June 19, 2024

Iowa AG Brenna Bird would not be surprised if scammers turn to artificial intelligence

‘I think everything is on the table for them’

Brenna Bird, a Republican candidate running for Iowa attorney general, visited the Jasper County Sheriff's Office on Aug. 18 in Newton. While on visit, the Newton News was able to speak with Bird about her campaign.

In addition to imposter scams being rated one of the top consumer complaints in the state in 2022, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird told Newton Daily News the number of scams are increasing, and those who are preying on Iowans are finding other ways to do it. They could even turn to artificial intelligence.

“I think everything is on the table for them,” she said. “These are sophisticated people and they are not operating, typically, within the United States.”

When one sort of scam gets shut down because word gets out through a community to watch out for it — like the fake bail scam, which targets elderly individuals by saying a grandchild is in jail and needs bail money — others will inevitably take their place. Bird said scammers will find another way.

Recently, AI-generated images of former U.S. President Donald Trump resisting arrest were circulating online. The images were widely identified as fake. Others have used AI tools to copy the voices of President Joe Biden and other political figures, with many sounding nearly identical to the people they’re impersonating.

Oftentimes, older generations of Iowans are targeted by scams. Bird’s office has warned people to be wary of unsolicited texts or calls.

“They are targeting us, I think because we are Iowa Nice and we tend to be sometimes trusting of people,” Bird told the Newton Daily News in a recent interview. “So, in our office, we encourage people to deal locally, face-to-face, so you know who you’re doing business with.”

If Iowans have any concerns at all about potential scams, Bird encourages them to contact their local law enforcement and the attorney general’s office.

“Sometimes these scammers impersonate federal law enforcement on the phone, and so you can always call your sheriff’s office or your police department to see if that’s legitimate or not,” Bird said. “And it is usually not legitimate. So we urge people to never send cash (or gift cards) through the mail to sometime.”

Bird also recommended Iowans refrain from giving personal information over the phone or online, even if it is from an entity or business that they might do business with. The caller, she said, could be a scammer that is impersonating a legitimate business to try to gain a person’s trust.

IOWA AG VISITS NEWTON AS PART OF 99-COUNTY TOUR

The state attorney general met with Jasper County law enforcement and local government officials on March 24 to discuss common issues they’ve encountered, such as scams and the problems with fentanyl and opiates. Bird recently introduced legislation to criminalize drug dealers for selling fentanyl and causing a death.

Referred to in the statehouse has HF 595, the law could classify the crime as a Class C or Class B felony. Class C felonies can lead to up to 10 years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines; Class B felonies can lead up to 25 years imprisonment. Bird said local law enforcement are seeing more drug overdoses.

Officers throughout Jasper County are equipped with naloxone, often referred to as Narcan, to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

“If anybody suspects that it might be an overdose, it’s really important that they call 911, get that Narcan in the person, because if someone is overdosing that Narcan won’t hurt them,” Bird said. “If someone has overdosed, even if they’re showing as gone, it can bring them back.”

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.