Scammers play a long game using bogus, AI-backed ‘law firm’


A new artificial intelligence-backed scam is as multi-faceted and lengthy as it is unconvincing  — at least for would-be victims who dig below the surface.

I recently received a threatening “DMCA Copyright Infringement Notice” email from an alleged law firm claiming that a Cointelegraph article had used a copyrighted stock image owned by a vague cryptocurrency firm, the name of which I will refrain from sharing so as not to boosti its online credibility.

The first problem? The purported image wasn’t even present in the article. Still, the “law firm” sent a second email several hours later, reciting the same threats and reusing the same image. This time, however, it was allegedl working on behalf of a different and equally nebulous, AI-backed crypto platform.

Related: With Bitcoin’s halving months away, it may be time to go risk-on

The entity behind the threat was demanding that Cointelegraph link to its website. Such “backlinking” is a practice that Google rewards with heightened visibility in search results. The perpetrators of this particular scam are apparently attempting to dupe busy news editors into providing links for their bogus website.

In this case, the threat came from an “Alicia Weber,” a purported employee for “Nationwide Legal Services.” Weber gave me five days to provide a link to her website before I was staring down a copyright lawsuit. (The “law firm,” coincidentally, uses a .site domain — the first red flag.)

Something was obviously off. This was clearly some new type of scam. Weber claimed that “simply removing the image [would] not rectify the issue.” (Generally speaking, from a legal perspective, it would.) She demanded that I include a link to the “notable entity” and “prominent organization” she had named.

I wanted to learn more, so I started conducting some research. That’s when I realized Weber wasn’t real.

While realistic, Nationwide’s legal team gives that “uncanny valley” feeling. Source: Screenshot

The headshots of Nationwide’s “lawyers” give off that “uncanny valley” feeling. Anyone who works in crypto spends a lot of time poring over AI images and deep fakes — which were easily recognizable in this case. The corporate headshots of the vague crypto firm’s “dream team” had AI-generated hallmarks with unreal dream-like glows and glossed-over eyes.

 Samuel Thornton looks like someone’s idea of an early 2000s CEO. Source: Screenshot

At least the other fake firm was honest enough to admit they’re not real. Its website’s team page literally says “Our AI Generated Cyborg Team.”

Fun fact: “Paltering” is to mislead by telling the truth. Source: Screenshot

Both sites have a staggering amount of (obviously AI-generated) content and look somewhat professional. If you were a busy enough, worried enough and not-knowing-enough digital news site administrator, you could be forgiven for posting a backlink after a quick look around, if only to stave off a potential lawsuit.

Let’s not lose sight of the irony of an AI-generated threat over a copyright issue. The AI industry arguably has more copyright infringement lawsuits than actual AI models.

Related: WSJ debacle fueled US lawmakers’ ill-informed crusade against crypto

This scam does show a big departure from the arguably lazier phishing scams that have plagued X — formerly known as Twitter — where automated robots (“bots”) post the same obvious links to Google forms, hoping t collect seed phrases.

For the scammer in this case, it’s a painstakingly long process for seemingly little reward. Prompting ChatGPT and image generators for so much content requires untold hours — before any of the rea work begins.

So what’s the scam? Neither website allows a user to connect a crypto wallet, so it’s not a wallet-approval crypto-draining scam. One possibility is that the scammers are nabbing emails and passwords when users sign up for their “services.” Whoever is behind it could either test those on other websites — hoping that users have recycled their credentials — or attempt a phishing scam using their newly revealed email addresses.

I plugged an email into both websites hoping to get deeper into the con. So far, nothing has happened. They went to all of that effort to found a potential victim — but haven’t bothered to finish executing their scam.

What was the point? Perhaps one day, we’ll find out.

Jesse Coghlan is the deputy editor for Cointelegraph’s Asia-Pacific news desk based in Sydney.

This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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