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How cybercriminals are using AI to catch distracted consumers during Black Friday

Satnam Narang Sr Staff Research Engineer Tenable Image

It has been said that in life, certainties include death and taxes. Another certainty is scammers being opportunistic, and the Black Friday sales provide scammers with a great opportunity to target individuals around the world. While we know that their playbooks are often very predictable, in 2023, the prominence of generative AI, such as ChatGPT gives scammers an additional edge.

In India, 82% of customers have fallen victim to online scam and 42% have been victims of AI voice scams. What’s more concerning is that a large chunk of customers don’t know how to spot an online scam. In fact, 44% of Indian customers intent on shopping during this holiday season, say they aren’t sure of the best ways to shop securely online.

“Often, scams that appear during these holidays may be riddled with inaccuracy in spelling and grammar, but the availability of generative AI closes the gap between the novice scammer with poor spelling and grammar and gives them a competitive edge they’ve never had before. Scammers will use these tools this year as part of their scams and will find more success than in years past.”, Satnam Narang, Senior Staff Research Engineer.

One byproduct of the gold rush in generative AI is the push across a variety of mediums, including in video, to help drive improvements to things like deep fakes. Earlier this year, Tenable senior staff research engineer, Satnam Narang, discovered how Mr Beast, the biggest YouTube star in the world with over 188 million subscribers, was impersonated on TikTok to promote a fake iPhone 15 giveaway. The deepfake was a big improvement over what we’ve seen in the past. This Black Friday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see scammers continue this trend and leverage the likeness of celebrities and other social media influencers to promote giveaways and scams.

An old tactic that remains prevalent each year is the promotion of free gift cards for $500-1000 to various brands, from Apple and Sephora to Cash App and Spotify, on various social media platforms including Instagram and TikTok. These gift cards aren’t free, as they require users to reveal personal information and purchase premium offers, such as free trials, which will cost them money in the long run if they don’t follow the fine print and cancel.

“Social media is the perfect place to catch distracted users off guard. Today, cybercriminals can begin their scams on one social network and drive users to another one. Fake profiles are rampant and scammers can create hundreds of accounts to legitimize their scams. These existing tactics combined with the current boom of generative AI and use of deep fakes creates a dangerous situation for users” added Satnam Narang.

For consumers this Black Friday, it is important to recognize the following:

  • Be aware of cyber criminals’ tactics.  Personalities like MrBeast giving away things, links that take you off platform, social profiles with no engagement, post or following may represent a red flag. If you have any doubt, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

  • Be extra cautious and skeptical about offers and giveaways on social media. With the availability of generative AI like ChatGPT and other large language models means scams that you might normally recognize due to poor spelling and grammar won’t be so easy to spot, and improvements in deepfake technology means fake video content is likely to appear on your social media feeds.

  • Free doesn’t mean free. If you see ads or promotions for free things like popular technology, clothing or gift cards, understand that there is no such thing as free. There is always a price to be paid, which could include your personal information or your credit card information being charged. Therefore, be wary of such offers.

  • Always use trusted websites and services. If you’re looking for products and deals for the Black Friday sale, go to the source and visit the trusted, reputable sources before making a purchase.

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