How to keep your money safe – as criminals ramp up AI tactics to steal consumer data

by The Technical Blogs


Criminals are using social media, artificial intelligence (AI) and deep fake technology to target consumers, a fraud prevention body suggests.

Last year, according to the Fraudscape report conducted by Cifas, over 374,000 fraud cases were reported to the Cifas National Fraud Database (NFD) and they said that members prevented £1.8 billion worth of fraud losses.

“The amount of fraud committed in the UK more than doubled to £2.3bn in 2023, marking the second-biggest year for scams in the last two decades,” said Erin Nicholson, global head of data protection and privacy at Thoughtworks.

“Ever since Big Tech, fintechs and other incumbents have shifted towards a more digital and data-driven approach to customer experience, the payments space has emerged as one of the most vulnerable to fraudsters.

“Analysis of this data shows not only a growth in fraud rates, but the amounts involved are getting bigger too. With rising access to AI-powered tools, the sad reality is that fraudsters are becoming increasingly advanced to stay one step ahead of those trying to catch them. Fraudsters can generate much more convincing content using generative AI, avoiding the previous tell-tale signs of bad spelling or grammar.”

But with personal bank accounts being a specific target for identity fraudsters, who are getting more advanced with AI coming into the picture, how do you keep your money safe? Experts share everything you should be thinking about.

Use banks championing AI-powered fraud detection systems

For Nicholson, as fraudsters become more tech-savvy, so do consumers who are striving for a better digital experience with payments and banking.

“This leaves us in a catch-22 situation where digital doors are consistently opening for customers on their buying journey, with fraudsters spotting new windows of opportunity each time,” she said.

“Our financial lives become more intricate and remote, demanding heightened vigilance against ever-smarter social engineering tactics like deepfakes.”

When considering your financial provider, Nicholson suggests looking out for banks championing AI-powered fraud detection systems.

“These systems analyse vast amounts of transaction data in real-time, identifying anomalies or suspicious activity that certainly wouldn’t be visible from you glancing at your banking app.

“These patterns also escape traditional rule-based systems. AI learns from your typical spending habits, say your Monday morning coffee run, and can flag transactions that deviate from your usual patterns.

“This may be a large purchase in an unfamiliar location or a sudden uptick in ATM withdrawals. Make sure you receive alerts from these anomalies too.”

Be aware of smart social engineering tricks

Nicholson also urges consumers to be aware of smart social engineering tricks, like criminals using AI to create deepfakes of your loved one’s voice on a call or impersonating your colleagues on work communications.

“These computer-generated videos or messages have progressed rapidly in the last decade, blurring the line between fake and real to a shocking degree. The best way to avoid being scammed with these requests is identity verification, with a code word or on a trusted channel before sending any money,” she said.

Stop, challenge and protect

Paul Maskall, strategic fraud prevention and behavioural lead at UK Finance’s Take Five – To Stop Fraud campaign, thinks it’s important for consumers to “stop, challenge and protect yourself from potentially fraudulent requests for money, and your personal and financial details”.

“Stop. Take a moment to stop and think if the request is genuine. Look out for frequent typos, unexpected friend or message requests and be cautious of anyone who contacts you from out of the blue,” said Maskall.

“Challenge. It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests for your money or personal information. Only criminals will try to rush and panic you – always contact organisations or people back on details you know to be true.

“Protect. Make sure your login details are always secure and updated regularly. Always use the secure payment options recommended by websites and use a credit card when making purchases over £100 and up to £30,000 as you receive extra protection. Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.”

Be careful what you share on social media

Social media sites are also a breeding ground for criminals to exploit your personal information.

“Harmless information like your pet’s name, workplace, birthday or holiday plans can be gathered by criminals to piece together a comprehensive overview of your life and use it in these social engineering scams or guess personal passwords,” said Nicholson.

“To protect yourself, make sure to keep this information limited or behind good privacy settings online.”

Get clued up about account takeover fraud

Nicholson also thinks consumers should be mindful of account takeover fraud.

“This is the use of stolen login credentials to gain control of a user’s account, which is another risk, with a cost of over £51.7 million in 2022, according to UK Finance,” said Nicholson.

“Victims often state their compromised account did not have a unique password, making them susceptible to multi-account takeovers. That’s why it’s vital to use unique and strong passwords for all your online accounts, and not to reuse passwords, especially on social media accounts, which are often susceptible to fraud.”

Use digital wallets

Digital wallets such as Apple Pay or Google Pay are a good way of counteracting financial fraud.

“Your payment information is protected with encryption technology so that it cannot be intercepted by hackers or compromised during transactions. The seller does not see your credit card number, only the transaction ID, so it is less likely to be stolen in a data leak,” said Adrianus Warmenhoven, cybersecurity expert at NordVPN.

“When using it for in-person payments on your phone, it usually requires your facial identification too.”

Avoid making payments over the phone

Due to voice cloning, Warmenhoven advises people to avoid making payments over the phone, especially if they are not sure the person you are speaking to is legitimate.

“Cloned voices can sound eerily similar to someone you know, so by insisting on receiving a secure payment link or traceable bank account details, you are more protected,” he said.


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