Are You a Victim of a Deepfake Attack? Here’s What to Do Next

With the rise of cheap and easy-to-use AI tools, deepfake attacks find themselves likewise on the rise. Startling as that news might sound, you have several ways of falling victim to one. 

Right now, we’re seeing plenty of AI voice cloning tools used in deepfake attacks. These attacks work much like classic targeted phishing attacks, also known as “spearphishing,” given the precision scammers use to pull them off.  

It works like this:  

A scammer identifies a target, gathers info on them, and then uses that info against them in a deepfake attack. With info gathered from their social media profiles, public records, “people finder” sites, and data broker sites, scammers create convincing-sounding messages with AI voice-cloning tools.  

All they need is a script and a sample of a person’s voice that they want to impersonate — pulled from, say, YouTube, a social media video, a conference call, what have you. Just a few minutes does the trick, creating a voice clone that requires an expert to detect. 

Between an uncanny voice clone and a script peppered with all kinds of personal details, these deepfake messages sound legit. 

Moreover, scammers use another tool to get their victims to act. Urgency. They play on people’s emotions so that they’ll take the bait in the head of the moment. Imagine a deepfake message that sounds like it’s from a friend or family member. Their car broke down in the middle of nowhere and they need money for a repair or they run into trouble while traveling abroad and likewise need money to get out of a jam. In all, the voice clone says it needs help and needs it now. 

Before the victim knows it, they’ve readily handed over funds, personal info, or both to a scammer — which leads to things like identity theft and fraud. 

As these attacks started cropping up last year, we surveyed people worldwide to get a sense of just how often they occur. Out of 7,000 people surveyed, one in four said that they had experienced an AI voice cloning scam or knew someone who had. 

Moreover, those attacks came at a cost. Of the people who reported losing money to an audio deepfake, 36% said they lost between $500 and $3,000, while 7% got taken for sums anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000. 

Again, as even as convincing as these deepfake messages might sound, you can keep yourself safer from these attacks. It starts with keeping your personal info out of the hands of scammers. 

How to prevent deepfake attacks. 

Make your social media more private. Our new McAfee Social Privacy Manager personalizes your privacy based on your preferences. It does the heavy lifting by adjusting more than 100 privacy settings across your social media accounts in only a few clicks. This makes sure that your personal info is only visible to the people you want to share it with. It also keeps it out of search engines where the public, and scammers, can see it.

Remove your info from data brokers that sell it. McAfee Personal Data Cleanup helps you remove your personal info from many of the riskiest data broker sites out there. Running it regularly can keep your name and info off these sites, even as data brokers collect and post new info. Depending on your plan, it can send requests to remove your data automatically.  

Delete your old accounts. Yet another source of personal info comes from data breaches. Scammers use this info as well to complete a sharper picture of their potential victims. With that, many internet users can have over 350 online accounts, many of which they might not know are still active. McAfee Online Account Cleanup can help you delete them. It runs monthly scans to find your online accounts and shows you their risk level. From there, you can decide which to delete, protecting your personal info from data breaches and your overall privacy as a result. 

Set a verbal password with your friends and family. Several deepfake attacks involve an urgent voice message from a friend or family member. Setting a verbal password like you do with banks and alarm companies can help determine if a message is real or fake. Make sure everyone knows and uses it in messages when they ask for help. 

How to recover from a deepfake attack. 

Typically, deepfake attacks lead to some kind of fraud. Victims hand over money, personal info, credit card numbers, and gift cards after being taken in by the fraudster. So while deepfakes are new, the attack itself plays out like an age-old con game. With the age-old results. Given that, recovering from a deepfake attack follows the same steps it takes to recover from practically any type of fraud. 

File a police report. 

Someone stole from you. Treat fraud like the crime it is. Start by contacting law enforcement to file a report. Your local police department can issue a formal report, which you might need to get your bank or other financial institution to reverse fraudulent charges.  

Before contacting the police, gather all the relevant info about what happened. This could include the dates and times of fraudulent activity and any account numbers affected. Bringing copies of your bank statements can be useful. Also, make note of any suspicious activity that might be related. For example, was your debit card recently lost or your email hacked? The police will want to know. 

Notify the companies involved. 

Depending on how you responded to the deepfake, the companies involved might include banks, credit card companies, the providers of gift cards, and other money transfer services. Each will have a method of reporting fraud. Some might offer ways to reverse the charges or recoup the funds. But not always. Scammers ask for payment in gift cards and money transfers for a reason. They’re as good as cash. After that money is gone, it’s likely gone for good. 

In the U.S., File a report with the Federal Trade Commission. 

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosts where you can further report such crimes. Along with the details you provide, it can create a free recovery plan you can use to address the effects of identity theft, like contacting the major credit bureaus or alerting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) fraud department. You can report your case online or by calling 1-877-438-4338. 

For another excellent resource from the FTC, you can visit their page dedicated to scam recovery. It offers detailed guidance for several types of scams and what to do if you fall victim to one.   

And outside of the U.S. 

Our knowledge base article on identity theft offers suggestions for the specific steps you can take in specific countries, along with helpful links for local authorities that you can turn to for reporting and assistance. 

Put a freeze on your credit to prevent further theft. 

A credit freeze is another smart move, which you can do through each of the three major credit bureaus. You can either call them or start the process online. This prevents people from accessing your credit report. Lenders, creditors, retailers, landlords, and others might want to see your credit as proof of financial stability. For example, if someone tries to open a phone contract under your name, the retailer might check the credit report. If there is a credit freeze in place, they won’t be able to view it and won’t issue the contract. If you need to allow someone access to your credit report, you can temporarily lift the freeze. And depending on your plan, you can issue a credit freeze or an even more comprehensive security freeze right from the McAfee app. 

Use identity theft coverage to recover from deepfake fraud. 

Having coverage in place before an attack can save you time and money should the unexpected happen. Our Identity Theft & Restoration Coverage can help. It offers $2 million in coverage and assistance from a licensed identity restoration pro who can repair your identity and your credit after an attack. 

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