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January 1, Elderly Americans Scammed: AI-Driven Schemes Devastate, $1 Billion Lost in 2022



Older Americans reportedly lost $1.6 billion to fraud in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and many of the scams utilized AI technology to clone the voices of people they knew and other AI-generated ploys.

During a Thursday committee hearing on AI scams in the Senate, committee chairman Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., published the group’s annual fraud book highlighting the top scams last year. It found that from January 2020 to June 2021, the FBI found “individuals reportedly lost $13 million to grandparent and person-in-need scams.”

An estimated $1.1 billion was lost due to cryptocurrency fraud in 2022, according to the FBI. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, also a member of the committee, said the figure in total losses is “almost surely an underestimate,” since it does not factor in the instances of victims who don’t report scams due to embarrassment.

Casey said in a statement that “federal action” is needed to put up guardrails to protect consumers from AI-generated scams. There are currently very little regulations on AI capacities, which witnesses urged lawmakers to crack down on through legislation.

“Any consumer, no matter their age, gender, or background, can fall victim to these ultra-convincing scams, and the stories we heard today from individuals across the country are heartbreaking,” he said. “As a parent and grandparent, I relate to the fear and concern these victims must feel.”

The top 10 categories of scams reported in the fraud book were financial impersonation and fraud, robocalls, computer scams, catfishing on dating profiles, identity theft and others.

The most prominent scams used AI technology to mimic people’s voices who then make calls to the victims, family members or loved ones, asking for money. Several testimonies from witnesses in the hearing said they received calls that sounded exactly like their loved one was in danger, was injured or was being held hostage.

Tahir Ekin, PhD, director of the Texas State Center for Analytics and Data Science, who was present at the hearing, testified this deliberate strategy of impersonation catapults “their believability and emotional appeal.”

“Prioritizing the enhancement of data and AI literacy among older Americans, and actively involving them in prevention and detection efforts, stands as a cornerstone,” he said.

One older couple, featured in a video testimony in the hearing, received a call from who they thought was their daughter. She sounded distressed and asked for help.

“My daughter was, she was crying on the phone, profusely crying and saying, ‘mom, mom, mom,’ and of course my wife was saying, ‘LeAnn, LeAnn, what is the matter?’, and she repeated it again, ‘mom, mom, mom’ and it sounded exactly like her,” Terry Holtzapple, one of the victims, said.

Gary Schildhorn, a Philadelphia-based attorney and another targeted victim of an AI voice clone scam, also testified at the hearing. He almost sent $9,000 to the scammer until he confirmed with his daughter-in-law it was an extortion attempt.

The scammer, posing as an attorney, called Schildhorn requesting funds to bail his son out of jail for causing a car accident and failing a breathalyzer test.

“There was no doubt in my mind that it was his voice on the phone — it was the exact cadence with which he speaks,” he said. “I sat motionless in my car just trying to process these events. How did they get my son’s voice? The only conclusion I can come up with is that they used artificial intelligence, or AI, to clone his voice… it is manifestly apparent that this technology… provide[s] a riskless avenue for fraudsters to prey on us.”

Since no money was sent, however, law enforcement told Schildhorn that no crime had been committed and no further action was taken.

“With crypto and AI, law enforcement does not have a remedy,” Schildhorn said during the hearing. “There needs to be some legislation to allow these people to be identified… so that there’s a remedy for the harm that’s being caused. Currently, there’s no remedy,” he said.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, elderly Americans are more likely to fall prey to online scams than younger people.

Why It Matters

Scams targeting our seniors are on the rise, with $1.6 billion lost to fraud in 2022, and AI technology is making it easier for scammers to deceive them. The government needs to take action to protect our elderly citizens from these heartless criminals.

As a conservative, I believe in personal responsibility, but these scammers are using AI to impersonate loved ones, making it nearly impossible to detect. The lack of regulations on AI capacities is leaving our seniors vulnerable.

We need to prioritize educating older Americans on the risks of AI-generated scams and push for legislation to hold these criminals accountable. Our seniors have worked hard their whole lives; they deserve better than to be preyed upon by ruthless scammers.

As our loyal readers, we encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions on this issue. Let your voice be heard and join the discussion below.




  1. Judi Fogle

    November 24, 2023 at 7:21 pm

    We were scammed out of $10,000 by a person saying they were with our mortgage company. Even had our account number and the email looked just
    like the one from the mortgage company. Now we are behind and they foreclosed on our house. We sent a report to the FBI but have never heard a word. We also sent one with our local Sheriff but we have heard nothing.

  2. JoAnn

    November 24, 2023 at 8:47 pm

    Something needs to be done about these damned on-line scammers. They are EVERYWHERE–they come at you through email, texts on your phone, Facebook and other sources. My grandson was just taken in by one of these scams for about $10,000 , and they do this from behind a computer, anonymously, and there is little chance they’ll be caught. Most are not even in this country. On-line platforms do little or NOTHING to screen out these crooks, so it’s on you to figure it out and avoid being taken in.

  3. Steely

    November 26, 2023 at 4:48 pm

    If you get a suspicious call, tell them it’s a bad connection and that you have to call them back. Since phone numbers are spoofed now, have them verbally give you their number. Then say that you’re right by the police station and you’re going to go in and use their phone to call them back. If it’s truly a family member in an emergency, they won’t care. But if it’s a scammer they will try to talk you out of it or say they’ll call you back.

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