The rapid evolution of technology has revolutionized the way criminals operate in Latin America, specifically in the realm of fraud. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly used in sophisticated ways to perpetrate scams and extortions in the region, posing significant challenges to security and the fight against crime in the digital era.

Experts in security and fraud prevention have convened at the 6th Latin American Congress for Organizational Fraud Prevention (CLAPFO) in Costa Rica, where they have shared their concerns about how AI is altering the landscape of financial crime. Juan Ignacio Ruiz, President of the International Association for Fraud Prevention Cooperation (ICPF), has noted that technology is like a knife: it can be used constructively or destructively. In this case, AI is proving to be an effective tool for detecting and preventing fraud and perpetrating it.

The 2022 Report to the Nations by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) reveals that fraud costs USD $3.6 billion in the corporate realm. This problem transcends borders and significantly impacts Latin America. AI has revolutionized the way these frauds are carried out, enabling the creation of false audio messages through voice cloning techniques, where criminals can mimic the voices of familiar individuals, deceiving victims into believing they are conversing with their loved ones.

One of the most concerning methods involves “deepfakes,” where realistic copies of voices are created from short audio recordings taken from social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Criminals use AI-powered fake voice generation programs to produce convincing messages that can be programmed to say anything. These messages are employed to extort victims, often leading them to believe that a family member is in danger and requires a ransom. They are also used to solicit money from friends and acquaintances, making them believe they are speaking with a natural person.

The AI’s capability to craft compelling fake messages is transforming how criminals carry out scams in Latin America. These wrongdoers benefit from easy access to advanced technologies, enabling them to conduct more effective and profitable attacks. While statistics are scarce, reports of successful cases demonstrate that these scams can generate substantial amounts of money quickly. For instance, in Argentina, a gang stole USD $600,000 in ten days using identity theft scams.

The rise of these audio-based scams is not limited to Latin America. Similar cases have been reported elsewhere, such as in the United States, Canada, and Hong Kong. Criminal organizations are leveraging the capacities of AI to refine their methods and yield more significant profits.

However, the fight against this type of fraud is also evolving. Some countries, like Chile and Colombia, have implemented their own AI-based solutions to combat crime. Nevertheless, criminals remain nimble in adapting to new technologies and can easily access advanced AI tools on the market. This gap between authorities’ capabilities and criminals presents a constant challenge in the battle against AI-driven fraud.

The advancement of artificial intelligence is transforming the way criminals operate in Latin America, especially in the realm of financial fraud. The creation of fake messages through AI-driven voice cloning techniques enables criminals to conduct more convincing and lucrative scams. AI technology, which can be a powerful tool for fraud prevention in the right hands, has also become a weapon in the wrong hands. In an increasingly digitized world, combating AI-based frauds will remain a persistent challenge for regional authorities.