Imposter scams have quickly become the fastest growing fraud in the US — and consumers and businesses need to be aware of this rising trend. Imposter scams involve a fraudster pretending to be someone they’re not to steal money or information. With advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models, these scams have grown more complex, convincing and costly, going from $196 million in losses in 2020 to a whopping $660 million just two years later. And if you think you’re too savvy to be tricked, think again.
The sophisticated social engineering behind these scams is worthy of a spy novel, and anyone can become a victim. Millennials, Hollywood stars, and even a former White House scientist with a PhD lost thousands of dollars to such scams. Sadly, others have lost their entire life savings. Many are too ashamed to come forward, so these examples are only the tip of the iceberg. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said nearly 200,000 people were targeted in 2023, and it will likely be even worse this year.
Imposter scams often involve a host of deceptive tricks. One of the most convincing is the spoofed call in which a fraudster places a call that fakes a company’s caller ID — often an organization their victim knows and trusts. It could be a well-known software company, their bank, a government agency, charity or even their own workplace.
Mitigating this type of fraud requires a robust, multipronged approach. And since spoofed calls are often a first step in these imposter scams, stopping them should be at the top of every business leader’s to-do list. Solutions like our award-winning TransUnion TruContactTM Spoofed Call Protection (SCP), powered by Neustar®, are available to enterprises to aid in this endeavor and better protect consumers.
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Historically, these scams have primarily targeted consumers who are tricked through various means into wiring money from their bank accounts and 401ks. The funds are then typically quickly split into a web of offshore money laundering accounts and bitcoin purchases, never to be seen again. But scammers have discovered ways to tap into even deeper pockets. Now, small businesses and large enterprises are being targeted as well. With new advancements in technology happening at a record pace, these imposter scams are getting more brazen, sophisticated and harder to spot by the day.
If their targets are rich enough, fraudsters will spend months doing their homework and creating the perfect personalized ‘script.’ And with just a little scrolling on LinkedIn® or a company website, they can quickly spot their victim — someone who likely has the right access to sensitive company or employee information or the authority to wire money. For this reason, fraudsters often target employees in HR, IT, Finance or on the executive team.
Imposter scams often begin with a spoofed call — which can now be paired with AI-generated voice deepfakes that can replicate voices of company executives. All a fraudster needs are a few minutes of a digital recording of an executive’s voice, perhaps from a publicly available interview, webinar or earnings call, and some off-the-shelf software. The results are incredibly convincing — even mimicking the person’s speaking style, cadence and tone. It’s becoming more difficult for even the savviest employee to separate truth from fiction — and the losses can be staggering.
In 2019, the Chief Executive Officer of a British energy provider got a call from someone he thought was the head of the unit’s parent company asking him to wire €220,000 ($249,000) to a Hungarian supplier. The voice was generated using AI; the money and perpetrator were never found. This crime happened five years ago when voice deepfakes were still new. Since then, technology has gotten even better and far easier to produce.
TransUnion TruContact Spoofed Call Protection is an award-winning call authentication service that helps organizations safeguard their brands — and customers — by providing communications service providers (CSPs) the information needed to detect and automatically block illegitimate calls.
Visit our website to learn more about Spoofed Call Protection and our entire line of TruContact Trusted Call Solutions, powered by Neustar®.Among consumers reporting falling victim to a digital fraud scheme in the past quarter, nearly half (49%) were targeted as part of a public benefits scheme. While pandemic-related assistance programs may have fallen out of the news cycle, the persistent level of reported fraud attempts and victimization rates suggest fraudsters continue to pursue opportunities to attack government benefits programs.