Are we prepared for AI scams?

What if a family member called you in distress from an unknown number?

Scammers are harnessing AI Voice technology and call pretending to be loved ones in distress asking for help and in need of money. 

Experts say scammers are also using AI programs to search the internet, and businesses for audio, video, and social media posts to be more convincing to those they are trying to prey on. 

“All they need is as little as 3 seconds, 10 seconds is even better to get a very realistic clone of your voice,” said Michael Scheumack, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer at IDIQ, when interviewed by Fox Business. “We’ve seen AI voice cloning scams increase over the past year.” 

We all love that technology is advancing and, in many ways, has helped make life a little easier and more convenient. But in other ways, life has been made difficult and unsafe. 

Pablo Colón shared his story to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Advice page about how scammers called his sister and told her that he had gotten into a car accident and needed money. That very same day, Colón’s dad received a call from scammers pretending to be his grandson in a dire situation and needing money. 

Colón, when speaking about his reason for sharing his story said, “These scams can target very specific communities. So, when it’s happening to you, chances are it’s happening to people you know, people you love.” 

A source who fell victim to such scams and wishes to remain anonymous told me, “I don’t consider myself a gullible person. But when I heard my daughter’s voice telling me she had been kidnapped, all I cared about was her safety. I was willing to pay anything.”  

Colón and our anonymous source aren’t the only ones falling victim to these rising scams. Those between 40 to 79 years old made up over 60% of all victims who fell prey to fraud and lost over $3 million dollars. The FTC has reported that 20% of these scams are phone calls and 18% of them were reported to have money lost, while 15% of frauds reported were from text messages and 9% of them had money lost.  

I write this not to prevent people from living their lives happily, but to be a bit more discerning about what they make public and who they interact with on social media and educate themselves and loved ones about the looming danger. Anyone can fall victim to these types of theft. Most people are on at least one if not all social media platforms and post videos daily, videos that are full of voice overs.  

Scheumack further explained, “The scary thing is…you have people that are researching on social media and gathering data about people. Those…that are going to plug in your voice…somebody else that’s going to clone the voice…somebody else that’s going to actually commit the act of calling. This is a sophisticated organization.” 

Prevention is key and the FTC has put together a blog on their official website that walks people through what a situation like those above could look like and what one should do if they receive a phone call from a scammer pretending to be a loved one in trouble. 

My advice for those of us who are tech savvy is to help prepare those that are not. This would include grandparents, parents and let’s face it, gullible young people. Age is not a thing that scammers will respect. For those willing to do wicked things, there is no line in the sand. A community is strong when coming together to protect its best asset, and that is, its people. 

To find more details on the types of scams happening in communities everywhere visit FTC’s official website and search for How To Avoid Imposter Scams. And if you’ve been a victim, you can also report fraud and tell your story.   

Concerned Phone Call: Photo by Ehimetalor Unuabona, published under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication 

AI Scam: Photo by Cameron Berrens.