May 2, 2023

Artificial intelligence (AI) voice cloning technology is the latest tool fraudsters use to pry open the wallets of consumers. Inexpensive voice-imitating technology is advancing rapidly, allowing scammers to create deep-fake recordings that impersonate an intended victim’s friend or loved one. The sophistication of this technology makes it more challenging to recognize and fend off a scam caller.

Here are three tips to help you avoid this widespread fraud scheme.

1.  Understand how AI voice cloning scams work. AI voice cloning scams involve the manipulation of online audio clips or recordings to make you think you’re speaking on the phone with someone you know. Scammers use voice cloning software to create audio files. They can generate text-to-speech files that mimic a person’s voice with a few clicks. The fraudulent audio message typically conveys a fake emergency to manipulate you, the listener.

Scammers also use cloned voices in live calls to interact with their victims in real time. This level of authenticity makes it difficult to recognize the scam because you believe you are genuinely communicating with a known friend or loved one.

2.  Listen carefully. While inexpensive voice cloning technology is available to almost anyone, only a few know how to use it skillfully. But you, the listener, can become just as skilled if you are vigilant when on the phone.

You might pick up on subtleties that reveal that although the voice on the line seems familiar, something sounds off. It might sound like your friend or loved one has a cold, or it could sound like they drank way too much coffee. For example, cheaper software used by a newbie scammer might result in a voice that:

  • Mispronounces words, especially proper nouns or words with multiple pronunciations.
  • Lacks emotion and struggles to convey feelings accurately, leading to flat or inappropriate responses.
  • Includes unusual sounds like unnatural pauses, irregular breathing, or odd noises from trying to mimic typical human speech.

3.  Have a plan. Fraudsters often use shock or surprise to catch you off guard. Coupled with emotional manipulation, these tactics make it easier for the scammer to convince you to open your wallet without verifying the scammer’s story.

  • Use a code word or phrase. Establish an emergency code word or phrase among close friends and relatives. This way, you’ll know at once that the caller is a scammer when they’re unable to provide the correct word or phrase.
  • Pause before acting. Despite how urgent the call seems, promise yourself that you will never send any money or provide financial information until you’ve verified the situation.
  • Hang up. The caller will plead with you not to end the call. Do so anyway, immediately. Then contact a mutual friend or family member who would be able to legitimize or debunk the caller’s story.

Taking these precautions could keep your finances safe from fraudsters. If you suspect a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

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