AI contributes to record number of phishing reports to BBB

If you were thinking about clicking on an unknown link in your email or text messages, Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Carolinas (BBB) urges you to think again. In 2023, BBB Scam Tracker received more than 9,000 reports related to phishing, which is a scam tactic that fraudsters use to trick consumers into revealing personal information about themselves.

Nearly every internet user has received a junk email impersonating a well-known company. Embedded within those emails are links: These are phishing attempts. Fraudsters reach out to their target using any means possible, whether by phone, text, voicemail, email or even a letter in the mail. The more sophisticated may even set traps for you, planting them on the web and inside search engines, waiting to reel you in. 

The goal is to steal sensitive information like bank account numbers, logins and passwords or credit card numbers. They hope to use this information to access other accounts and eventually steal cash. Reports of monetary losses to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (FBI IC3) totaled over $18.7 million in stolen funds in 2023.

Phishing evolves with generative artificial intelligence

The introduction of widely available artificial intelligence (AI) took off in 2023, coinciding with the rise in phishing reports to BBB Scam Tracker. Cybersecurity experts say text-based scams have also contributed to the spike in phishing reports.

Scammers leverage AI to increase their reach. Generative AI is a tool that can help users create new text, images, videos, music and other types of media from a simple prompt created by the user. It helps scammers reach out to as many targets as possible, taking advantage of whatever methods they can to increase the speed and volume of fraud messages sent out.

How the scam works 

A consumer in Craven County used BBB Scam Tracker to warn others about her experience reportedly losing $168 to a phishing scam that involved scammers posing as Netflix. The consumer said he received an email asking him to verify his name, email and payment information. 

“I entered the requested info… and minutes later I was notified by my bank that I was charged $138.85 and $29.95.” 

The consumer reported the charges were not even related to his Netflix membership, and contacted his bank in an attempt to recover the money. 

Phishing scam red flags – watch out for an email, text message, or call that: 

Claims suspicious activity or fraudulent logins

Describes unexpected problems with an account

Tries to confirm financial information

Requests to click a link to make a payment

Sends unasked-for coupons

Generic message paired with the logo of a well-known company

Uses typo-filled and urgent language

Offers government refunds 

How to report fraud 

If you suspect you are the subject of fraud, report your case to: 

To file a scam report with BBB – BBB.org/ScamTracker 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – ReportFraud.ftc.gov 

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – https://tips.fbi.gov/home 

Check your state Attorney General’s website to see if you can file online.

Contributed.

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