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Romance Scammers Are Now Using AI. Here’s How to Spot Them. | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Romance scammers are using deepfakes to defraud people online.
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  • The Nigerian online crime group known as the “Yahoo Boys” is now using AI in its romance scams.
  • Romance scams cost Americans $1.3 billion in 2022, according to the FTC.
  • One quick way to spot a deepfake is to do a reverse image search.

Does he seem too good to be true? It might be because he’s a romance scammer called a “Yahoo Boy” who wants to steal your life savings.

The Yahoo Boys are an online crime group based out of Nigeria that creates fake online personas and uses them to target victims, according to the Department of Justice. Once gaining the victims’ trust, the scammers use a pretense to solicit money, like the need to pay an emergency medical expense.

Last year alone, the FBI’s Internet Crime Report estimated that Americans lost more than $650 million to romance scams. The Federal Trade Commission, which casts a wider net, reported that, in 2022, these scams netted a whopping $1.3 billion. Many of the victims are older and targeted for their life savings, family inheritances, and retirement 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 had lost most of her savings, her late husband’s life insurance, pension, and income from Social Security.

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

And if it wasn’t bad enough, the scam is becoming more sophisticated alongside the latest technology. The Yahoo Boys now uses AI to create deepfakes to dupe even the most alert internet users. Over the last two years, the Yahoo Boys started experimenting with deepfake video clips and video calls, according to Wired.

“Deepfakes” leverage AI to replace the likeness of a person in a video or audio clip. David Maimon, a professor at Georgia State University and head of fraud insights SentiLink, told Wired that the scammers using deepfakes often set up calls through Zoom. They use a webcam paired with software that changes their facial features.

In February, a Hong Kong-based finance worker handed over $25 million to scammers who used deepfakes in this way to impersonate chief financial officers, according to CNN.

In February, a Salt Lake City jury indicted seven members of the Nigerian group. Prosecutors accused them of using money transmitters to help them launder funds obtained from the romance scheme overseas, according to the Justice Department.

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

Trina Higgins, US 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 recommended people looking for love online be careful what they post on social media, ask lots of questions about the people they meet, and research anyone with whom they want to get romantically involved.

Above all, the US attorney’s office warns to “never send money to someone you haven’t met in-person.”

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

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National Cyber Security