AI and Scammers

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

We’ve all probably experienced scammers sometime in our lives. It seems that the “scamming industry” is the fastest growing industry today. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumer losses to fraud came to a grand total of $8.8 billion, an increase of 30% from the year before. If I were to take a guess, that probably doesn’t include all the scams and fraud out there, as there’s a lot of it which never gets reported.

But I’m pretty sure that the fraud we’ve seen is nothing compared to the fraud we’re going to see. We have yet to see the total impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the world in which we live. There have already been some pretty serious cases of “deepfake” videos of celebrities, to the point where there are a number of cases currently in the courts, where people are suing for theft of their character.

People talk about the dangers of AI, some of which was foretold in science fiction. Before going any further, let me just say that before anyone thinks of throwing the threat of AI out as nothing more than “science fiction,” remember that a lot of what was first written about in those books, has come to pass in modern time. Did anyone think that smartphones in a watch would ever really exist, when Dick Tracy had debuted one on the comics page?

While AI itself is fraught with danger, the bigger danger is the people who use it. Computers don’t think of schemes to scam people; people do. And you can be sure that there are people out there, working on getting the various AI platforms to help them scam even better.

I don’t know about you; but I’ve reached a point where I don’t accept calls from phone numbers I don’t know, don’t buy products from companies I don’t know, and don’t believe news that comes from sources I don’t know. We’ve sadly reached a point where there’s just too much risk in assuming that the things we see around us, especially those on the internet, are true.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” I probably first heard that from my dad, when I was growing up. But it wasn’t until recently that it gained such relevancy. Before the recent uptick in online scamming, I probably only ran into a handful of situations where that saying would apply. Now I run into more than that handful every day.

The real danger that AI brings to this is the ease of creating false information. That information might be in articles posted as authoritative, news articles, entertainment which doesn’t properly compensate the artists, or products that people are selling. With AI, it is extremely easy to create product artwork which looks real, but only exists in some computer’s memory. We could literally find ourselves trying to buy products that don’t even exist, no matter how good the advertising looks.

As the scammers discover new ways of using AI, we can be sure that they will broaden their horizons, developing totally new scams. Since they will be new, it will be harder to recognize them for what they are. That means a lot more people will fall for them, not recognizing them for what they are. It will take some time for people to realize that it’s a scam and then for the word to get around.

Our only protection is to be extremely cautious in dealing online or over the phone. As crazy as it may sound, the convenience of doing business online or through our phones is rapidly becoming overshadowed by the risk associated with doing business that way. We are on the road to heading back to the way things used to be, where people did business in person and only did business with those they knew.

That’s not to say that we should all stop buying from reputable online retailers. There are still a large number of established online businesses, which ferociously guard their reputations. It is still safe to do business with them and will likely remain safe to do so.

On the other hand, we’re living in a time when new online businesses are automatically suspect. It is becoming increasingly difficult to start a new online retail business, simply because it is hard to tell the difference between a new shop that only has a few products to offer and someone who has set up a fake shop to scam people with. As AI enters that picture, the fake businesses don’t even need to find real products to offer, they can just make them up.

Product reviews aren’t helpful either, as many of those are written by the same people who are selling the product. Either that, or they hire a couple doze low-dollar writers to give them fake product reviews. In either case, the day of independent reviews seems to be passing away as well. It won’t be long before those are taken over by AI as well.

It seems crazy that protecting ourselves from online scammers is a more critical problem than protecting ourselves from old-fashioned stick-up artists. But those are the times we live in. Protecting yourself from them, is just as important as keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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