Scammers using AI nearly defraud local residents out of $5,300



A total of $5,300 in cash was tucked into an envelope as a Picton woman drove towards a predetermined drop off point in Belleville.

A grandson in legal peril in Toronto spurred the sudden mission to send money via Purolator in an envelope with “no signature required” on it.

A grandparent’s story of the attempt to defraud a couple of local pensioners of over $5,000 was chilling — and just another instance of a local scam attempt.

Last week in the Gazette, Prince Edward OPP Community Officer Aaron Miller gave advice on unsolicited phone calls, emails and texts as scam and fraud practices.

Less than 48 hours after Constable Miller’s visit to our offices, we heard this grandparent’s story.

“I received a phone call from our grandson telling me he had run into a car while using his cell phone.  The driver had a rental car and the damage was assessed at $5,300. After checking with his insurance company, our grandson found he was covered, and would receive a cheque for the amount in one and one-half weeks.  Our grandson wanted us to loan him the money until he received his cheque,” the  resident explained. “The police had confiscated his cell phone so he could only call me at certain times from an unlisted number.”

The woman, who did not want her identity revealed, said she then received legal advice suggesting an offer to cover the damages to the rental car would allow police to file a lesser charge against her grandson.

“After much thought, we decided to help him out. I was going to e-transfer the money,” she said.  “On the lawyer’s advice, I was told to withdraw $5,300 from the bank and deliver it to Staples for pick-up by Purolator to be delivered to an address in Montreal first thing the following day.”

But on the way to Staples with cash and instructions in hand, the grandmother started to think back to a conversation she had had that spring, in which a friend advised her about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

PC and Community Services Officer Aaron Miller. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

The latest technological advances will do wonders in the fields of science and medicine. But the developing capabilities of AI are also being used with unscrupulous and dastardly intentions.

A recorded five-minute phone call conversation between two parties plugged into AI software can create conversational phrases that can be repeated into a phone call by a computer and, in most cases, even close family members will not be able to tell the difference between a loved one calling and a fraud attempt.

The grandmother pulled to the side of the road and had her husband call the grandson — and discovered he was not and had never been at a police station in Toronto.

She turned off her cell phone and returned home. But the scammers called her number over 30 times in the next few hours, desperate to reestablish contact with their potential victim.

To end the harassment, the grandmother finally had to tell her “grandson” that she had changed her mind. He would need to figure another way out of his legal jeopardy.

“I would have bet my life that this was our grandson. The voice was exactly like his,” she said.  “These scammers are very good and I hope this warning alerts everyone.”

“People should always pump the brakes when it comes to being contacted and asked to send money,” Provincial Constable Miller said. “A cooling off period and checking in with your family before making any decision is a good first step but the experienced scammers will try to put you in situations where time is of the essence and tug on your emotions. It’s important to take your time and check things out with your loved ones before making any financial decisions.

“In this case, a follow up phone call made sure these folks weren’t defrauded.”