Romance scammers are now building trust with AI-generated deepfakes. Here’s how to spot them. | Business Insider Mexico

Romance scammers are using deepfakes to dupe people online.Romance scammers are using deepfakes to dupe people online.
Romance scammers are using deepfakes to dupe people online.Getty Images
  • The Nigerian online crime group known as the ‘Yahoo Boys’ is now using AI in its romance scams.
  • According to the FTC, romance scams will cost Americans $1.3 billion in 2022.
  • A quick way to spot a deepfake is to perform a reverse image search.

Does he seem too good to be true? It could be because he’s a romantic con artist called a “Yahoo Boy” who wants to steal your savings.

The Yahoo Boys are an online crime group based in Nigeria that creates fake online personas and uses them to target victims, the Department of Justice said. Once the scammers have gained the victims’ trust, they use a pretext to ask for money, such as the need to pay medical expenses.

Last year alone, the FBI’s Internet Crime Report estimated that Americans lost more than $650 million to romance scams. Casting a wider net, the Federal Trade Commission reported that these scams netted as much as $1.3 billion in 2022. Many of the victims are older and targeted for their savings, family inheritances and pension funds.

Kate Kleinert, a 69-year-old widow, previously told BI that she lost $39,000 to an online romance scam. By the end, Kleinart said she lost most of her savings, her late husband’s life insurance policy, pension and Social Security income.

“Losing the money – that was devastating. But losing that love and the thought of that family we had? That’s what crushed me,” Kleinart told BI.

And as if it wasn’t bad enough, the scam is becoming increasingly sophisticated thanks to the latest technology. The Yahoo Boys are now using AI to create deepfakes to trick even the most alert internet users. According to Wired, the Yahoo Boys began experimenting with deepfake video clips and video calls over the past two years.

‘Deepfakes’ use AI to replace a person’s likeness in a video or audio clip. David Maimon, a professor at Georgia State University and head of fraud insights at SentiLink, told Wired that the scammers using deepfakes often call via Zoom. They use a webcam in combination with software that changes their facial features.

In February, a Hong Kong-based financial executive handed over $25 million to scammers who used deepfakes to pose as a chief financial officer, according to CNN.

In February, a grand jury in Salt Lake City indicted seven members of the Nigerian group. According to the Justice Department, prosecutors accused them of using money transmitters to help them launder money obtained from the romance scheme abroad.

The Utah scam ran from March 2018 through June 2019 and cost victims more than $8 million, police said.

Trina Higgins, the U.S. attorney for the state of Utah, said in a public service announcement that victims in the state lost more than $3.6 million to romance scams in 2022. Higgins advised people looking for love online to be careful about what they post on social media, ask lots of questions about the people they meet, and research anyone they want to be in a romantic relationship with.

Above all, the U.S. Attorney’s Office warns to “never send money to someone you have not met in person.”

A quick way to spot a deepfake is to do a reverse image search and check the true source of an image.