As technology gets more advanced, fraudsters are also getting better at deceiving and stealing from us
Watch out! In 2024, scammers have some new tricks up their sleeve, such as deepfake impersonation. That is why fostering a zero-trust mindset can help to keep yourself safe from these scams.
- Deepfake impersonation scams
Imagine receiving a voice note from your CEO instructing you to transfer money to a bank account. You follow the instructions without realising that the voice note is a deepfake. And just like that, you have fallen for a scam. Deepfakes make use of AI technologies to create new – but fake – images, videos, and/or audio material from existing material, “Artificial intelligence (AI) technology makes it easier for fraudsters to create these convincing fake messages from people you know and trust,” explains Anna Collard, SVP Content Strategy and Evangelist at KnowBe4 AFRICA. “It enables scammers to generate video and audio that is so convincing, many believe it is real.”
Fraudsters also use AI-generated voice notes or videos to impersonate a family member, such as a grandchild, who claims to be in distress and in need of money. This is called a grandparent scam. “People get scammed that way because their emotions are triggered by hearing an authentic sounding voice clip of their loved one and want to help,” comments Collard.
Another fraudulent application of deepfakes is to impersonate politicians to spread confusion or disinformation. “This is something to watch out for in 2024 as it’s an election year,” says Collard.
- Investment scams
Investment scams can appear as trustworthy financial organisations promising incredible returns. “However, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is,” says Collard. She advises being cautious in such situations. Scammers often combine cryptocurrency scams with romance scams as well.
Another scam to be wary of in 2024 involves fake loans that offer low-interest rates but never actually materialise. Instead, victims are required to pay upfront fees or provide their personal information. “With the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, scammers may tempt many individuals to apply for these loans to make ends meet, be very careful of any offers that sound too good to be true.”
- Romance scams
By using fake profiles on dating sites or social media, scammers build trust with their victims and then exploit this emotional connection to trick them into sending them money. “Even though family members might repeatedly warn the victim, they often continue with the romantic deception because once on the hook, psychologically it is very difficult for the victim’s brains to admit that they have been conned,” explains Collard.
- Identity and social media profile theft
Identity theft involves stealing personal information to commit fraud. Scammers do this via phishing emails or phone calls, as with banking scams. “Social media profile theft involves hackers hijacking your social media accounts to reach out to your contacts, pretending to be you, spreading malicious software, scams or asking for money,” says Collard.
- Charity fraud
After a humanitarian crisis, like a flood, charity scams frequently emerge. “These scams play on your emotions and ask you to give money to a worthy cause, but in reality, they are fake charities,” explains Collard. Red flags to watch out for are unusual payment methods, such as EFT, instead of secure payment platforms. “Always make sure that charities are registered before you donate and that you interact with the legitimate NGO or charity before transferring any money,” she advises.
- Tech support scams
Posing as IT technicians, these scammers try to convince you that there’s something wrong with your computer and offer to fix it. They then seize control of your computer and steal your personal information or hack into your bank account. “These scams prey on people’s fears,” says Collard. “They throw people into a state of panic in which they’re not thinking logically.” She recommends hanging up right away and directly contacting your IT support centre.
- Puppy scams
Are you in the market for a pure-bred puppy? Beware! International crime syndicates operating in South Africa offer purportedly discounted pooches. According to Collard, many individuals have suffered significant financial losses not only for the non-existent dog but also for the transportation expenses. She advises buyers to be wary if they encounter a wide variety of dogs for sale on a website or if they are immediately offered a puppy. “Breeders do not operate like Takealot. There are usually waiting lists; it takes time for a puppy to become available,” she says. “If you’re offered a second dog at a 30% discount, it’s highly likely you’re being scammed.”
The general advice for any of the scams listed above is to slow down and take a breath before reacting to anything, particularly if it’s emotionally triggering content.
As the boundaries between our physical and virtual worlds continue to blur, a zero-trust mindset encourages us to pause, think, and evaluate the content we are interacting with, thereby empowering us to make conscious and more rational decisions.