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Scam innovation outpaces all – tech won’t slow it, so train people instead

Losses to scams continue to grow.  One wonders if there is an entire funding source somewhere that pumps money into new and scam incarnations – like the voice cloning scam (this is your panicky daughter! Send money!).  Around forever, though, remember the laundry list beginning with Medicare and Social Security (goal – get money), Publisher’s Clearinghouse (goal – identity theft) and many others per Google AI.  It all added up to $3.4 billion in 2023.

Scam innovation grows faster.  Scams can be delivered through legitimate-use technology. One company, ElevenLabs, has received $80 million in funding for its legitimate voice cloning technology – utilized in multiple industries, and presumably for useful business purposes – including voice dubbing for TV and movies. But it is also, according to a detailed New Yorker article, used for scams. For $5/month, it can take voice samples (as little as 30 seconds) from Instagram, TikTok or YouTube videos. For scammers, that’s a small price against a large potential payout -- $12,996 per victim.   

Regulation – not so fast. The FCC, according to that New Yorker article, has yet to offer any regulation that will slow the voice-cloning scam juggernaut. And in fact, protecting consumers from illegal robocalls appears stalled. The FCC in 2020 published a protocol framework called STIR/SHAKEN that service providers are supposed to use to verify that carriers are not transmitting illegal robocall traffic. How well has that worked?  Supposedly the big carriers have implemented it (really?), but the smaller carriers still deliver international robocalls that spoof local phone numbers.  And there are many well-intended excuses as to why so little progress has been made and why (at least) 3000 robocalls occur every second, many originating outside of the US.  

Forget about a technical fix – change behavior. It is way past time for organizations like home care, senior living, healthcare, home healthcare, all serving older adults to expect a technology fix. Instead, those businesses should focus their communications, backed by AARP or other public service TV messaging, on a Just Hang Up campaign. Remind older adults to turn on ‘Silence Unknown Callers’ (iPhone) or ‘Block Calls From Unknown Numbers’ (Android).  Calls will go to voicemail – typically not a scammer tactic. And for the 50% of seniors who have landlines, advise them to let the phone ring three times – the automated dialing system used by scammers typically gives up after three rings and moves on to the next number. Not a scam? The caller will leaa vve oicemail. For a ‘this is your grandson’ call, request a number to quickly call back. And other tactics, of course, about never giving personal info – “You called me, don’t you know that information?”

[See recent report -- The User Experience Needs an Upgrade - May 2024



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