AI romance scams are becoming more frequent and dangerous in online dating and on dating apps. But romance scams are nothing new, so why are we worried?
The use of artificial intelligence, or AI, in creating these romance scams is new, and has now become a reality of online dating. And the number of AI romance scams will just keep growing.
Have you ever felt odd about an online dating or dating app profile you’ve come across, or a conversation you’ve had with a new connection? Scammers could be targeting you, without you even knowing.
So what are AI romance scams, and how can you stay safe online? Here’s how you can spot them in online dating …
What are AI romance scams?
We know the internet is crawling with highly skilled scammers and cybercriminals looking to steal money, personal information and explicit photos.
A romance scam is when these scammers attempt to lure someone in from a dating site or app, get to know them before ultimately stealing either personal information, money or photos. AI romance scams take this a step further, as they are powered by AI technology.
Romance scams and spammy conversations are nothing new, but here’s what is—AI is helping scammers create many scams at once, in a matter of seconds. And on top of this, AI is becoming increasingly better at sounding human, and therefore harder to detect.
So it’s more important than ever to understand AI romance scams, and learn how to detect them and avoid becoming a victim.
AI romance scams: examples
In 2022, romance scams ranked second among the most costly recorded scams in Canada, costing Canadians $59 million (1,400 cases were reported). And, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre even has a romance scam alert on its site.
Wondering what kind of scams to watch for? Here are some examples of AI romance scams to keep an eye out for when dating online.
Fake profiles (and lots of them)
Fake profiles are nothing new, but their bad grammar is a thing of the past. It used to be a dead giveaway, but it’s no longer a given.
We asked ChatGPT to generate a dating profile for us, and it wrote the following in two seconds. It created a user name (WittySpark21), an About Me section, a list of hobbies and interests, a What I’m Looking For section, my Relationship Goals and a Fun Fact.
Can you tell this was written by AI? This is good evidence of how human-like AI now sounds, so use this example to understand how to spot a fake profile. It’ll help you watch for other AI romance scams, too.
It is easy to use ChatGPT or another AI content generation platform to create a fake dating profile. And as scammers are able to do this en masse, it’s becoming an increasingly serious problem.
So you may be able to spot AI-generated content. But what about AI-generated photos? AI art generators are yet another AI-powered tool with scarily accurate results. Enter a prompt, and watch them create detailed art pieces, or realistic photos.
Scammers use these tools to create slightly altered photos of fake people. Stolen images of real people are commonly fed to these generators, which create variations of those photos in seconds.
When you look closely at these images, you’ll notice that the more you analyze them, the more adept you become at spotting the fakes. But again, consider the speed at which AI technology can create these, and apply that to fake profile creation. It’s easy to see how this too fast becomes a problem.
Bots you are chatting with
Profiles are not the only place to be wary of AI romance scams. Your dating app chat feature itself can be another spot where scammers using AI can target you.
AI-powered chats can respond to nearly an unlimited amount of conversations at a time. Yours could be one of them, as these bots spread like wildfire online due to AI generation tools becoming widely available.
Ever felt like a Tinder or even a Hinge match sounded weird, or that there was just something slightly off?
There’s a good chance it was a bot. The right prompt will cause the tool to generate a complete piece of code that is a bot. These automated bots can then simultaneously chat on several different dating apps at once.
Voice cloning that sounds real
Has your conversation moved off the dating app, towards audio or video chats? They might be fake, and it might be hard to tell, as voice-cloning technology becomes more and more sophisticated.
AI romance scams will use these voice generation and cloning tools to call their targets, chat or leave voicemails. And while some may be familiar with AI-generated speech patterns, others may not know how to spot these faked audios.
Are you curious how these generated voices sound? Take a leaf out of the scammers’ books and try one of these AI tools for yourself. This will help you become adept at spotting speech patterns that indicate generated or cloned voices.
Use of deepfakes for (s)extortion
This one is the most serious, and an increasing concern in the digital world. Deepfakes are the peak of AI romance scams, and they involve AI-generated photos and/or videos. Scammers will then use these as extortion or, in the worst cases, sextortion.
Over 90 per cent of victims are women+, and the scary thing is that we have virtually no control over this. And there’s a ton of evidence to show that this emerging technology is only going to get more convincing, according to journalists like Johnny Harris (watch his video here).
How to bust AI romance scams
Written, audio or video content that’s been AI-generated often feels off. And with the technology becoming more and more sophisticated and realistic, this remains our main defence against it.
When reviewing written content, watch for language that feels awkward, slightly monotonous, or even repetitive. And when on a call with someone, or video chatting, watch for imperfections and inconsistencies.
Questions to ask a romance scammer
Wondering how to bust potential AI romance scams? There are questions to ask a romance scammer (or someone you suspect of being one):
1. Tell me about you, and your family (Ask this again later and see if the responses match up)
2. What is your favourite restaurant?
3. What do they do for a living, and what’s a typical day at work like?
4. Can we video chat?
You can search online to see if the info they give you seems real, like their favourite restaurant. And by asking a question more than once, you can watch and see how their answer changes.
If the answers you receive feel too perfect, or seem repetitive or unoriginal, chances are that it’s a scammer or AI-generated bot responding.
AI romance scams: takeaways
If you’re using a dating app or online dating site and feel something is a bit weird, or feeling odd, AI romance scammers may be trying to target you.
Written content that’s too perfect, or voice and video content that has inconsistencies or imperfections are giveaways that something is AI generated, and being used as AI romance scams.
If you think you’ve come across a scammer, please report them to an anti-fraud organization.
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