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Government agency starting to see scammers use A.I. to steal benefits

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 05, 2023

BALTIMORE — Artificial intelligence can automate tasks and increase efficiency, but a government agency has seen it used in scams.

The Social Security Administration issues over a trillion dollars a year to its beneficiaries, so it’s no wonder the program is targeted by thieves, however, the SSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is starting to see these attempts become more technologically advanced.

“We've seen this with chat bots. So, somebody being able to call in and using either a synthetic voice or a voice that has been manipulated,” said Anthony “AJ” Monaco, Special Agent in Charge with the Major Case Unit for the SSA OIG.

The scammer will steal someone’s information then use a chat bot to call the Social Security Administration to change the beneficiary’s information.

“And say, I don't want you to deposit this here and say M&T Bank, I want you to go to TD Bank, and it’s able to do that convincingly enough and have enough information to interact with a teleservices center representative,” said Monaco.

Monaco warns A.I. enabled scams are not yet pervasive, but they’re preparing for the future as A.I. is expected to make these schemes easier and faster to execute, the deceptions more credible and realistic, and the fraud more profitable.

“AARP is definitely concerned about artificial intelligence because of the way that it weaponizes the reach of frauds and scams,” said Karen Morgan, a member of the executive council with AARP Maryland.

AARP Maryland echoes their concerns, particularly with grandparent and romance scams.

“A.I. can, you know, perfectly imitate the voice because all you need is a three-second sample from social media,” said Morgan.

Morgan added that this ability to imitate a celebrity or loved one’s voice makes it much more difficult for someone to believe they’re speaking with an impostor.

“Logically, intellectually, it's harder to remember that this is all artificial,” she said.

Monaco and Morgan are asking people to question what they perceive to be reality. Does it make sense for this person to be asking for money, and to check with legitimate sources.

“We need to verify, we need to step back, we need to not act in a panic,” Morgan advised. “To make sure that what you're being told is actually the truth. We need to be willing to take the time to do that.”

Morgan recommends checking with friends or family, calling your bank directly, or visiting a Social Security Administration field office to confirm whether any requests for information are legitimate or not.

AARP has a Fraud Watch Network where consumers can report scams or seek support if they’ve fallen victim to one.

The SSA OIG has also established an internal task force to better study these threats and to learn how they can leverage A.I. to use it to identify these A.I. enabled scam attempts.

Click here to report fraud or any scams to the SSA OIG.