Scammers feed data from Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook and other social media sites to artificial intelligence programs as part of a scheme to carry out ransom crimes using fake voices and images, a security adviser told Fox News.
"Social media now is a reconnaissance tool for transnational criminal groups, for people who do human trafficking, things like that," said Morgan Wright, chief security adviser for SentinelOne. "They creep on you, they find out what you're doing and then that's how this scam works."
Two blackmail scams involving AI happened in Arizona in the last month. In both instances, criminals called demanding ransom using AI-generated voices of family members.
"My daughter goes, 'Mom these bad men have me. Help me, help me, help me,'" Jennifer DeStefano, one of the Arizona victims, told Fox News. "It was my daughter's voice."
TikTok and Facebook are reconnaissance tools for criminals using AI scams: Security adviser
"I never doubted for a second it was my daughter," she said. "In fact, it was so real to me."
The phony captor demanding ransom told DeStefano, "If you call anybody, if you don't do as you're told, I'm going to pop her so full of drugs, have my way with her and then drop her in Mexico. And you're never going to see your daughter again."
Jennifer DeStefano was a victim of a scam using the AI-generated voice of her daughter. (Fox News Digital/Jon Michael Raasch)
The speed of the scams and the believability of AI-powered deepfake voices gives the criminal an edge over his victims, according to Wright.
"They found voice — whether it was on TikTok, Facebook, whatever it was — voice enough to recreate the daughter's voice," he said. "Doesn't matter that it's not the child, it's what the parent believes."
Posting real-time locations on social media helps criminals target victims when they are separated from their families, Wright said. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
"They isolate you," Wright, a former detective, told Fox News. "They're not going to give the parent time to respond."
The scammers also likely knew that DeStefano and her daughter, 15, were apart at the time, the former detective said.
"You're hearing a voice that you believe is your child," Wright continued. "And now they've got the leverage now because you don't know where your child is."
TikTok and other social media platforms are used by criminals as reconnaissance tools for scams, Wright told Fox News. (CyberGuy.com)
DeStefano was able to locate and confirm her daughters' safety during the ransom call but warned that the experience left her and her family frightened. She said her story should raise awareness about how AI is used in crimes.
Scams using AI are becoming more common as tools become more accessible and usable, even by bad actors with little technical skill, Wright said.
There's a line where some AI tools encroach "on personal freedom and personal space," DeStefano told Fox News. "It can be used for a lot of evil.
"It's definitely something we need to talk about, and there need to be boundaries."
To watch the full interviews with DeStefano and Wright, click here.