'Huge evolution' in AI and deepfakes puts people at risk of festive scams

AI's ability to imitate people's faces and voices puts people at even more risk of fraud, ITV News' Consumer Editor Chris Choi reports

Fraud experts are warning people to be vigilant over the festive season amid the threat of online scams.

Seasons greetings videos received around the Christmas period may sound genuine, but there's a chance the faces and gestures you see are fake - generated by artificial intelligence.

Anna Rowe was the victim of a fraudster herself, and is now trying to help others protect themselves against online fraud.

She created the Catch the Catfish website, which signposts people to anti-scam resources and helps people spot the warning signs of a scam.

Speaking to ITV News, Ms Rowe said: "We've seen a huge evolution in the technology over the past year.

"Now, the scammers are able to feed that technology with pictures, voice and videos of the person they're using to scam with, and then it super imposes the face and the voice as the scammer is speaking on a video call."

Anna Rowe was the victim of a fraudster and is now trying to help others protect themselves. Credit: ITV News

Ms Rowe showed ITV News an online training group for scammers, which displayed an image of someone whose identity has been stolen, who'd been animated and made to talk in real-time.

When the operator on the left moves the gestures are transferred. This can be sent via webcam to deceive the victim - for example to ask for an emergency loan.

"When you're doing anything online now, it's assume nothing as being real on face value, believe no-one, so go off and do your research and check everything," Ms Rowe advised.

Deepfake audio can be used to imitate people's voices and break through security. Credit: ITV News

Matt Lewis, a fraud expert at IT security firm the NCC Group, said that scam artists will be poised to "piggy back" off post-Christmas sales, meaning now is a time to be especially wary.

He added that this has been compounded by the cost-of-living crisis, with people determined to get a bargain being at risk of being misled by fraudsters online.

"We can use these tools to try and create those very enticing ways for people to click on links and maybe try and deceive them in some manner," Mr Lewis said.

While AI has help millions, its ability to personalise emails and recreate other people's appearances and voices have unfortunately been embraced by dishonest people who are only interested in helping themselves.

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