Voice cloning technology is becoming an increasingly dangerous tool for scammers and fraudsters. With this technology, they are now imitating the voices of victims’ relatives or loved ones in order to convince them to send money or personal information. Unfortunately, this has caused many people to suffer huge financial losses due to being duped by these criminals. And as a result, federal regulators are taking action against voice cloning scams in order to protect consumers from falling victim to these malicious practices.
In fact, on March 20, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a new alert warning people about this scam.
So, how does this work?
“All [a scammer] needs is a short audio clip of your family member’s voice — which he could get from content posted online — and a voice-cloning program,” the FTC wrote.
– Cindy James posts a video of her with her family on Facebook.
– A scammer finds the video, downloads it, and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to clone Cindy’s voice.
– The scammer learns who Cindy’s father is, which is easy to do by researching online these days, and is able to obtain his phone number.
– The scammer changes the name on his caller ID to Cindy James so the call looks like it’s coming from her, but it’s actually coming from a different number.
– The scammer proceeds to call Cindy’s dad and says: “I’ve taken your daughter, Cindy, hostage and will kill her if you don’t send $5,000.”
– The scammer plays the recording of Cindy’s (cloned) distressed voice begging to be let go.
– “Dad, please help. He’s going to kill me. Please listen to him. Send the money.”
– The nervous father assumes someone is holding his daughter hostage and is using her phone to call him. After all, the voice is Cindy’s (cloned) and the caller ID reads her name.
Scammers like to target seniors the most. In fact, seniors in Canada have been particularly targeted by voice cloning scams in recent times. CBC news reported that 8 elderly people were scammed out of a whopping $200,000 CAD in just 3 days. This showcases the need for increased awareness and security measures to protect this vulnerable demographic.
In another scam, a caller claimed to be a lawyer representing an elderly couple’s son, who then allowed the son to “speak” to the parents, asking them to send BitCoin to cover legal fees.
Recently, ElevenLabs’ AI voice system has come under criticism for making this technology easily available to the public. With minimal technical know-how, voice cloning has become much simpler than ever before.
“Before, it required a sophisticated operation,” Subbarao Kambhampati, a professor of computer science at Arizona State University and an expert in AI, told NPR. “Now small-time crooks can use it.”
To protect yourself from being scammed: It’s important to reach out to the supposed relative using a phone number you can verify. If it happens to you, hang up and call your loved one directly from your mobile address book. Either your loved one will answer and tell you everything is fine or there will be no answer, confirming it was a scam. (A real hostage-taker will answer because they want your money).
Lastly, be on the lookout for suspicious requests such as paying through a complicated method like crypto, gift cards, or wire transfers as this could be indicative of a potential scam.
Please tell your friends about this scam, especially seniors.
More on voice cloning: Voice Actors Enraged By Companies Stealing Their Voices With AI