Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer golden opportunities to scammers globally, as they exploit the surge in shoppers seeking bargains. This year, the emergence of generative AI technologies, such as ChatGPT, have given fraudsters a fresh edge.
The latest Targeting Scams report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reveals a disturbing reality. Australians lost an unprecedented $3.1 billion to scams last year, representing a surge of 80% from the previous year. Simultaneously, the Australian Retailers Association predicts a large economic uplift, with customer spending expected to touch a projected $6.36 billion during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. This emphasises the pressing need for increased vigilance and preventive action against emerging threats.
Tricksters capitalise on these holidays, often resorting to poorly written messages riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. However, generative AI may help bridge the gap between a novice scammer with poor linguistic skills and a more sophisticated one. "Scammers will utilise these tools as part of their scams this year and will find more success than in years past", predicts Satnam Narang, Senior Staff Research Engineer.
A worrying fallout of the scramble to implement generative AI is the jump in adaptations, even in video content, contributing to improvements in deep fake technology. Satnam Narang discovered earlier this year that MrBeast, the world-renowned YouTube personality with over 188 million followers, had been impersonated on TikTok to endorse a counterfeit iPhone 15 giveaway. "In this Black Friday, it wouldn't surprise to see scammers continue this trend and leverage the likeness of MrBeast and other social media influencers to promote giveaways and scams," warns Satnam.
Scammers employ another recurrent tactic every year - the promotion of complimentary gift cards worth $500-1000 for an array of brands on various social media platforms, including Instagram and TikTok. However, these gift cards are far from 'free'. Users must share personal information and sign up for high-cost offers, such as free trials, which ultimately cost them if they neglect to read the fine print and cancel.
"Social media is the perfect place to catch distracted users off-guard. Today's fraudsters can commence their scams on one social network and steer users to another. They create numerous bogus profiles to lend a sense of authenticity to their hoaxes. The existing strategies, coupled with the current upsurge of generative AI and use of deep fakes, create a perilous situation for users," adds Satnam.
This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers must recognise the subterfuges. Offers from influential personalities like MrBeast and cross-platform links should be treated with suspicion. With better AI and deepfake technology, scams will be harder to spot due to fewer language errors and increased video content quality. 'Free' offers often entail a price, such as personal or financial data. Users should always prefer trusted, reliable platforms for their purchases.