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Criminals are using AI to get your money. This is how you can protect yourself

Criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to get inside your wallet, including the use of artificial intelligence.

One small business owner is out almost $2,000 after criminals sold her an insurance policy that did not exist.

Less than a week after Mari Gomez acquired a license for her cleaning business, she got a call.

“They were like, ‘Oh, we got this new contract, this new contract for 110 homes,” Gomez said.

But first, she would need to purchase liability insurance that they would be able to help her get.

“He tells me to go to the lady from Coastal Insurance. I said, ‘Oh, thank you,’” Gomez said.

Nicole Diaz told her she was an agent with the company and was able to get Gomez a policy, but she had to make a down payment at a Chase bank first.

Using her debit card, Gomez made the payment. Hours later, all communication was cut off. She knew something was wrong.

“I called the 1-800 Chase (number) and I told him, ‘Oh my God, I just made a $1,750 down payment for an insurance.’ And I just realized this was, like, a scam or something. ‘Oh, well, you need to call the police,’” Gomez said.

We called Coastal Insurance. The company told us Nicole Diaz is not an employee and they get multiple calls each day from people who’ve been scammed.

“Fraud has exploded,” said Aaron Sears, supervisory special agent financial crimes with the FBI Atlanta field office.

Sears said artificial intelligence has made it simple for the crooks.

“You can get access to, you know, how do I defraud somebody? How do I platform this? How do I get access to the individual? You’re going to get examples. You are going to get things that can help you be a fraudster. Whereas before, you had to do it all on your own,” Sears said.

And the numbers back him up.

According to the FBI’s annual Internet crime report, Americans have lost just under $40 billion to fraud since 2019.

“Funds are fast moving today versus years ago. A lot of these criminal actors are overseas, so we get movement offshore as well. That makes it more difficult,” Sears said.

In Gomez’s case, because she made the deposit with her debit card, Chase is not responsible.

“We cannot credit you because this is not a fraud, that this is a scam. That’s what they told me,” Gomez said.

“These are professional financial criminals. They do this for a living,” Sears said.

Clark said there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers -- even if caller ID has a legitimate company name. Know that it may still be an imposter.

If someone is offering you a service for your business, check them out and get quotes from others.

Be vigilant. Special Agent Sears said if it doesn’t look like a legitimate plan or too good to be true, it probably is.

“Just don’t send your money, give it a second thought,” he said.

Clark said there’s a pattern he’s noticing repeatedly with cons targeting small businesses and us as individual consumers.

It’s an “if-then.” We’ll do this for you, but you got to do this other thing first. That “if-then” is a key tip-off that you’re about to get taken.

We reached out to Chase about this incident, and we were told the account Gomez made the deposit to was restricted the same day she reported it to them.

It has not been reopened.

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