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Scammers using artificial intelligence and social media to target holiday shoppers

Scammers using artificial intelligence to find new ways to steal money
Scammers using artificial intelligence to find new ways to steal money 03:00

NEW YORK -- As the holiday shopping season gets underway, so does the season for scams. And scammers have new ways to try and get their hands on your money this year. 

An 85-year-old man who fell victim to a scam that cost him $19,000 and a world of stress insisted we speak to him through a Suffolk County Police landline.

"It's unbelievable how they could do something like this and sound so real," he said. "It's a damaging thing when they do something like this, they catch you, emotionally. You don't even think."

Detectives said a scammer used artificial intelligence to mimic his granddaughter's voice, saying she'd been arrested and needed bail money.

A man in an SUV came to his house in Hauppauge to collect the cash. 

"A lot of old people like myself in this situation would pay up," he said. 

Now, police and consumer watchdogs say they're concerned those same tactics could be used to trick holiday shopper - and that's not the only ruse they're concerned about.  

"Now they're going into, say, social media posts, whether it be Facebook, TikTok, wherever you can post a video of yourself. They get that voice of that granddaughter and now that target is hearing from that voice," said Suffolk County Police Det. Lt. Michael Sanchez. "Even when you hear that person that you think is granddaughter, family member, take that breath. Think about what you're going to do next." 

A new report from the Better Business Bureau cites a 50% increase in reported gift card scams over the last year. That's when someone tries to get you to buy a gift card and then they ask you to read or text them the card's number so they can cash in on the funds. 

"It can be a simple purchase online where somebody is asking you to buy a service or an item using a gift card," said Claire Rosenzweig, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York.

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to better protect yourself:

  • Never trust anyone who asks you to buy a gift card to pay for something.
  • When you do buy something, use a credit card if you can because it can protect against fraud better than a debit card. 
  • Be on the lookout for phishing scams, like phony emails from companies claiming to be Amazon or other familiar ones. 

"All kinds of expenses are gonna be increasing and scammers are gonna be looking for those opportunities," said Rosenzweig. 

Of course, emerging technologies can be used in a variety of scams. To demonstrate the dangers, a cybersecurity expert re-created the voice of CBS News correspondent Carter Evans using his reports. 

It's something people all over the world are learning about. Some are learning the hard way. 

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