The synthesized voice can be made to sound like a real person, which can make it difficult for victims to identify the fraud.
In some cases, voice synthesis can be used in combination with deepfakes to create an even more convincing deception. For example, a scammer may create a deepfake video of a person and then use a synthesized voice to impersonate them in phone conversations.
As with other types of AI-powered tools, voice synthesis is becoming more sophisticated and harder to detect. This makes it increasingly challenging for victims to spot a romance scam and protect themselves from financial and emotional harm.
The Use of Chatbots in AI-Powered Romance Scams
Chatbots are AI-powered programs that can mimic human conversation and are often used by scammers to create a sense of intimacy and trust with their victims. One way chatbots are used in AI-powered romance scams is by engaging with victims through messaging apps or social media platforms.
These chatbots are programmed to engage in a dialogue with victims and can even learn from their responses to become more convincing over time. They may use flattery, compliments and other emotional manipulation tactics to build a rapport with the victim, making them feel special and loved.
Once the chatbot has built a relationship with the victim, it can be programmed to request money or personal information, asking for financial assistance or persuading the victim to share personal information—such as credit card numbers or social security numbers.
Protect Yourself From AI-Powered Romance Scams
Protecting yourself from AI-powered romance scams requires vigilance, caution and common sense. Here are some tips that can help you protect yourself from AI-generated romance scams:
- Be cautious of unsolicited messages. If someone you don’t know sends you a message, be wary of responding. Scammers often initiate contact with victims through social media or messaging apps, so it’s important to be cautious about who you engage with online.
- Don’t share personal information or send money to someone you haven’t met in person. This includes sending gift cards, making P2P payments and sharing sensitive information like credit card numbers, social security numbers and passwords.
- Watch for inconsistencies. More often than not, romance scammers will be attempting to scam multiple people at once. If their story changes or they have trouble remembering details they’ve previously shared, that’s a sign that they’re not being truthful.
- Remain vigilant for signs of an impersonal or scripted conversation. If a conversation with someone you’ve met online seems unnatural or formulaic, it’s important to be cautious and question whether or not the person you’re talking to is actually a chatbot. One way to test this is to ask open-ended questions that require a more complex or nuanced response. If the person you’re talking to responds with generic or unrelated answers, it may be a sign that you’re communicating with a chatbot.
- Be skeptical of anyone who seems too perfect or too eager to establish a relationship with you. Remember that scammers are skilled at creating believable personas and stories. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
AI is transforming the landscape of romance scams, making it increasingly difficult for victims to identify fake images, voice and messages. To protect yourself from AI-powered romance scams, it’s important to be cautious of unsolicited messages, not share personal information or send money to someone you haven’t met in person, watch for inconsistencies and signs of scripted conversations, and stay skeptical. By being vigilant and aware of the potential for AI-generated romance scams, you can protect yourself from these increasingly sophisticated scams.