Publish Date: February 27, 2024
Author: Seubert
Tags: Blog - SeubertU

AI’s Role in Virtual Kidnapping Scams

As artificial intelligence (AI) advances, criminals have developed ways to exploit the technology, such as leveraging AI in virtual kidnapping schemes. In these scams, criminals use AI to recreate an individual’s voice and make it sound like they have been kidnapped. A ransom demand for their release typically accompanies this. Businesses must be aware of virtual kidnapping and its impact on their companies and employees. These schemes can have significant financial consequences from the associated extortion and fraud and harm a company’s reputation if the company doesn’t know how to handle these situations. Moreover, virtual kidnappings can lead to severe emotional and psychological distress for involved parties. Therefore, it’s critical for businesses to be able to recognize, prevent and respond to these scams.

Virtual Kidnapping and AI Overview

Criminals can use AI to identify potential targets and create high-tech virtual kidnapping schemes. For example, a malicious actor may use recordings of a victim’s voice they found online and manipulate it by using an AI voice-cloning tool. This can make it sound like the victim is in distress, crying or asking for help. The criminal can then use the audio file when they contact the victim’s friends or family and demand payment for their release. They can also use additional editing tools to manipulate photos or videos to make the scam seem more realistic. The resulting content is sometimes referred to as a deepfake. Additionally, AI chatbots can utilize data about the victim to generate realistic conversations. These scams are a growing concern as the technology becomes more available and advanced, and identifying the content as forgery is becoming increasingly difficult.

AI and Virtual Kidnapping Scheme Recognition, Prevention and Response

Indications that a virtual kidnapping scheme may be taking place include a call coming from an unknown number, the caller creating a sense of urgency, and the caller demanding a ransom to be wired or sent digitally immediately. While businesses should not entirely dismiss the possibility that a kidnapping has taken place, they should take measures to prevent and respond to virtual kidnapping scenarios. Consider the following tips:

  • Provide education to help employees recognize and address virtual kidnappings.
  • Be aware of what is put online to reduce the amount of data perpetrators can leverage in a virtual kidnapping scam.
  • Verify information by asking questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know.
  • Avoid sharing information with the caller and consider hanging up if a virtual kidnapping scheme is suspected.
  • Try to contact the alleged victim via text or another method to establish if they are safe.
  • Develop a safety plan and implement robust security strategies to help create order in a potentially chaotic situation and minimize the potential of being targeted.
  • Do not agree to pay a ransom, as doing so can encourage the perpetrators to repeat the scam and fund their criminal activities.
  • Secure kidnap and ransom insurance to help offset the financial losses of a virtual kidnapping and obtain additional services.
  • Work with the authorities on how to handle these situations.

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