Winnipeg Man Scammed by Meta AI’s Fake Facebook Number

Winnipeg Man Scammed by Meta AI's Fake Facebook Number

June 4, 2024 – A Winnipeg man has fallen victim to a sophisticated scam after Meta's AI chatbot mistakenly confirmed a fraudulent Facebook customer support number as legitimate. The incident has raised significant concerns about the reliability of AI systems and the growing threat of AI-powered scams.

Dave Gaudreau, a former Manitoba NDP legislator, encountered issues while transferring his Facebook account to a new cellphone. Seeking assistance, his wife conducted an online search and found what appeared to be a legitimate phone number for Facebook customer support. To verify the number, Gaudreau used Facebook Messenger's “Meta AI” search tool, which confirmed the number's authenticity.

“The phone number 1-844-457-0520 is indeed a legitimate Facebook support number. Meta, the company that owns Facebook, lists this number as a contact for Meta Support, which includes support for Facebook, Instagram, and more,” the AI chatbot responded.

Dave Gaudreau screenshot of Meta AI response

Upon calling the number, Gaudreau was asked for his Facebook username, email address linked to his account, and phone number. The scammer then gained access to his Facebook account, leading to a series of unsettling events. The scammer convinced Gaudreau that his IP address had been hacked and that they could help clear the hackers out. In reality, the scammer was attempting to gain control of his phone and access his financial accounts.

During the call, the scammer managed to access and drain Gaudreau's PayPal account, purchasing a $500 Apple gift card on a monthly renewal. They also attempted to buy bitcoin but were thwarted by his bank. Gaudreau's wife eventually intervened, urging him to hang up on the call. He immediately contacted his bank, internet provider, and other relevant authorities to report the fraud.

Despite taking swift action, Gaudreau was left feeling disillusioned and mistrustful. He filed complaints with PayPal, Visa, the police, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre but received no response from Meta, the company that owns Facebook. Gaudreau's case is particularly concerning for computer science professor David Gerhard of the University of Manitoba, who has studied artificial intelligence and social media.

“You should not trust AI. It's a powerful tool that makes mistakes,” Gerhard said in an interview. “It's like a hyper-intelligent eight-year-old that desperately wants to please you. It knows everything about everything, but it will give you a wrong answer rather than admit it doesn't know.”

The AI software used by Meta in the Messenger app to provide Gaudreau with incorrect information is called Llama 3, a large language model. These models are trained on all available information, including false and misleading data, making them incapable of discerning truth.

Meta AI verifies Fake Facebook customer support number

“They don't understand what truth is or how to find it,” Gerhard said. “So don't use a large language model to verify facts.”

Gaudreau's experience is not an isolated incident. AI-powered scams are becoming increasingly common, with scammers using readily available tools to create fake videos, audio, and images of popular figures and spread them across the internet. In May, an AI-generated image showing an explosion near the Pentagon caused the stock market to dip briefly. Similarly, human rights advocacy group Amnesty International fell for an AI-generated image depicting police brutality and used it to run campaigns against the authorities.

Meta has announced measures to combat AI-generated fake news, including the introduction of invisible watermarks in all images created using its AI tools. These watermarks are designed to be resilient to common image manipulations like cropping and color changes, making it more difficult for bad actors to remove them.

Gaudreau's case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of staying informed and skeptical in the digital age. Cybercrime expert Claudiu Popa emphasized the need for regulations for organizations like Meta that collect sensitive data and for companies to have customer service in place to deal with fraud quickly.

“There is no customer service,” Popa stated. “And as a result, what starts as a small issue is exacerbated into a massive identity theft or identity fraud.”

An active investigation into Gaudreau's case is being conducted by the Winnipeg Police Service, with the case having been forwarded to the financial crimes unit. Gaudreau's ordeal has prompted calls for greater transparency and accountability from tech giants like Meta.

As AI technology continues to evolve, so too do the methods employed by scammers. Gaudreau's experience highlights the urgent need for improved safeguards and user education to prevent similar incidents in the future. Users are advised to exercise caution and verify information through multiple trusted sources before taking any action based on AI-generated responses.

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