The New Low: AI-Powered Obituary Scams and How Businesses Can Be Impacted

The New Low: AI-Powered Obituary Scams and How Businesses Can Be Impacted

Have you ever searched for news about a loved one who recently passed away, only to find strange obituaries popping up on unfamiliar websites?  This isn’t just an unsettling experience for grieving families; it’s a cunning new scam tactic that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and could pose a serious cyber risk for businesses.


Scammers Take Advantage of Emotional Vulnerability


Imagine this: you hear about the passing of a friend or colleague. Naturally, you turn to the internet for information, perhaps an official obituary.  However, in that window of time before official channels release details, scammers swoop in.  Using AI-powered chatbots, they scour publicly available data (like social media profiles) and whip up fake obituaries in a matter of minutes.  These phony obituaries then get published on bogus funeral and memorial websites, often containing details specific enough to seem believable.


The Deceptive Chain Reaction


The scam doesn’t end there.  Clicking on these fake obituaries can lead you down a rabbit hole of malicious websites.  These sites might bombard you with spam or even trigger fake virus alerts.  Ironically, the goal here might be to trick you into buying “security solutions” – a cruel twist while you’re grieving.  Even worse, these sites could be designed to spread malware, putting your own devices and potentially your entire company network at risk.


The Business Vulnerability:  Employees as Targets


Tony Adams, a security researcher, discovered this scam after a colleague passed away.  He noticed that several employees from his company visited the fake obituary sites.  While malware wasn’t deployed in this instance, Adams worries that this method could be easily adapted by more sophisticated attackers to target businesses.  Imagine a scenario where a key employee dies, and many colleagues visit a fake obituary site – a perfect opportunity to launch a malware attack that could compromise company data.


A Ray of Hope:  Google Fights Back


Fortunately, Google is aware of this problem and has recently implemented changes aimed at weeding out low-quality, spammy search results, including fake obituaries.  While the exact details are unclear, Google expects these changes to significantly reduce the visibility of such scams.


Here’s How to Stay Safe


When searching for obituary information, be cautious of unfamiliar websites.  Always verify details with trusted sources like family members or official publications.  If you encounter a suspicious website, avoid clicking on any links or downloading files.  Businesses should educate employees on this scam and the importance of online vigilance, especially during times of grief.


By staying informed and exercising caution, we can protect ourselves and our businesses from this heartless and potentially devastating cyber threat. Reach out to us at PivIT Strategy to fully understand this threat and how to avoid it.

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