With generative AI, scammers can now unleash their full creative potential to snare even more victims, according one cybersecurity firm’s metrics

We are all well too familiar with package delivery scam emails that try to scare recipients into visiting spoof websites and providing their login credentials.

Now, according to the internal research of Proofpoint, scams have been evolving into other areas: conversational text and social media. Unlike conventional phishing or malware delivery, these attacks unfold over a series of seemingly benign interactions until the victim’s trust has been won.

The firm’s internal 2022 metrics showed a 12-fold increase in the new scam tactics that overtook package delivery scams as the fastest-growing and most prevalent mobile threat in its customer ecosystem. 

Other findings from their metrics include:

    • With recent advances in generative AI, ‘conversational scam’ threat actors may not need human help much longer. Advanced chatbots such as ChatGPT can be trained with complex scenarios to defraud even the most sophisticated victims.
    • In conversational text attacks, scammers will spend time and effort (sometimes weeks) building trust with the victim over text and social media before attempting to steal information, login details, or cash. Many of these attacks, such as so called ‘pig butchering’ and romance scams, involve an emotional investment from the victim, which can cause feelings of shame and embarrassment alongside the real-world consequence of losing money.
    • Many of these operations use victims of human trafficking and modern slavery to run their scams; Proofpoint’s investigations have found possible evidence of Chinese nationals located in Cambodia conducting these scams.

According to one of the firm’s senior threat research engineers, Adam McNeil: “There are many variations of these attacks and mobile users should be very skeptical of any messages from unknown senders, especially considering how AI tools are making it possible for threat actors to make their attacks more realistic than ever.”